De La Soul celebrates the 20th anniversary of its fourth studio album, Stakes is High this week. When the project was released July 2, 1996, the group, comprised of Posdnuos, Maseo and David Jude Jolicoeur, aka Trugoy, made a statement about the state of rap. Not many groups have the staying power to make a fourth album, so the message was personal, too. Stakes is High forced the group into a new creative zone as they parted ways with Prince Paul.
HipHopDX spoke with the legendary trio about De La Soul is Dead celebrating 25 years this year. In the same conversation, we also asked the New York artists what they learned from making Stakes is High and how the members think today’s rap scene is carrying the torch of Hip Hop. Check it out below.
HipHopDX: Looking back 20 years, what is the importance of Stakes is High to De La Soul’s legacy?
David Jude Jolicoeur: It was definitely a pivoting point of our career. Like, ‘What was gonna happen? This has to make a statement of some sort.’ We were competing with a lot of groups out there and I think musically it had to change. Also, we were in a point of our career where our mentor, our fourth guy was parting from us. Prince Paul was a vital part of our recording process from the previous albums and he was taking a turn to go work on other music and also just giving us the opportunity to have our own freedom. So it was really a point of reckoning for us in regards to our career. Musically of course, we had to compete with a lot of artists out there and not necessarily do what they were doing, but do something that could at least hang. Taking the seat of being the producers of this record was fun, sitting down and actually putting our heads together and putting beats together solely was really cool. It was an important record for us at that time, meant a lot for our career.
DX: What did you learn from making the album on your own?
David: We could do it. It’s empowering and it’s a confident booster. That’s a part of being an artist, wondering are the fans gonna appreciate it? Am I still good? Can I still put good music together? I wanna say maybe one or maybe two songs on that record was an outside producer. Everything else we produced. So it was definitely an ego builder, a confident booster and a learning process. We learned music equipment. We learned being in the studio. We’ve always done that in the past. We’ve always had our hands in what we were doing from 3 Feet High and Rising, but to say that this is all on you, it was important for us.
Maseo: I would definitely say that was a record where Dave definitely warranted a lot of leadership. He really came into his own as a full-fledged producer. He was toying around with it first and second album, not really heavily producing, maybe moreso we were collaborating the majority of the time. Pos was really an integral producer and myself along with Paul. Dave really came to life Stakes is High, the entire project really. It did make a very important statement even for what we was feeling at that time with our turning point. Are we still going to exist here?
Posdnuos: Stakes is High was pretty much the first and pretty much only record that we made where we had the title before we started making the music. Usually, a title will kinda come about towards the end, but as they were saying, what we were dealing with in terms of where do we fit now that we’re trying to make this fourth album? Life expectancy of an artist isn’t really considered to be that long.
Maseo: Especially a rap group, third, fourth album.
Posdnuos: Let alone we were all fathers and what was going on in the world. It was kinda like our What’s Going On like a Marvin Gaye. We just had really great songs on there that spoke to what was going on with the times from a music standpoint as well as just life.
DX: What artists do you see today carrying the Stakes is High torch?
Maseo: I actually, I see more artists carrying more of a spirit of Grind Date than I see Stakes is High. I don’t think there’s been much of an urgency of the state of music. I think everybody’s moreso on their grind of how to succeed and make it and be heard with what they’re trying to present, especially the ones that harnessed what we’ve done from a certain era, period and what’s truly missed in this era is artist development, so a lot of ‘em are trying to figure it out, especially when you see there’s so many bad people, really bad talent succeed.
Posdnuos: It’s funny ‘cause my view is a little different. I feel like a lot of especially artists that are our peers and our age, I think that they speak too much towards Stakes is High.
David: I was about to say that. They sound angry.
Posdnuos: Yeah, ‘We’re angry and this is Hip Hop and we’re doing Hip Hop and you young dudes ain’t and the world is messed up because of y’all.’ I think they’re too stuck on that and not —
David: As opposed to just creating.
Posdnuos: — creating music and having fun. It’s a little too much of that from —
Maseo: Among definitely our peers.
David: But I think there’s people who are definitely out there. I think Kendrick Lamar’s definitely challenging, creating, taking it to another level, showing people that there’s still an opportunity for Hip Hop to sound different, sound cool, grow, become something even more than what it is now. It’s funny to hear even some of our peers, some people who come from our generation trying to do what everybody else is doing, but yet there’s still room and space to do new things. You’ve got one or two out there that’s doing it. So it’s good to hear that hope is still alive. It’s nice to hear that in Hip Hop.
The group is now preparing to release the much-anticipated And the Anonymous Nobody LP, which features Snoop Dogg on the lead single, “Pain.” The funds for the album were raised via a Kickstarter campaign. After many delays in the release because of the burden of creating an album completely on their own, they confidently believe in the August 26 drop date.
David: It’s gonna be a good record, I think well-rounded record, something in there for everybody: the Hip Hop heads, the people who just wanna hear something totally different, people who are expecting De La, I think De La’s sound is in there. So we’re proud about this album and we’re excited about the release. Finally, it’s coming.