DATE October 5, 2000 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Dave and Mase from De La Soul discuss their new CD
"Art Official Intelligence"
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
The rap group De La Soul made its debut in 1989 with an album that went
against the grain of hard-core rap and its macho swagger. De La Soul's CD,
Feet High and Rising," was not only fun, it was funny. It sampled a wide
range of music, from Liberace to George Clinton, and it helped launch what
called the Native Tongues movement, which has been described as playful,
not celebrating criminality and more about being who you are than posing as
someone else. And for De La Soul, that meant making music that came out of
growing up in the suburb of Amityville, Long Island, not the inner city.
My guests are De La Soul members Dave and Mase. De La Soul was founded when
its members were still in high school. They were discovered by deejay and
producer Prince Paul. Now De La Soul has released its fifth CD, called
"Art Official Intelligence (Mosaic Thump)." The group members have grown
and their music has changed, too. Let's start with a track from the new CD,
which features several guest artists. On this track, "Oooh," the guest
(Soundbite from "Art Official Intelligence [Mosaic Thump]" by De La Soul)
REDMAN (Guest Artist): (Sings) Party people, your dreams have now been
fulfilled. Get you ass up and let's get ill. That's right, y'all, we more
than rough, we calling your bluff, and when it comes to rhymes (Brick City).
POS (De La Soul): Yo, don't scandalize mine. I spent too much time
talk with the catch to etch my line walk, never fetchin' for crime--halt,
goes there? Bear.
DOVE (De La Soul): Yo, it's the squeeze of five fingers, puffin' Smokey the
Bear, shining black like Darth Vader caps, they on stare.
POS: While we rockin' it, I'll rock in it (rock in it) like the little ball
inside the spray can, providing three coats for both child, woman and man.
REDMAN: God bless the God, lay these streets wall to wall, it go oooh,
oooh! Yo, you got popped like a flick by that rivalry click. It went oooh,
GROSS: That's music from De La Soul's new CD, "Art Official Intelligence
Dave, Mase, welcome to FRESH AIR.
DAVE: Thanks for having us.
MASE: Thanks for having us.
GROSS: Some of your CDs start with a funny skit. This new CD starts with a
father teaching the alphabet to his kid. Let's hear it.
(Soundbite from "Art Official Intelligence [Mosaic Thump]" by De La Soul)
(Soundbite of voices in background)
MASE (De La Soul): N.
MASE: R. Say `R,' Chauncey. Come on, you can say it. Say it for Daddy,
come on. Say `R.'
(Soundbite of `R' with echoes and clapping)
GROSS: Who's the father who we're hearing?
MASE: That's me. That's...
GROSS: That's you, Mase?
MASE: That's me, Mase, with my son, Chauncey.
GROSS: And why did you start the CD this way?
MASE: It was just to start off the song, "You Could Do Life," and the song
starts off with a sheik sample(ph) that sounds like the letter `R,' and we
figured, you know, to have one of our kids start the alphabet off, and get
the letter `R,' where he really couldn't pronounce it well, and--or really
didn't want to say it, and the `R' comes in really abrupt and makes a sound
like the kid is saying `R' but not really wanting to say `R,' where he goes
MASE: ...and just really getting it out, finally.
GROSS: You're all fathers now in the group, all three of you.
MASE: We've been fathers since day one.
GROSS: Oh, really.
GROSS: You know, there's so many people who are concerned about their
children listening to rap. Have you ever been worried about that?
MASE: Yeah, to an extent. You know, when we were younger and our families
were trying to, you know, keep us away from the nonsense on television or,
know, even sometimes on radio. You know, you'd always have the opportunity
sneak into the basement and put on that Richard Pryor record that you
supposed to listen to.
MASE: You know, we obviously know that that's happening nowadays, too.
are in schools and they're in the playgrounds and they're hanging out at
friends' house and, you know, they're probably putting on videos and playing
CDs that, you know, they're not supposed to listen to, so, you know, in that
aspect definitely. But at home, you know, you teach the kids wrong from
and, you know, how they should, you know, watch their mouth and not, you
take this one serious and that one serious and, you know, kids
definitely--they want to do the right thing in front of their parents and I
think if you let them know that, you know, doing the wrong thing away from
their parents isn't--you know, it's like it isn't a bad thing, it's just
you know, you've just got to know right from wrong, whether I'm around or
I think it's not that pressuring. It's the way you raise your kids and what
you instill in them, you know, that'll, I guess, determine the way they
conduct themselves not around you.
GROSS: Let me play something from the first De La Soul record, "3 Feet High
and Rising," and this is "3 Is the Magic Number." I mean, we're talking
what kids listen to and on this CD, you pay tribute to a type of kids' song
imagine you grew up with, which is multiplication rock. And so this kind of
takes off from there. Let's hear it. This is "3 Is the Magic Number."
