De La Soul are not only pioneers in the rap game, but they are also still currently making revolutionary music. They were signed to a label that helped define an era. The late 80’s and early 90’s hip hop label Tommy Boy was the record label De La Soul called home until the decision to go independent.

The drama that occurred during their time at the label is where we can look to learn from their experiences. What can be learned from De La Soul is how to stay focused. For more than 3 decades De La Soul stayed focused on creating original hip hop music. But believe it or not, De La Soul has not been paid for their first three hip hop defining albums due to some shady business practices by Tommy Boy which actually ended up going under.

Noting that like many artists, they had a love-hate relationship with their label. De La Soul went on to explain that their previous label Tommy Boy had stuck them with a 2 million dollar fee for not clearing samples. The truth of it is,  De La Soul was not responsible for clearing their samples. Sample clearing is actually something your label is supposed to take care of with their artists before the album is released. Furthermore, due to Tommy Boys label going under years ago and being sold to Warner Bros. De La Soul could not make a profit from digital sales. Mostly because Warner Bros did not see it as profitable to convert the masters to digital so that they could be licensed and streamed on platforms like Spotify or Youtube.

Well, now Tommy Boy has bought back their catalog which includes the music from De La Souls first three albums. And surprise surprise they are streaming the songs on Youtube and Spotify but De La Soul is still getting no royalties. But what is actually surprising is Tommy boy did not take it upon themselves to clear the same samples they are supposedly holding against De La Soul. Talk about some shady business practices.

Amid all this Jay Z has chosen not to stream any of their music from the Tommy Boy catalog until De La Soul is compensated properly.

The fact that a group that has had such a substantial impact on hip hop has been put into unfair debt from the very label they were signed to is kind of absurd.

The lesson that can be learned from this is to make sure that if you do decide to sign with a label that they have your best interests in mind.

Luckily the professional music atmosphere has changed and artists no longer need a label to get known or make money. So what musicians should focus more on making great music that will stand the test of time rather than just being focused on getting signed to a major label.

Hopefully, De La Soul will be cleared of all debts to their label and receive the compensation they deserve for their music. Until then we will just have to use this as another example of musicians getting the bad end of a record deal.


Here are a few other things from the Sway’s Universe interview which I think are worth pointing out.

De La Soul made all of their money from touring and live shows.

During their interview with the breakfast club they stated:

“There’s no need to complain… Just make music.”

They also stated that they are currently working on a new album with Pete Rock.

During the interview, they mentioned that they like Migos, Kodak Black, J Cole, Childish Gambino and Chance the Rapper.

They say they love the new music that is coming out.

And in the spirit of continuing to make money, De La Soul will also be going on the Gods of Rap tour.

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