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25 Years High And Rising

11 December 2013 | 11:07 am | Annabel Maclean

"Seeing people who still dig our brand and our music - whether they started in ’88 with us or ’99 with us - it’ll be great to see them.”

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When the words 'hip hop' and 'classic' are mentioned, De La Soul are a name to follow shortly after. Known for their genius sampling, quirky rhymes and contribution to the hip hop, jazz and rap game, De La Soul are considered worldwide as one of the most influential and reputable hip hop groups. Since roughly 1989, the trio – Mercer, David Jolicoeur (Plug Two) and Vincent Mason (Plug Three), have been at the forefront of their sound and next year marks their official 25th year as De La Soul. Kelvin Mercer couldn't be happier. There are too many fond memories over the boys' 25 years together to recall but he's got a few special mentions. “A lot of it [great memories] would have to do with creating in the studio - when you have artists come by and take the time to just chill with us and build with us,” he says down the line from the trio's studio in the States.

“We've been blessed to work with the amazing artists that we have and they create those great stories for us. Outside of that, touring on the Gorillaz line-up was just amazing, chilling with The Clash and Bobby Womack – we became such a family. You know, I'm walking to the store with Mick [Jones] and Paul [Simonon] from The Clash. It's like 'Woah, you're my heroes and now you're my friends'. Things like that are just a great feeling.”

Commemorations for the group's 25th anniversary begun earlier this year when they released fresh single Get Away ft The Spirit Of The Wu which samples the intro from the Wu-Tang Clan's second record Wu-Tang Forever. “Sometimes we look at ourselves and we go like 'Wow, we have been around this long!' and we have albums that are considered classic hip hop staples,” Mercer says. “We definitely sat down and thought about the anniversary for 3 Feet High And Rising because it's coming up next year. We're looking at a great, great time next year with what we're trying to do.”

Next year will also see De La Soul release their eighth studio record titled You're Welcome. “I would say it's kind of a traditional De La album that still goes all over creatively in terms of places – whether it be straightforward hard beat or a soft sound with a really cool rhyme, whatever the lyrics may be,” he says. “The lyrics and content is coming together really well. We can't wait to let you hear it. We're definitely looking at throwing a few more singles out and a video first and then [we'll] release it. We're going to package it all together with our 25th anniversary so we're looking at major touring along with that. I don't want to let go too many of our collabs yet.

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“We do a lot of recording, we've always produced beats ourselves and we're our worst critics. We'll love something one day and then the next day it's like 'I don't know if I like that'. Honestly that has a lot to do with why our music doesn't come out [often]… that was one thing for us where we really sat down a couple of months ago and realised that playing all these shelves and shelves of music that we've created for other people – they still go crazy for it. So that's what we're doing right now.”

With the anniversary looming, it looks to be a nostalgic year ahead for the gang. Playing at the DC Loves Dilla Tribute earlier this year is just one of a few gigs in which fond memories and celebrations of past good times were had. “Creatively, he was just an amazing artist,” Mercer says of the late American hip hop producer J Dilla. “With Dilla, we [De La Soul] always had this special attachment to his production. It's just such a loss to the community of music.”

But, before 2014 makes its mark on the world, De La Soul have got a few gigs up their sleeves which they're very much looking forward to – Funk Club's Countdown To NYE and Cuban Club. “We're very happy,” Mercer says of the group's imminent return. “We're always happy to go to Australia, they've got great bands there and we're always happy to get away from the cold weather here in the States. Right now we're recording, some of the stuff we've got coming out so far is coming out really well. We can't wait for you to hear the finished product and respond to it because it's coming out very well.”

And, as for plans aside from these two huge gigs, Mercer says they'll be trying to squeeze in as much play time into their schedule. “Our time over there unfortunately is only like a week and a half,” he says. “Usually when we do come over there, we come over for a few weeks. But whatever time we have, we'd love to get into a couple of studios over there and record. That environment is lovely and we love meetings the locals, there's always something that we look forward to trying to do. Outside of that of course, seeing people who still dig our brand and our music - whether they started in '88 with us or '99 with us - it'll be great to see them.”