(Soundbite of "The Magic Number")
DE LA SOUL: (Singing) Three, that's the magic number. Three Yes, it is.
It's the magic number. Three. Somewhere in this hip-hop soul community was
born 3, Mase, Dave and me, and that's the magic number. What does it all
mean? Difficult preaching is Posdnuos' pleasure. Pleasure and preaching
start from the heart. Something that stimulates the music in my measure,
measure in my music, raised in three parts. Casually see but don't do like
the Soul, 'cause seeing and doing are actions of monkeys. Doing hip hop
hustle, no rock 'n' roll, unless your name's Brewster, 'cause Brewsters are
funky. Three. Parents let go 'cause there's magic in the air. Criticizing
rap shows that you're out of order. Stop, look and listen to the phrase
Astaires and don't get offended while Mase do-se-do's your daughter. A
tri-camera rolls since our music's now set. Fly rhymes are stored on a
production. It stands for `Da Inner Sound Y'all' and y'all can bet that the
action's not a trick, but showing the function.
Everybody wants to be a deejay. Everybody wants to be an emcee. But being
speakers are the best and you don't have to guess. De La Soul posse
of three and that's the magic number.
This here piece of the pie is not dessert but the course that we dine and
three out of every darn time. The effect is `mmm' when a daisy grows in
mind. Showing true position, this here piece is kissing the part of the pie
that's missing when that negative number fills up the cavity. Maybe you can
subtract it. You can call it your lucky partner. Maybe you can call it
adjective, but odd as it may be, without my one and two, where would there
my three, Mase, Pos and me, and that's the magic number.
What does it all mean?
Focus is formed by flaunts to the soul.
GROSS: That's from De La Soul's first CD. It was really refreshing, I
to hear rap that was ironic and really playful and I'm wondering if you were
almost afraid to do that then because it was so different from the kind of
more hard-core rap that took itself really seriously about how good the
was in bed or on the street or at the microphone.
DAVE: No, we weren't afraid. I mean, that's really where we come from.
That's what we knew.
DAVE: So that's what we knew to implement in our music.
MASE: It was an innocence. We paid no mind to what was happening on around
us. I mean, you know, the people that we admired and looked up to were the
Run-DMCs and the Public Enemys.
DAVE: L.L. Cool J.
MASE: L.L. Cool Js and KRS-Ones and, you know, none of these groups sound
anything alike and everyone was doing their own thing, so to step into the
game or even try to introduce ourselves to the game was like, `OK, well,
bringing our own thing to light also.' And there was an innocence there
you know, paid no attention to fads, what was in, you know, what was selling
and what was not--what wasn't. It was just, you know, a couple of kids just
getting together and having a good time and just giving a product to a
that had bigger plans for it, you know. And that's where it was with us,
though. I mean, to sit back and really analyze the situation and say, `Wow.
Are we going to make it? Is this gonna be accepted or what have you?' That
was no concern of ours.
GROSS: Not only didn't you want to go along with fads, you had a song on
CD called "Take It Off," in which you urged people to throw away stuff that
was faddish, whether it was, you know, clothing or ideas.
DAVE: Yeah, definitely. I think that's one of the things that we did try
you know, make the--obviously, the highlighted theme of "3 Feet High and
Rising" and that era was, you know, individualism; you know, people
themselves, you know, the way that they choose. You know, if you want to
your hair bald, if you want to grow dreds, if you want to put parts, if you
want to braid or what have you, you know, just because everyone's with rock
and Afros that doesn't mean you can't go against the grain. You know, we
have our own interpretation of what fashion is and style and why not express
it, you know, and that's where it was at with us.
GROSS: Why don't we hear just a little bit of "Take It Off"?
(Soundbite of "Take It Off")
DE LA SOUL: (Singing) Take it off, off, off. Take that Kangol off. Take
off, off, off. Take that Jordache off. Take it off, off, off. Take that
Afro off. Take it off, off, off. Take that jhericurl off. Take it off,
off. Take that Le Tigre off. Take it off, off, off. Take those
jeans, bell-bottomed, designed by your mama off, off, off. Please, please,
GROSS: That's more music from De La Soul's first CD, "3 Feet High and
Rising," and they have a new CD now which is called "Art Official
Intelligence." My guests are two of the three members. I'm with Dave and
Mase of De La Soul.
What's the range of reactions you got to that first CD, which was filled
humor and irony and, we'll get to this later, with samples from just all
of different music?
