It’s been almost 20 years since De La Soul put out an album on pioneering record label Tommy Boy Music. But the New York trio are currently mired in a dispute with the label over royalty terms, which has stymied the release of their back catalog to streaming services.
De La Soul’s six 1989-2001 albums, which were released on Tommy Boy, were supposed to have been made available on streaming platforms this past Friday, in a celebration of the 30th anniversary of their influential debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising.
However, a disagreement over what De La Soul call “unbalanced, unfair” royalty terms and uncleared samples has put those plans on hold. The legendary hip hop group first took to Instagram on early last week to air their frustrations with Tommy Boy, explaining their respective positions.
View this post on Instagram
For our fans to finally be able to stream and/or download our music will be a dream come true! The reality for De La… what an ugly greedy nightmare. #threefeethighandrising #delasoulisdead #buhloonemindstate #stakesishigh #aoimosaicthump #bionix Tag and let @tommyboyrecords and @dodo_011.1 know how you feel #respecttheculture #respecttheart #respecttheartist More news to come on Sway In the Morning, tune in.
The trio, however, clarified a day later that the albums “will be released digitally,” but on allegedly unfavorable terms. “Your purchases will roughly go 90% Tommy Boy, 10% De La. Thank you. Sincerely yours, #thephantom2milliondollardebt,” they wrote.
Group member David “Trugoy” Jolicoeur claimed to Rolling Stone that the initial agreement only gave Tommy Boy 70% of profits from the digital discography. But due to a “phantom debt” of $2 million, of which the group is still trying to ascertain the cause, the company decided to take an extra 20% of the profits.
The situation took a turn for the worse on later in the week, when De La Soul discovered that Tommy Boy had yet to clear the use of samples in their albums for streaming release. The group, which have been sued in the past for the unlicensed use of a sample on 3 Feet High and Rising, promptly stopped the release of their albums on Tidal, as well as other streaming platforms, it would seem.
View this post on Instagram
We are being placed in the line of fire. @discogs @spotify @applemusic @tidal @googleplay @deezer @vinylmeplease @amazonmusic We understand respect and appreciate your support and business. We regret that you and fans have been place in the middle of this mess. De La Soul cannot afford negligent hurried business. We are fighting for our livelihood. Imagine trying to settle a #phantom2millionddollardebt and now possible lawsuits lurking??? There goes that 10% Thank you @tommyboyrecords #respectourlegacy #dorightbytheculture #tommyboycott #4080 #delasoul #30years
And it appears that the relationship between Tommy Boy and De La Soul has continued to deteriorate. On March 1, the group claimed the label wanted them to sign a confidentiality agreement in an Instagram post, hashtagged “#tommyboycott.”
Tommy Boy, on the other hand, issued a statement to Variety last week: “Because Tommy Boy has not had the opportunity to sit down together with De La Soul and finalize our negotiations—something we’ve wanted to do for months—we have decided to postpone the digital release of their catalog scheduled for tomorrow. We know fans are eager to hear these amazing recordings and we are hopeful for a quick resolution.”
While you patiently wait for their back catalog to be released to streaming services, you can still find De La Soul’s non-Tommy Boy output on Spotify, Apple Music, etc. The trio are also slated to drop two new projects this year.
Stream De La Soul’s latest album, And the Anonymous Nobody, below: