De La Soul’s “First Serve”: Why They Swear They’re Not Poking Fun at Your Favorite Rappers


They’ve always been somewhere left of ordinary. For over 20 years, the collective known as De La Soul has defined eclecticism and creative independence in an always finicky industry. They were born of the Native Tongue and Zulu Nation influence, meaning an automatic alignment with Hip-Hop at its roots, and they’ve never been afraid to not be like your other favorite rappers.

In 2012, Plug 1 (Dave) and Posdnous (Plug 2) of De La Soul find themselves at a new crossroads – still young enough to create interesting rap with stimulating visuals and lyricism, yet clearly not like most of today’s younger musical set – and not overly obsessed with decadence and or telling strippers what to do with a pole.

So, what’s their answer to the dilemma of what to do next? De La Soul’s Plug 1 & Plug 2 Present…First Serve, a “concept album” as defined by Dave, recorded by the fictional characters, Jacob Barrow and Deen Whitter. The duo bears a striking, possibly satirical resemblance to a few of today’s top rappers, and their make-believe Goon Time Records label does, too.

But Dave SWEARS ON EVERYTHING that those are just mere coincidences, so checked in to get the real deal on who’s serving what first?: Hi Dave. How are you?

Dave: I’m good. How are you? I’m great. Thanks. So what’s up?

Dave: Well, we were in Paris and throughout the UK for a month…. Oh, word? Back from overseas, dope. Well, let me ask you about First Serve. I remember you guys sent us the exclusive when you first made the announcement about First Serve earlier this year, so thank you for that.

But when First Serve was first announced, it was called a lot of things – a group, an album, a concept, a movie soundtrack. So I wanted to ask you to define just what First Serve really is.

Dave: I mean, it’s just another adventure, another challenge. I guess, you know, when you put it on the shelf, you would call it a concept album. But for us, it’s just another lilypad in the pond that we’re just hopping onto. We’ve always liked to challenge ourselves and try different things, and not stay on one course. This record gave us the opportunity to record overseas and do things we like. We like challenging ourselves in regards to meeting up with people we are unfamiliar with, but musically seem to have a lot of parallels.

When we hooked up with Kalid and DJ Chocolate, two guys out of Paris who produced for us as well, so I was like, ‘OK, let’s see what this is about. They had this concept, they wanted to do an album, but more like a Blaxploitation kinda movie kinda thing, and they wanted to place it in the early ‘70s. We sat down and said obviously, that’s something we’re familiar with, but let’s do something in the present. And now we have a story of two guys who were like close friends, they were like brothers in their adventures and their pursuit of their dreams.

So for us, it’s just another challenge, another idea, another way to go in what we do, pretty much. So, would you call this a total reinvention of yourselves, or is this just for this time, and we may see some other derivation of you guys later?

Dave: You know, it’s funny you say that. It’s not a new birth of or a reincarnation into another group. These are two brand new people. Right…

Dave: They have no connection at all to myself or Pos, you know? Deen Whitter is totally opposite of Dave Jolicouer. He’s rambunctious, a little loud, you know, a bit of an alcoholic. It’s somebody totally brand new, so this isn’t De La [Soul] at all. Now the music and the style in which it’s recorded, it has De La [Soul] blood in its veins, but this is a totally new encounter. These are different people. OK, well, I’ve seen quite a few of the visuals and heard some of the music, so I want to ask you about some observations I had. The first is that you talk about Jacob and Deen as these fictional characters, but you seem to be poking a little bit of fun, or making a little bit of commentary on the industry. Like you had “Goon Time Records” and that sort of thing. Was part of your plan to use a comedic way to talk about some of the wackness that’s going on?

Dave: No, not at all. I think that’s something people are going to expect from De La [Soul]…the guys who do parodies, the guys who make fun of the guys who always have some sort of platform to stand on. But, not at all. I think it’s that we tried to make this as real as possible, you know, in regards to a story, a reflection of how real things are. It’s not to ridicule them, it’s just as much as there’s a Freeway and there’s a Rick Ross, and there’s a, I believe his name is Stalley, and so many others, why can’t there be a Dean Whitter that has a beard? OK, right… [laughter]

Dave: This isn’t to clown any of those guys. He just happens to have a beard like them. I’m sure there’s so many of these early starting labels, whether it was a Cash Money or whether it was a No Limit or a Bad Boy…why can’t there be Goon Time? Ummm, OK… [more laughter]

Dave: It isn’t to clown them at all! It’s to borrow from real life. Right.

Dave: That’s all it is. People say that Pos’ character is clowning like a Kanye or Will Smith. No, not at all. This guy feels like he’s a superstar, and he wants to be flamboyant in his clothing or what have you, why can’t he be? [laughter] I think it’s because it’s De La [Soul], people just off the bat take it like ‘they’re dissing and clowning people.’ Nah, we’re creating a scene with real things and people who we want you to take as real people as well. OK. I’ll buy that, but it sounds like a bit of a diplomatic answer, knowing the history of you guys.