MASE: People loved what we did. I mean, I have to honestly say that's my
favorite and will probably will be the best album that I felt like we've
done. And like I said, there weren't any boundaries, we were just some
kids having a good time and people respected it for that. It was like,
These guys aren't really, you know, afraid to give themselves 100 percent,'
whether you thought it was childish, whether you thought it was funny or
whether you thought it was ingenious. It was just--you know, people
it. People were like, `Wow. I always wanted to do something like that, but
just was afraid to put it on tape.' I always wanted to sample that but I
didn't think it would work or, you know, it was always good to hear, you
the toughest of the tough, you know, the gangsters, the, you know, someone
like a KRS-One at our first release party, you know, like just praising us,
like, `Wow. They are so--you guys are incredible. This is crazy.' Or DMC
from Run-DMC having to get to our first show that we ever did was like, `Yo,
I've got to be here front row. I've got to be right in the front, you
And it was good to see those people that you know went out and bought
you know, for years just loving what we did. It was excellent.
DAVE: And then on top of that, meeting people throughout time through the
years and telling us, you know--like one guy approached me, telling me that
met his wife buying "3 Feet High and Rising."
MASE: Yeah. And other people saying that, you know, `You guys--you know,
it wasn't for you--you know, I was suicide.'
DAVE: Suicide and stuff like that.
MASE: You know, things like that are always good. So it's not even from,
know, up here. It's in the game itself. You know, just people as a whole
just like kind of--"3 Feet High and Rising" was some sort of a magnet to
people just opening up so, you know, it's a good feeling to hear a thing
GROSS: Did you think anything was misinterpreted?
DAVE: I think the only thing that maybe was misinterpreted was that people
kept classifying us to be hippies, you know. We didn't really have an
understanding of what that was all about, you know. It was cool...
GROSS: I wonder how much of that just came from the design on the album
DAVE: It came from the design.
GROSS: 'Cause there's like daisies on it and...
MASE: Yeah, people misinterpreted the look, you know. I mean, I think
thought that we were going out, trying to I guess advertise ourselves as,
know, this fun-loving, you know, '60s hip-hop group. And I was born in the
late '60s. I knew nothing about, you know.
DAVE: I'm a '70s baby myself.
MASE: I think that's the only thing that kind of like got at us was, you
know, when it came down to publicity and advertising the record, people
wanted us to take pictures with flowers and make sure you wear yellow and
green and, you know, I was like, you know, `Well, I want to wear brown
you know, so it was that kind of a thing that was kind of a bit annoying.
GROSS: My guests are Dave and Mase from the rap group De La Soul. More
a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guests are Dave and Mase of the rap group De La Soul.
The samples on that first CD included Steely Dan, Liberace, Otis Redding,
Jarmels, who did "A Little Bit of Soap." "Stand By Me," I think, is sampled
on it, the Ben E. King record. There's a French language instruction
How did you know all these records?
DAVE: Parents' record collections.
DAVE: That's really what it was. I mean, I was kind of hung up in the
funk era and reggae era with my parents and my uncles and stuff.
MASE: And my parents were listening to Perry Como, Liberace...
MASE: ...Sammy Davis Jr. and, you know, stuff like that.
DAVE: And Pos' parents have a real strong Southern background.
DAVE: So he listened to a lot of Otis Redding...
DAVE: You know, a lot of stuff that was on this popular station called ABC
back in the day.
GROSS: The home of the good guys, yeah, right.
DAVE: Where we got, you know...
MASE: And then, of course, Prince Paul, who collected stuff like
MASE: ...and Mickey Mouse records and, you know, all sorts of kiddie
like that, so it just--you know, everybody bringing their fourth into it
"3 Feet High and Rising" what it was.
GROSS: So are these all records that you really liked even if you liked
of them for being really bad--I mean, for just really being so awful that
MASE: Oh, yeah. I mean, you're always going to find something. You know,
it's not every record. I mean, there are a lot of records that are in our
crates that, you know, are just like, you know, just for one thing, but that
one thing makes it special. That Liberace record...
MASE: I'm not going to sit here and say that I listen to Liberace all day
but, you know, some--that introduction was just incredible, you know, and
worked for De La Soul. It was like, you know, that had to go on the record.
GROSS: I think we'd better hear the Liberace sample.
MASE: All right.
(Soundbite of Liberace performing)
LIBERACE: And now for my next number, I'd like to return to the classics;
perhaps the most famous classic in all the world of music, world of music,
world of music, world of music.
DE LA SOUL: The first time around I didn't quite understand
speak. Don't worry, we can fix that right now. So why don't you all just
grab your bags. Come on board, hoist the anchor and we'll be off. Club
GROSS: That's from De La Soul's first CD, "3 Feet High and Rising." My
guests are two of the three members of the group, Dave and Mase. And they
have a new CD, which is called "Art Official Intelligence."
So when you started sampling, I'm wondering if you started shopping for
records in a different way than you ever did before, just looking for cool
things to put on your own records?
