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DE LA SOUL’S
TOMMY BOYCOTT

After months of protracted negotiations, veteran hip-hop group De La Soul have put their longtime label Tommy Boy on notice by asking fans not to stream or buy their music. The issue is a familiar one—they want ownership of their master recordings.

“Well friends, after 30 years of profiting from our music and hard work...and after 7 long months of stalled negotiations, we are sad to say that we’ve been unable to reach an agreement and earn Tommy Boy’s respect for our music/legacy,” De La Soul wrote in an 8/8/ Instagram post. “With some helpful consulting and long careful consideration, we’ve decided we will not do our 30+ years the disservice of settling on Tom Silverman’s terms.

“Tommy Boy says they are ‘not in the business of giving artists back their Masters.’ We realize there is a process in reclaiming ownership, but we do not trust Tommy Boy in this process after so many years of disappointment. Therefore, our catalog will not see the light of day by way of our involvement or consent. This means, if you see De La Soul music/albums available for streaming or purchase anywhere, BE AWARE, all parties involved WILL profit, but De La Soul WILL NOT benefit or earn deservedly/fairly. We really tried. More details to come.

“Nevertheless, our fans have/will keep our legacy alive! “We appreciate and ask for your continued support. “Onto new things, new music and more amazing respectful business relationships.”

The post ends with a barrage of hashtags, most pointedly, #tommyboycottcontinues.

The dispute became public on 3/1, when the label issued a press release that read, “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.”

In reporting on the March showdown, Variety noted that “the group’s catalog with the label has been plagued by legal issues over uncleared samples since shortly after the release of their first album, 3 Feet High and Rising, some 30 years ago. That album—widely considered to be one of the best and most influential hip-hop albums ever released—and several other titles from the group never have been legally available on streaming services, as the catalog has moved from Tommy Boy to Warner Bros. and back again without the sampling issues being resolved.”

But Tommy Boy claimed at the time that the sampling issues that had prevented the De La Soul catalog from being legally available were not the primary issue in the dispute. Now we know what the central issue was—and still is.

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