Tommy Boy Music's 20th Anniversary

With their second album, De La Soul Is Dead, the mood had changed along with the sound. Lengthy and expensive battles to clear sample loops were exhausting. Despite all this effort a brief fragment of "You Showed Me" by The Turtles, slowed down from 45rpm to 33, slipped through the net. Flo and Eddie found out about it and pursued Tommy Boy for publishing. To add to the sampling issue, a problem that had taken a lot of the fun and mystery out of finding loops, De La Soul felt that their Daisy Age slogan had been misunderstood. "People weren't paying attention," complained Posdnous. "They were looking but not touching. We died and now we're alive again, rejuvenated into a new form."
"Things hit really fast and hard," Monica admits. "They felt they had been painted into this corner as being the hippies of hip-hop. They didn't want to carry that weight on their shoulders because they wanted to be affiliated with the rap community and also feel they were free to experiment without being perceived as those De La Soul hippie guys. If you have a huge success then from the get-go it can be a blessing and a curse."
Yet even the disillusionment produced good music. Tracks such as "Ring Ring Ring" and "A Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays'" predated the late Nineties revival of the disco Seventies. "In New York, a lot of the records from New York hip-hop acts had underground club records as their base." Monica says. "But De La Soul were very democratic and experimental in finding samples from all over the place. Prince Paul finds stuff from everywhere. After 3 Feet High and Rising came out, everybody did the skits." Founder members of what later became Native Tongues, De La Soul collaborated with other like-minded rappers - The Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip, Queen Latifah and Monie Love - on "Buddy", a sample-mad song that dared to be eccentric and funny about sex.
The kings of sex and comedy - funk, sex and samples - were Digital Underground, an Oakland group led by Shock-G and Chopmaster J. "I have a very strong memory of our promotion guy, Ed Strickland, bringing us a tape of 'Doowotchulike'," says Monica, "De La Soul were in the office and were really into it. I thought that was a good sign."
One of the first acts from the west coast to gain popularity on the east coast, Digital Underground took inspiration from George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, with Shock-G developing comic characters in the P-Funk tradition. Using samples from classic Funkadelic tracks like "Flash Light", Shock-G also threw jazz elements into the mix. "Doowutchyalike", taken from the Sex Packets album, featured a jazz piano solo (as well as a rap by Tupac Shakur), while Shock-G's rap on "Same Song", from "This Is An E.P. Release", takes off with a nod to jazz bebop vocalising. "Kiss You Back" somehow succeeded in combining crazy word play with a serious message, while "The Humpty Dance", another Sex Packets cut, showcased the sex magnetism and big nose of Shock-G's alter-ego, Eddie 'Humpty Hump' Humphrey.
In 1989, Queen Latifah was brought to Tommy Boy to DJ Mark James (The 45 King), Fab Five Freddy and a young A&R man named Dant Ross. "She was still in high school when we met her," says Monica. "I met her when she was 17. She came over to the office. The first impression is usually the one you wanna go with. Here's this Latifah, coming in from East Orange, New Jersey. That's the hip-hop hinterlands of their day. There were no big acts from New Jersey at that point. She comes in, blue jeans and a sweatshirt on and this bubble haircut. She seemed really youthful on the one hand but she seemed completely possessed of herself and confident and just had this incredible presence. She was not nervous or afraid. She spoke right up.
"Her first album was produced by Mark, the 45 King. She was hanging out in Mark's basement in East Orange, along with other fledgling Flavour Unit folks like Lord Alibaski, Lakim Shabazz and Naughty By Nature, who at that point weren't even Naughty. Mark was the one who really brought her along. There weren't a lot of female hip-hop artists at that point. Apart from Salt 'n' Pepa, none of them had


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