On Valentine’s Day, De La Soul released most of their back catalog for free. Fans rejoiced at the unexpected gift, which included the albums 3 Feet High and Rising (1989), De La Soul Is Dead (1991), Buhloone Mind State(1993), and Stakes Is High (1996) and dozens of rare remixes, B-sides, and instrumentals. The move generated huge amounts of buzz and goodwill, judging by the outpouring of affection on Facebook, Twitter, and around the Web. It will help, no doubt, with the tour they just announced, on the eve of their 25th anniversary as a group.
Why couldn’t De La Soul reissue their albums in MP3 format and make them available for a fair price on iTunes? As many of its fans know, the group has a tangled history with sampling and copyright law; a post last week by the advocacy group the Future of Music Coalition offered a useful primer on the situation. De La Soul’s first three albums were classics of hip-hop’s sampladelic golden age—a time when artists sampled liberally and were more cavalier about securing (or not securing) permission to use those samples.