Dave: No! Honestly, it’s not a diplomatic answer, and I think that’s one of the things…we’ve been posed this question on several occasions, but whether it’s a Rick Ross or it’s a Kanye, and I’m saying the both…whether it’s a label who’s trying to make it happen, I cheer ‘em on. This industry is for a lot of people to get as much as they can, and hopefully do something historical and legendary and phenomenal, so I’m all for it. I think people always just try to connect De La [Soul] as trying to check something. That isn’t the case, I mean, that isn’t the case. We never sat down and said, ‘I’m gonna look like Rick Ross.’ Nah, that’s what I want my character to look like. OK, well, I didn’t sort of dig deep for anything like that. It sorted of just looked like some of the symbolism that you guys used was…but OK, I was gonna say also for the visuals, it’s very fun, it’s very trippy, almost like an acid trip. I thought of “The Great Space Coaster”! I’m kinda showing my age on that. [laughter] How did you guys decide to go the way you did with the visuals?

Dave: Actually, the video concept was from the video director, Schwarzke? I forget his first name, I apologize. He came up with the idea and the concept of just making a real Paris, Parisienne look, with all of the artwork and the drawings, and just the exaggeration of things and what have you. I think it worked out cool. I think it looks great. I think we found somebody who aligns in De La [Soul] style, trying new things and trying experimental things and really taking them there. So I think what we’ve gotten so far is something that we’ve really loved and appreciated. Hopefully we’ll continue that route with the future presentations, you know, video or posters or covers or what have you. It looks good; I’m enjoying it as well. Yeah, it definitely does fit the style of how you guys have sort of been offbeat right from the beginning. So, let me ask you about your assessment of Hip-Hop right now. We’ve had a lot of things in the news, Trayvon Martin and stuff like that, that has a portion of the audience calling for music that has some substance to it again. You guys, really the whole Native Tongue family, have been known for substance. So, how is it looking to you right now in the industry?

Dave: Yeah, you know, it’s tough. I think sometimes social events and social issues definitely bring a serious note to Hip-Hop and rap music as a whole. Sometimes it’s kinda cool, it’s to its benefit. People gotta definitely check themselves, and hopefully, you know what, whether it’s a song or whether it’s a statement or whether it’s just a life change, it will be helpful to grow. I think the direction has been great thus far, you know what I mean? They can become the biggest moguls in this game. It’s great to see that happening…to see them be able to give family members and friends, you know, jobs and experiences, and so on and so forth.

I just think overall, maybe some will last, 15 years or so. We fall off the path sometimes. I think there’s still a little bit too much – hmm, how would I say it? – full of it, BS’ing in the game. I don’t think every record has to be about partying. I don’t think every record has to do that. It’s gotten even worse these days with like pouring champagne on chicks and like trying to be the most obscene now. You know, it’s like I think we still need to censor ourselves sometimes, because there are a lot of impressionable minds out there. Sometimes a positive message here and there could help.

But as a whole, I think we’re moving forward, and we’re also getting older and more mature in the game. Even the young dudes these days are coming in with more of a role model look and are trying to do the right things. Hopefully they’ll exercise that a little bit more. It can get better just like anything else; the whole Hip-Hop could get a little bit smarter, but I think it’s a learning process, and we’re a work in progress. Hopefully in the next few years, we’ll see things getting better. Alright, cool. So lastly, I wanted to ask you, I know you guys had the project released on Duck Down, and I wanted to ask what’s next for this whole “First Serve” concept? And wait, where is Maseo? Where’s Maseo???

Dave: Maseo is here. He actually called me this morning. That’s one thing we want people to understand. This is a project that Pos and I were called for, because the producers are also DJs, and so, in recording this record, there wasn’t any need for a DJ. So that’s something that was discussed, and he gave us his blessing and we made this happen. We’re also working on a De La [Soul] album now. Actually, we’re recording two records at this point in time, and Mase is right here. It’s just, you know, fulfilling what we had to do with this project first, and then we’ll put out the De La [Soul] records. So, we here – Plug 1, 2 and 3. We here. OK, that’s great to hear. So, is there anything else you want to shout out to our audience while we’re here?

Dave: Yeah, definitely they can check us out on Twitter. If anything, I appreciate the fact that people are giving us a chance – this is 2012. Our first release was 1988, and we’ve been blessed to be able to sustain it and be here. This album is a testament to it. I’m sure there will be people who are not fans of this record, but it’s to get the newcomers to appreciate the work that we do. You know, they don’t have to be fans, but when they recognize the hard work and ambition and what not that was put into the music, I just appreciate everybody who took a listen to the First Serve project as well as De La [Soul] projects in the past.

You still haven’t experienced First Serve? Check it out HERE, and visit their Tumblr page, too.