MASE: What's so funny, the method of shopping for records was kind of like
really different. I mean, it's like that for a lot of hip-hop artists, we
sometimes are clueless of the artists and what music they play and what
instruments or what type of music it is. Sometimes we just--we're looking
a couple of things. We're looking at the year. We're looking at what
instruments are being played. We're looking at the font on the record. If
looks like it's psychedelic, that might have something different. If it
jazzy, it have some--you know, we're looking at a lot of other things more
than who the musician is and what the songs are, you know? It's funny how
shop for records. It really is. You know, you're looking for certain
Like I said, you're looking for the font on the album cover and you're
for the year.
GROSS: Do you mostly go to used record stores and look for vinyl, or do you
use CDs for sampling, too?
DAVE: I personally look for vinyl due to the fact that I'm a deejay and I
highly support vinyl. And when I am deejaying, I like to put a lot of
scratches into what I'm doing sometimes, let alone playing some of these old
records. You know, some of these old records that I've been looking for,
a King Floyd record or Otis Redding record that I would love to play at a
party, like to play the certain break in a party or something like that and
into my next tune. So I'm highly supportive of shopping for vinyl. It's
a deejay thing.
MASE: It is. I think just, you know, seeing how much more records you can
just load into that garage that's already looking like a sort of...
DAVE: Record store.
MASE: A record junk yard.
MASE: You know, it's just--it's always a good feeling also to
just crack that new plastic and then put something on that turntable in the
hope that you find that most incredible, you know, horn section or drum loop
or--it's just exciting.
GROSS: Now after your first CD you were sued by The Turtles for sampling
something from one of their records. What was the outcome of the suit?
MASE: It was settled.
DAVE: Settled out of court.
MASE: It was settled out of court. Unfortunately what happened was the
record, "3 Feet High and Rising," was--there was a demand for it and the
was there to get it in stores. And, you know, we turned in all sample
information and what we sampled and what we needed cleared. Unfortunately,
the record label just didn't take its time out, you know, to hash out all
business pride of putting a record out. So the sample clearance thing never
happened. And its record obviously took off. And rightfully, you know, The
Turtles came back and, you know, sued us for, you know, not clearing the
sample. That's fine. That was cool. But we did settle it out of court and
all is well.
GROSS: What impact do you think that suit had on other rappers?
MASE: It had an impact on rap as a whole. I think, you know, ourselves and
the whole Biz Mark suit when his album got pulled off the shelves. You
know, nowadays you gotta clear samples. I mean...
DAVE: Sampling is big business now.
MASE: Yeah, it's huge.
MASE: And we were a small part of that. I mean, but something
that we always respected, I mean, even before the sampling laws came out and
restrictive as they are now. You know, like I said, "3 Feet High and
we tried to clear as much as we could.
DAVE: It doesn't inhibit the way we make music, though. We just make sure
that we follow procedures to make sure that we clear the samples now though.
GROSS: Since sampling is big money now, Mase. I'm wondering if people ever
come up to you and try to convince you that you should sample their records?
MASE: Oh, yeah. A guy from--one of the guys from Parliament Funkadelic,
player, I believe his name is, you know, he tries to--a lot of times we've
traveled and performed with George Clinton. He's always, you know, telling
me, `Sample this record. I've played on this, and, you know, I owe that.'
And so, we do find some people who definitely--obviously need the money. So
that happens a lot.
GROSS: Dave and Mase of the rap group De La Soul will be back in the second
half of the show. De La Soul has a new CD called "Art Official
I'm Terry Gross. And this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
DE LA SOUL: (Singing) Mirror, mirror on the wall, tell me, mirror, what is
wrong? Can it be my de la clothes or is it just my De La Soul. What I do
ain't make believe. People say I sit and try, but when it comes to being de
la, it's just me, myself and I. It's just me, myself and I. It's just me,
myself and I. It's just me, myself and I.
Now you tease my plug one style. Wear my ...(unintelligible). Say plus one
and two are hippies. No, we're not. There's ...(unintelligible) plus four.
Always pushing that reform then and so there's no room to lie, when it comes
to being plug one, it's just me, myself and I. It's just me, myself and I.
It's just me, myself and I.
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
Back with Dave and Mase of the rap group De La Soul. They have a new CD
called "Art Official Intelligence." Their early CDs were more playful than
more rap and helped launch what was called the Native Tongues movement,
emphasized being yourself, not posing as someone else. Here's another track
from their first CD, "3 Feet High and Rising."
(Soundbite of music)
DE LA SOUL: (Singing) Greetings, girl, and welcome to my world of phrase;
right up to bat. It's a Daisy Age and you're about to walk top-stage, so
you Lottos on the mat. Hip-hop love this is and don't mind when I quiz your
involvements before the sun, but clear your court 'cause this is a one-man
sport, and who's better for this than Plug One? Plug One.
