Legendary Hip-Hop Act De La Soul Protests Streaming Deal For Its Classic Albums

February 27, 2019, 12:22 AM UTC

For years, De La Soul has been one of hip-hop’s most elusive acts—at least online.

The Grammy-winning trio is responsible for several crucial and critically beloved albums, including 1989’s debut 3 Feet High and Rising, which in 2011 was selected to join the Library of Congress archives. But De La Soul has a minimal presence on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, where the group’s crucial early efforts, such as the hit single “Me, Myself & I,” are nowhere to be found. Those records also aren’t available for sale in digital form, leaving fans to resort to unauthorized rips on sites like YouTube.

On Tuesday, less than a week before 3 Feet High‘s 30th anniversary, De La Soul took to Instagram to announce that its back catalog was finally coming to streaming platforms (and, presumably, digital retailers). But the move comes at a steep price to the group members, who claim Tommy Boy Records, which released six De La albums between 1989 and 2001, wasn’t cutting them a fair deal.

“Dear fans,” the group wrote, “The music WILL be released digitally. After 30 long years of good music and paying their debt to hip-hop, De La Soul unfortunately will not taste the fruit of their labor. Your purchases will roughly go 90% Tommy Boy, 10% De La.”


The group encouraged fans to purchase two of its non-Tommy Boy releases, 2016’s And the Anonymous Nobody… and 2004’s The Grind Date, both of which have long been available for streaming.

De La Soul’s back catalog has been in a state of flux for years. Warner Music acquired the rights to the group’s Tommy Boy Records releases in 2002, but concerns about potentially uncleared samples prevented the albums’ release. In 2014, the group gave away parts of its discography for free online, but only for one day. Its band members have long been frustrated about the lack of availability for albums like 3 Feet High. “We’re in the Library of Congress,” De La Soul’s Kelvin Mercer told The New York Times in 2016, “but we’re not on iTunes.”

Online, De La Soul fans were me, myself, and irate about the label’s payment-split.

“I’m not sure how the cats at Tommy Boy Records are sleeping at night right now,” one De La-lover noted on Twitter.

Fortune has reached out to Warner Music for comment.