An enormous, impersonal monster stole De La Soul’s music during the group’s self-aware guest appearance on Teen Titans Go!
Granted, you didn’t have to be familiar with the rap trio’s tortured streaming history to appreciate the plot of the show’s latest episode. In “Don’t Press Play”, De La Soul faced a tentacled adversary who ripped the roof off the DLS Recording Studio, while the pint-sized Teen Titans were too star-struck by Psdnuos, Trugoy, and Maseo to help. Despite possessing a bazooka that turns Trugoy’s voice into sound-wave blasts, the monster escaped with their music, and the 2-D MCs grudgingly enlisted the aid of the Titans to get it back. It’s a simple story with clear stakes, but for those who have followed De La Soul in the 21st century, it might ring familiar.
Starting in the late 1980s the trio achieved mainstream success with an afrocentric, jazz-influenced approach to hip-hop. They’re one of the foundational voices of modern rap, but today most of their catalogue remains digitally unavailable, with everything before 2004 missing from streaming services. The reasons are complicated, and said to involve issues with sample clearance, bureaucratic feet-dragging across Warner and Tommy Boy Records, and muddled contract disputes.
In 2014, the exasperated trio briefly made their entire catalogue free. As recently as 2019 it seemed progress had been made, and Tommy Boy Records announced that they were finally opening the De La Soul vault. But DLS revolted, objecting to only receiving 10% of the profits, and the plan was scuttled.
It’s unclear if the real-life dispute will ever be resolved. But thanks to the Teen Titans, they were able to fight the music-stealing monster and achieve some animated justice. Check out a clip below, or sign-in to watch all of “Don’t Press Play” at Cartoon Network’s website.
Last October, De La Soul returned with the new election season single “Remove 45” featuring Chuck D, Talib Kweli, and Pharoahe Monch.