You don't have to worry about me squashin' other deals 'cause they've
been squooshed. Freeze a frame about moods the same which we can continue
right behind the bush. You'll stay with me. Eye know this but not because
all my earthly treasures or regardless to the fact that I'm Posdnuos but
Backup Singer: (Singing) I know I love you better.
GROSS: How do you think your experiences growing up in Amityville, Long
Island, which is a suburb of New York compare to the experiences of some
rappers who ended up doing more, you know, hard-core kind of raps?
MASE: It's a different upbringing. I mean, Long Island, and especially
Amityville gave us the opportunity to not, you know, not be around maybe all
the inner city elements, you know, school yard and, you know...
DAVE: That was just back then.
DAVE: Nowadays in Long Island, it's not that much different from the inner
MASE: Yeah, it's not that much different.
MASE: But you know, whether you're dealing with, you know, the next person
top of you in projects and, you know, it's overcrowded or what have you.
know, we--you know, you had a single-family home, your own bedroom, a big
yard to play in. You know, you did things like went to Tana Park(ph) and
fishing or, you know, you...
DAVE: It's just room to be an individual, you know?
MASE: Yeah, room to breathe, room to get--you know, just to see different
things, you know, go out east and go on pony rides or, you know, go to the
farm or, you know, you got a chance to see different things and your mind
open to new and different things as opposed to, you know, the kids who just
got the park and that's it.
GROSS: Did you ever go through a phase of trying to pretend like you were
from, you know, an inner-city background and that you grew up with, you
guns and gangbangers?
MASE: No. Myself and Dave both lived in Brooklyn at one time.
DAVE: Yeah, I mean, it was a part of our lives regardless. We got the best
of both worlds, you know? We had the opportunity to see the grimy part and,
you know, appreciate, you know, getting out of the 'hood. You know, a lot
rappers nowadays will represent the 'hood to the fullest and I'll be honest.
I don't want to represent the 'hood. I want to get out of the 'hood.
MASE: I want to get out, too.
DAVE: So it's, like, you know, we've seen the best of both worlds. And I
think it's important, you know, as a young black male to get to see both
worlds because you're going to have to be a part of it in life regardless,
you're going to be put in that position where people think that that's where
you're from anyway, so--and it's not a problem knowing--nor are we ashamed
be a part of it, you know? It's just sickening when you hear those who act
if that's the best place to be. I'm proud of being raised in Long Island
of my life.
MASE: I think I'm doing the community a service by getting out.
DAVE: Yeah, right. And plus on top of that, I mean, now that we're
you know, Long Island is cool. It's not the best as it used to be, but it
just motivates me to know if my parents got me out of Brooklyn, then I can
my kids out of Long Island. And that's all it's doing for us and has done
GROSS: I want to play the last skit on your second CD "De La Soul Is Dead"
and this has to do with hard-core rap. Let's hear it.
(Soundbite of "De La Soul Is Dead")
DAVE: That's it? That's all? Van damn, what happened? What happened to
pimps? What happened to the guns?
MASE: I know, right.
DAVE: What happened to the cuss words?
Unidentified Man: Crockett.
DAVE: That's what rap music is all about, right?
MASE: Yeah, man.
DAVE: That little bastard Jeff, he found the...
Unidentified Man: Crockett.
DAVE: ...in this place.
MASE and DAVE: (In unison) Garbage.
DAVE: "De La Soul Is Dead."
MASE: All right. Let's be at--let's get the...
Unidentified Man: Crockett. Crockett.
DAVE: Good one. Let's go play Hammer.
GROSS: That's from De La Soul's album "De La Soul Is Dead." Was it hard
you to come up with a form of rap music that was true to your own experience
and in which you weren't posturing and pretending to be living the life that
lot of other rappers were rapping about?
DAVE: Being able to say, no, I'm not tough and, no, I don't carry a gun is
cool, you know? And being able to say, yeah, I like to listen to--I don't
know--jazz music and the blues sometimes, opposed to hip-hop and just rap.
mean, that's cool. And I don't think we ever stopped and tried to play to
audience just to satisfy them, because, you know, this is the thing to do.
You know, they also were stuck--excuse me--put into playing to Harlem at a
show in Harlem. Yeah, we might play a couple of different songs that they
might have liked, opposed to playing the song in Boston. But it isn't as if
we're going to act any way different. We are who we are, and we want people
to accept us for who we are.
We are the same people in front of the camera, in front of a mike just as we
are at home. And there's nothing wrong with that. We see that, you know,
people respect us for who we are. And I don't want to be anyone different.
GROSS: Did you, or do you know people in hip-hop who you think really are
posturing and are just kind of doing stuff that isn't true to their
experience, but they think it's the way they're supposed to be?
DAVE: Not even that. I think we all have experienced, you know, the BS in
life, you know?
