Before completing a trilogy that began with 2000's Mosaic Thump, hiphop greats De La Soul parted ways with Tommy Boy, the label that signed them back in 1987 and released the classic Three Feet High and Rising. De La's latest, The Grind Date, out now on Sanctuary Records, is their best effort since Stakes Is High (1996). What follows is part of a long phone conversation with De La emcee Posdenous.
The Making of The Grind Date
"The Grind Date came together after everything unfortunately went haywire at Tommy Boy. It was then we decided it wasn't a good idea to give our new label, Sanctuary Records, the DJ album that we had worked on to complete our AOI trilogy with Tommy Boy. With De La, it's about what works. Even the music I've produced for the group doesn't always work; I may like it but Dave might not feel like rapping to it. This is the same with everyone else. For example, Jake One [Seattle's star hiphop producer] presented us with 40 beats but there were only two that really worked for us. And it's not that the other 38 beats were wack. The two that we picked were beats we felt could be married to what we feel is De La Soul.
"A perfect example is this: A while back, Kanye West presented us with the beat for 'Get By' before he presented it to Talib Kweli. We didn't take it. We couldn't have made a great song out of it the way Kweli did. So that's how we do things. Jake One, Supa Dave West, J-Dilla, Madlib, and Ninth Wonder are part of the camp whose beats De La is married to.
"What I like about the people who worked on our new record--especially Dave West, Dilla, Jake One--is they love trying different things. It's not that we have a particular idea in mind, [or] say, 'Well, let's go to the producer for that sound.' That's not how we work. We want to be surprised by what the beat makes us think about."
"The difference between a true lyricist and a rapper is that a true lyricist finds new things in new environments. For example, the beats Jake One gave us are amazing and we could have rapped to them all. But it's about taking it a step further and asking, 'What is this beat pulling out of me?' So, what you have to say is found in the beat, and not the other way around. That's what we think is a great marriage between the rap and the beat. Not just spitting lyrics over any old beat, which is what average rappers do, but finding out what the beat inspires you to say."