When David “Trugoy the Dove” Jolicoeur of influential rap group De La Soul died last month, fans who wished to hear their work on music streaming services would have been unable to do so due to legal and copyright issues.
But on Friday, De La Soul’s first six albums spanning from 1989 to 2001 finally debuted on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and similar music services.
De La Soul’s digital arrival is the culmination of a decades-long battle against copyright constraints and multiple labels, including Tommy Boy Records, the group’s first. The Tommy Boy music catalog was acquired by Reservoir Media in 2021, opening an avenue for the group to appear on streaming.
“The first call we made was to De La Soul,” Reservoir executive Faith Newman said after the acquisition. “We vowed to bring their music to streaming, and it means the world to our team to make good on that promise and expose a whole new generation of listeners to one of the most important catalogs in hip-hop history.”
The pioneering group was formed in 1988 by Jolicoeur, Kelvin “Posdnuos” Mercer and Vincent “Pasemaster Mase” Mason after they attended high school together in Amityville, New York.
Their debut album, 1989’s “3 Feet High and Rising,” is widely credited for its influential, sample-heavy conceptual sound, and included the hit “Me, Myself and I,” which spent 17 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
De La Soul’s sampling artistry made digitizing the catalog they built over their career a monumental task, as samples previously cleared for use on vinyl, cassettes and CDs had to be redone for streaming.
The complexity of the group’s work was not the only item holding it back from entering the digital medium. Ownership of their music catalog changed hands several times over the last two decades, and Mercer, Mason and Jolicoeur were outspoken about issues they had with the terms of their Tommy Boy contract.
But the loss of Jolicoeur has made this moment of success bittersweet for the other members. In a heartfelt tribute to Jolicoeur posted on Instagram last week, Mason wrote, “I’m extremely upset at the fact that you’re not here to celebrate and enjoy what we worked and fought so hard to achieve.”
Mason promises he and Mercer “will make sure your legacy is well preserved. ‘We Are De La Soul’ for life and after life, but obviously, it will never be the same.”
Over the course of their performing career, De La Soul was nominated for six Grammy Awards, winning one for best pop collaboration with vocals for the Gorillaz song “Feel Good Inc.” in 2006.
In 2010, the Library of Congress added “3 Feet High and Rising” to the National Recording Registry, the permanent archive of sound recordings considered “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” The album is one of only 13 “Rap/Hip-Hop” recordings in the registry.
“The Magic Number,” another song off “3 Feet High and Rising,” was featured as the end-credit song in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” in 2021.
“We’ve been very resilient, even being a group that didn’t have our music up [on streaming platforms]. We still had these beautiful opportunities through young people finding out about us through a commercial or Spider-Man,” Mercer is quoted as saying in Reservoir’s biography of the group.
De La Soul has “naturally been that group for everyone,” Mercer said. “It was never about ‘we’re just here for this community, that community, this set of people or these certain fans of hip-hop culture.’ We see music as music.”
CNN’s Alli Rosenbloom contributed to this report.