DAVE: I think that a lot of us have been through the struggles somehow, you
know? Each man's struggle is obviously, you know--he defines it as the
in the world. And that's cool. But at the same time, I think we all grow
and learn different things. We all grow up and just, you know, snap out
somehow. You know, you're an adult now, cut it out. It's like, OK. We've
been through the struggle, all of us. And you grow out of it. And I think
that's one of the things that rappers nowadays just can't do, just can't
it up and say, OK, I'm past it. You know, especially the successful ones.
You don't live in the 'hood anymore. You're not going through the same
difficulties as you might have, or your parents might have, you know, 15
ago. It's like, you know, your past it now. Just drop it and just move on.
But a lot of rappers definitely hold on to that tough guy attitude, and I'm
still going through a struggle, I guess, just to hold it down or represent
the people who are going through it right now and, I guess, seem--I don't
know--sell records to, I guess. Seem like, you know, these--I'm going to
support this guy because he's still going through it, when they're really
GROSS: Do you think that people hold on to that image, in part because it
DAVE: Yeah, definitely. A lot of rappers are making good money and they're
out of the 'hood, they're living in the Hamptons. They've got their yachts
and, you know, they're putting their families and people to work. And, you
know--but they're still talking about how bad times are. It's like...
MASE: And a lot of that is also attributed to the labels as well, whose
influencing them to continue to make these records that, I guess, somewhat
them successful in the first place.
DAVE: That's what it is. It sells. It definitely does sell. You know,
talk about the struggle and the majority of the people who are going through
the struggle, they're going to support you.
GROSS: My guests are Dave and Mase from the rap group De La Soul. More
a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guests are Dave and Mase of the rap group De La Soul.
Let me play something from your new CD, "Art Official Intelligence." And,
Mase, I think you wrote this one. It's called "U Don't Wanna B.D.S."
MASE: Yeah, uh-huh.
GROSS: Tell us about this, 'cause there's a lot of posturing on this, but
tell us the context of it.
MASE: The context of the song is more or less--it's not really an anti-gun
record. It's more or less trying to get a control of the negative
that we're going through in rap music. And I'm asking a lot of these
you know, especially for me being one of the members in De La who's been
through a lot of hard struggle that rappers such as Jay-Z and DMX have been
through. And I really don't condone any of the stuff that they're talking
about, you know, knowing that these are all the things that I've been really
doing my best to get away from. And what's been going on in hip-hop that,
know, this music is definitely the number-one-selling music in the world.
we're still condoning nonsense. We're still condoning negativity.
And I'm asking them to, not really change their subject matter, but if
anything, get a bit more explanatory about what they're talking about.
Instead of talking about it from the glorification side, speak about it from
the consequence side as well, you know, to give these kids out here who are
highly influenced by hip-hop a full synopsis of what's going on, because
now, when they're listening to hip-hop, they only have one choice, and
to really gravitate to all this negative and flossiness and materialism
going on, when we really need to balance it out, give them another choice,
because we do have other choices out here.
GROSS: Now there's a lot of expletives and lots of uses of the N-word on
this track. So what's the difference between how you're using it and the
you don't like to hear it used?
MASE: Well, definitely to speak in the tongue of what they understand, you
know, to bring it to them on their level for them to understand it from a
level where it's acceptable, you know, in their eyes.
DAVE: Yeah. You can't go into the 'hood, you know, speaking...
MASE: Speaking like--I can't make a record speaking like Jesse Jackson, you
MASE: I have to kind of come down on their level and deliver it to them on
their level to where it's acceptable and that they can at least get an
understanding of where I'm coming from, you know, because I'm getting a lot
good responses behind it, but people are also catching my message as well.
GROSS: And the message is?
MASE: And the message is definitely to not exploit the negative images of
what's been going on in hip-hop, you know, to have another choice in what's
going on. I come from the KRS-One, Scott Le Rock era, you know, where the
music was true. It wasn't all about marketing and busting guns just to get
record deal or be a part of this music. You know, it was all about skills,
you know, being good at what you are and bringing something to the table.
now rap, it definitely become a serious pimp and ho game and everybody
to be something that they're not.
MASE: And I'm just trying to crack that edge.
GROSS: Let's here "U Don't Wanna B.D.S." from De La Soul's CD, "Art
Intelligence." And this features one of the guest performers, Freddie
(Soundbite of "U Don't Wanna B.D.S.")
DE LA SOUL: Shick, shick, cl-cl-clack. This is what my people had not, and
that some people carrying got, now what the (censored) is all that? Is it
'cause I'm live like a wire? Getting shock treated by the cross-fire, on
fire. ...(Unintelligible) bad, well prepared to make my decision for my
living. I ain't the one driving, I'm the one giving. Hip-hop prison and
willing to die for it. When Scott Le Rock died, man, I cried and shit.
some pimp got rich calling some woman a bitch, but ain't no woman like the
I got. And if you call her a bitch, well, you might get...
