De La Soul's Maseo Talks Classic Hip-Hop and Basel 2013
"It was 1988, I was 18 years old, trying to graduate high school."
That's how Vincent Mason, otherwise known as Maseo of golden-era hip-hop trio De La Soul, remembers the days, weeks, and months leading up to the life-changing release of 3 Feet High and Rising, a golden-era hip-hop masterpiece so definitive that it's even been enshrined in the Library of Congress.
Now, a quarter century after their debut, Maseo and his partners, Posdnuos and Dave, are still recording, touring, and keeping the De La Soul dream alive. And recently, in anticipation of a headlining Art Basel Miami Beach week gig at The Stage, we here at Crossfade got the chance to chat with Maseo about the group's history and its greatest album.
Crossfade: How long have you lived in South Florida?
DJ Maseo: For, like, goin' on 13 years now.
Your 3 Feet High and Rising record from 1989 is widely considered one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. How did you come up with that crazy game show intro?
People think it was such an intricate thought process. It was really just us buggin' out in the studio about whatever was happening that day. The intro, we did at the end of making the album while we were sequencing. The game show announcer voice is actually the mixing engineer.
When did you start writing the songs for 3 Feet?
We started around 1985, inspired by the consciousness of Rakim and Public Enemy, and then Ultramagnetic, who were just bugged out, and Run DMC, who were truly at the forefront of just being yourself on the stage.
Can you talk about the production of your experimental 3 Feet interlude "Cool Breeze on the Rocks"?
It's less than 30 seconds, but it took like three days to put together. I was doing all the scratches between the pieces of the different records. It was editing tape, y'know. You actually had to do it with a razor blade, and a stroke pen to mark it. That's where cut-and-paste comes from. But I never had the patience for that. I gotta commend every engineer from the analog era. Tape has that certain sound that makes it classic. Each engineer had their own style and that sound will never be quite the same.
A lot of long days in the studio for 3 Feet then?
We would really treat it like school. Everybody pretty much had homework to do. We would do a lot at home via four track, developing, and getting all our tools together before going to the studio. Ain't nothin' wrong with writing. That's being two to three steps ahead of the game.
See also: Art Basel Miami Beach 2013 Party Guide