Monday, October 13th, 2008

Q+A :: De La Soul On Whether Obama Can Deliver

Feted spectacularly on last week’s VH1 Hip-Hop Honors, De La Soul is still in motion—working on new projects for their AOI label and touring extensively around the world. They are also all family folks now, with grown man concerns, and lots of wisdom to drop.

Vibe recently caught up with Plugs Two and Three—Dave the rapper formerly known as Trugoy and Maseo the DJ formerly known as the P.A.—and got to talking about Barack Obama’s success and what it means for the Black community.

Check for a guest appearance in this interview by Chief Xcel from Blackalicious, and a gratuitous (unendorsed) product placement.

Vibe: Do you think this is the most important election in our generation?

Dave: I think the Hip Hop generation is probably more involved, if you wanna say that. I think our age group, and the culture as a whole, I think it identifies with the issues of today. I think we are getting older. Hip Hop expands from the 16-year olds all the way up to the 35-year olds. So I think this year this election has more of a hip-hop presence involved, and it is important to us. We’re family men and women, we pay taxes, we deal with issues in our community, and so to be a part of molding what they future is in store is important to us, definitely. We wanna be a part of that.

Vibe: Do you think that Obama’s presence this year in the election changes things, makes things different at all?

Maseo: His presence gives hope. His presence overall gives hope. I don’t know if it’s gonna change much, but it gives a lot of hope. Just based on my opinion, everything is based on tradition. A lot of things traditionally just aren’t going to change. But I feel his presence does give a lot of hope for change.

Dave: In addition to that also it gives to a certain demographic to feel like they are involved. And unfortunately that might be ignorant, to feel like someone is of your color, is of your background, so you now be involved, but it is a part of it. We are all human beings, and I think when we see something or someone that we can stand by and be comfortable with, I think that’s a part of the whole process as well. Him being a black man running for the Presidency says a lot.

Maseo: Becoming President, that’s the change in itself. So let’s see where we go from there.

Vibe: You plan on voting this year?

Maseo: Absolutely!

Dave: Oh yeah.

Vibe: Can I ask you who you’re gonna vote for?

Dave: You know, I’m gonna vote for Obama.

Maseo: Me and McCain are starting a label! (laughs)

Vibe: What are the issues that are important to you?

Dave: This war. Just to hear casualties day after day after day, and not only from our side, which is important, but on that side as well. It’s time for some sort of resolution. And to hear that one candidate is willing to stay over there longer, or “stay the course” and another is trying to pull ‘em out and get ‘em home, that’s kinda important to me personally. I think it’s time for us to pull outta there, or try to find a way to pull outta there.

Vibe: So Maseo, you voting for McCain?

Maseo: (Makes Baby Huey sound) Duuuuuuuuuh. (laughs) Naw, Obama’s my man.

Vibe: What are the issues for you? How about healthcare? Most artists don’t have healthcare.

Maseo: That’s one of the things I’ve kinda focused in on. Obama’s taken that really to heart because I believe that his mom died, poor healthcare, so I think he’s making that a prevalent issue in our country and I think it’s necessary. I have a mother-in-law who deals with some issues with her healthcare. So I like to see him make that possible out of all the other things he has to try and fix.

Dave: As much money as is being spent on the war, you would think that somebody could funnel a lot of that money into helping people who just need it, naturally. Whatever ailment or age, you see so many different countries have free healthcare, and it works. I think we can figure out a way to make it work.

Maseo: Healthcare and education is necessary. We got all the security in the world, what else are we gonna do now? I think we’re pretty much locked down slowly but surely, accepting martial law. You can see it. But for the most part, we need healthcare and education. Education is terrible. I can tell you the state of Florida right now, what they teaching in the school and the testing that they have to pass doesn’t coincide with the work they’re learning all year long.

Vibe: What do you say to people who aren’t registered to vote?

Maseo: People just gotta step up and participate. You just can’t sit and complain. You have to come; you have to vote. You have to be a voice to be reckoned with. You have to first educate yourself on what you complaining about before you can even complain.

Dave: And if Obama’s a catalyst to get those out there to pay attention and learn about what’s going on, let it be. If he’s gonna be a reason, and I speak to my Black community, if he’s gonna be the reason for you to be interested, learn what’s going on, get some information, and then weigh the scale. You never know, McCain might be the person for you. But get involved, educate yourself, and make a decision.

Maceo: I guess the obvious change is Obama, and I feel like of course white people—some of them—don’t wanna reckon with him, but a lot of them are. Race is working for Obama, in a lot of respects. That’s what’s tripping me out. I’m hearing things like KKK is supporting him [laughter]. How true that may be, you don’t know, but I’m hearing things like that. It’s funny because I’m not really political! But I’m just saying, ’cause I got a family it gets important.

Vibe: You guys did a whole album called ‘Buhloone Mindstate’—talking about you might blow up but you won’t go pop. Is Obama at the stage now where he’s about to blow up and do you think he might go pop?

Dave: I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure.

Maseo: Popular culture’s popular culture! He’s a big part of it now, whether he likes it or not.

Dave: It’s a big pressure. Not only do you have an individual who’s trying to get in the house and run a country, but I’m sure there are a lot of people who are on one side of the field that’s expecting him to deliver for them. I think there’s gonna come a time where he has to separate politics from popularity. I think there’s people out there wavin’ that flag—Obama, Obama!—and literally, Black folks are out there waiting for our deliverance. But I think at the end of the day when that man gets into office he has to deal with politics, and politics are supposed to be for the benefit of the people. But when there’s a time when you have people who are waiting for this deliverance, you gotta kinda let that go, so they [Black people] may view that as him going pop; Black folks might be like, ‘Well what’s up wit’ us? I thought we was supposed to be blowing up!’

Chief Xcel from Blackalicious: If he’s not gonna address those and deal with politics as you say, then why should he be our choice?

Dave: I think a lot of it has to do with the whole slogan of just “Change.” I think a lot of people are just looking for that change, that new face, that different thing, and obviously, how the country’s been ran like the whole last eight years, people are not comfortable with that happening for another four years, and I think that’s where the popularity is. But I think that there is a group of people who are waiting for more than just politics. They’re waiting for that deliverance!

Maseo: Everybody’s got a job to do. It’s just that simple.

Vibe: Do you think hip-hop helped this country get to this moment, where we could actually visualize having a black President?

Dave: Absolutely! We’ve come a long way.

Maseo: It’s like Guinness, an acquired taste. (laughs)

For the latest on the 2008 election, including voter registration deadlines, check’s Politics page. Check De La Soul and hundreds more on the elections in the November issue of Vibe, on newsstands soon!

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