(Soundbite of gunshot)
DE LA SOUL: And I know...
GROSS: That's De La Soul from their new CD, "Art Official Intelligence."
that features guest performer Freddie Foxxx.
So how would you like to see, say, stores deal with a CD like that, that has
the words that would qualify it for, you know, a parental warning label?
do you think of parental warning labels, and how do you feel about it when
it's on your CD?
DAVE: I mean, that's cool, I think. I'm definitely--you don't want any
surprises. You don't to go buy a record and it's, like, `Wow, I didn't
this.' And, you know, there are records that maybe some parents should be
buying for their children and some records that they shouldn't. But at the
same time, whether or not the sticker is on it or not, we shouldn't always
just rely on just a sticker. It's like you have to really monitor it
regardless. It might not be curses that's making something, you know, bad,
you know. It's just, you know, there are a whole lot of records out there
that don't have curses in them. But the message and what you can get from
is worse than saying the F-word, you know? And I think you can throw
all day, but you've still got to monitor what's going on. Just because they
bleep out the curses on the radio, when you're singing them and you're
reciting them behind the radio, you're filling the blanks in regardless.
MASE: Like, for example, the "Thong Song," by Sisqo.
MASE: It has no profanity in that record whatsoever, but I feel like that's
one of the most negative records out there, you know?
MASE: And it comes on at 3:00 in the afternoon, the video comes on at 3:00
the afternoon when my kids are just getting home from school. And one of
first things they want to do is turn on the videos, you know? And video
are set up to come on, you know, the minute kids get home from school. So
that's one of the songs that I feel that are negative, and it doesn't have
profanity in it whatsoever.
GROSS: What don't you like about it?
MASE: Just how it's being delivered to the kids, you know?
DAVE: It just makes it seem--it's a happy-go-lucky record that you could
start singing, but it's talking about, yo, literally to an extent it's like
drop your pants and let me see your underwear.
DAVE: You know? It's just--or...
MASE: Let me see the special kind of underwear that ride up in your behind.
DAVE: And you see a lot of the eight-, nine-, 10-year-olds singing that
record. I mean, they might not, in all cases, literally drop their
or even be wearing a thong, but it's like, OK, my kid doesn't have to be
GROSS: Right. How did you guys meet in high school?
MASE: I met Dave in English class.
DAVE: Yeah, with Ms. Skeyhan(ph).
MASE: Ms. Skeyhan.
DAVE: Oh, we just met each other in school. Mase was a popular deejay in
neighborhood. He came out of Brooklyn and came into Amityville and started
doing a lot of parties here and there and coupling up with a lot of rappers
the neighborhood. And when we were all doing it just for a hobby, just
for--doing our little basement parties here and there. And he was a popular
deejay at the time. Myself and Pos were rapping in the basement, making
with our own group, and then we just, like, started hearing about each other
and one day it just actually meshed, where it was like, OK, let's try
something. Let's make a tape. And that's what it was about back in the
making a tape at home, seeing if you could come up with your own little
and then maybe somewhere down the line going to a party and performing and
just young kid stuff.
MASE: And I met Po in the party scene in Amityville.
GROSS: What was the party scene in Amityville like?
MASE: Basement parties, backyard parties.
DAVE: Dark basement parties.
MASE: Dugout parties.
DAVE: You know, the little red lightbulb in this, like, a basement filled
with maybe, like, 70 people and everybody dancing. All the dancers were out
at the time, and backyard parties in the summertime. People would throw
backyard parties--speakers. And they'd fill their back yard.
MASE: I mean, that was back when I was deejaying, and I was also playing
DAVE: Yeah. They don't play "Slow Hands"(ph) at the parties no more.
GROSS: I'm wondering if either of you had parents who were very political,
and not necessarily voting booth politics, but just in terms of having a
of political social analyst of class and race in America and if they talked
you a lot about that.
DAVE: I think we grew up with parents who just, you know, had, you know,
moral backbone. It's like, you know, `I'm not sending my kid out in the
street looking any old way. I'm not going to send my kid out in the streets
or into school, you know, not knowing how to speak,' you know. I mean,
we heard curses around the house, but you know that that's where you kept it
and that's it. And if Mom or Dad cursed, it was Mom and Dad cursing. I
wasn't the one that's supposed to follow right behind or say it out in the
streets or say it to anyone else. You know, my parents were very strict,
you know, if we got out of line, you know, we got dealt with also. And, you
know, it just carries on. You know, at the time, you know, you're like,
Mom and Dad'--or Mom or whoever, you know--`they're pains,' or what have
but it paid off.
And, you know, it doesn't necessarily take, you know, Mom and Dad in the
household. Perfect example is Mase. And it's like, you know, seeing how
mom was and, you know, just being in a small part of his life and how his
seemed to be as a person. It's like Ms. Mason raised us: myself, Pos, you
know. It's like, you know, when we weren't at home with our parents, she
there making sure that we were in order, you know. So I could imagine how
went down in his house.
MASE: I grew up in a single-parent home. You know, I come from a lot of
struggle that these rappers talk about. I've been on welfare. I've lived
from house to house. I lived in a one-bedroom apartment putting milk on the
window sill. And, you know, regardless of all the trials and tribulations
I've been through with my mom--my mother's my hero, you know. She
and she struggled to really provide a good life for me and my brother. She
did everything possible under the sun to make sure that we've had a pretty
stable life; you know, working odd jobs as well as having public assistance.
DAVE: Yeah. I mean, and sometimes it goes just further than just putting
food on the table. I mean, you know, after they put food on the table, they
made sure that you held the fork the right away and, you know, you didn't
stuff your mouth like a...
MASE: Instilled those values in my head.
DAVE: Yeah. And those things were more important than, you know, her
12-hour shift or what have you, or my mom or my dad trading up on shifts
you know, `You baby sit them then while I go to work.' You know, it's like
lot of other things were important to them, too. So that's kind of what
molded us to be the people that we are today.
GROSS: Well, I want to thank you both so much for talking with us.
DAVE: Thanks for having us.
GROSS: Dave and Mase of the rap group De La Soul. They have a new CD
"Art Official Intelligence." It's the first in a projected trilogy.
Coming up, Milo Miles reviews a new CD of Muddy Waters' early recordings.
This is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: Fiftieth anniversary release of a Muddy Waters collection
TERRY GROSS, host:
Music critic Milo Miles has been listening to a collection of Muddy Waters'
early recordings for Chess Records, trying to figure out why some music has
such a grip on him.
MILO MILES reporting:
Many years ago, Muddy Waters did for me what a lot of people say Robert
Johnson did for them. He revealed the mysterious heart of the blues. I'd
enjoyed Muddy Waters' songs, like I "Got My Mojo Working," dug his profound
influence on rockers like the Rolling Stones and admired his ability to
assemble and direct powerful bands.
Then, in the middle of a charred summer night, when the air was still and I
was sitting alone in a room, I heard this.
(Soundbite from song)
Mr. MUDDY WATERS: (Singing) Well, now it getting late over in the evening.
I feel like--like blowing my horn. When I woke up this morning, all I--I
was gone. Now it getting late over in the evening, man. Now I feel
like--like blowing my horn. Well, now I woke up this morning, all I had was
MILES: I could hear the long-lost 1920s Delta, where McKinley Morganfield
grew up to become Muddy Waters, and I could hear Old Slaughterhouse
Chicago(ph) on his big shoulders in 1948 when "I Feel Like Going Home"
a hit and Muddy was still driving a truck. And I could feel, like never
before, what it meant to feel like going home. More than anything else, I
could feel Muddy Waters in the room.
I never had a chance to see Waters perform, and his good days on stage were
already past. On his records, Muddy can be totally gripping, but never
like your buddy, which would be what? The blues sorcerer next door? It's
interesting that one of his favorite entertainers was Fats Waller, who
projected a jovial personality to cover up a sometimes melancholy man.
(Soundbite from "Rollin' And Tumblin'")
Mr. WATERS: (Singing) Well, I roll and I tumble, cried the whole night
Well, I roll and I tumble, cried the whole night long. Well, I woke up this
morning, didn't know right from wrong.
MILES: The recent two-CD Waters set called "Rollin Stone: The Golden
Anniversary Collection," is pretty gimicky--released because it's been 50
years since he recorded "Rollin Stone." Uh-huh. But I recommend it to
fans because it gives such a concentrated dose of just him. Even though
Waters had been mowing them down in clubs with his band, boss man Leonard
Chess stuck with the plainer, more-rural sound of just guitar and bass for
quite a few sessions. The "Rollin Stone" collection does include all the
tracks made by harmonica monster Little Walter when he was in Muddy's band.
(Soundbite from song)
Mr. WATERS: (Singing) I want you to write me, baby, after the sun goes
I want you to write me, mama, after the sun goes down. I want you to hug
kiss me, tell me you always will be mine.
MILES: Muddy Waters has become an esteemed companion since that humid night
when I heard him as never before. Along with Louis Armstrong, Duke
and Hank Williams, Muddy Waters captures all the big currents of life. His
long-distance calls and mysterious letters are filled with troubles that
deliver a full measure of pain without a drop of self-pity. His boasts in
party tunes evoke joy that never become shallow. Listen to Muddy Waters and
you will know what it means to chase the blues, to come out the other side
music scoured, scraped clean.
GROSS: Milo Miles writes about music from his home in Cambridge,
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
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