De La Soul member DJ Maseo hits up Saskatoon

DJ Maseo at the 2011 Saskatchewan Jazz Festival

When you hear the words “De La Soul,” what comes to mind? If you say one of hip-hop’s most famous musical groups, you’re correct.

Formed in Long Island, New York in the mid-1980s, De La Soul is a hip-hop phenomenon consisting of Kelvin Mercer, David Jude Jolicoeur and Vincent Mason. I was fortunate enough to interview Vincent Mason, one of the iconic band’s members who is better known to the music world as “DJ Maseo.”

Where did the name De La Soul come from? Mason said that when their first record deal was being discussed; they didn’t even have a name for their band yet. They were “just three friends working on some music.” However, the lack of a name held up the recording process, so someone threw out the phrase “from the soul.” Riffing on this, Jolicoeur suggested the French phrase “de la,” which means “from the,” and De La Soul was born.

When asked to discuss the inspiration for the band’s emotional lyrics, Mason described himself as “a b-boy to my heart.” The inspiration the group shares comes from their life experiences like having lived in the projects, or what’s going on in the world at the moment they’re writing. Mason also says that inspiration came to him from living in a struggling community.

Mason feels like it’s the right time for him to explore a solo project. After years in the music business, he finally has the confidence to stand on his own.

With any group of people, tension can form, and these guys are no different. Mason said that even though De La Soul may occasionally fight or argue, they manage to work through it.

“Human beings are human beings [but] when it’s on, it’s on,” he said.

The energy in their work, the belief in what they’re doing and the influence of hip-hop predecessors serve as the forces that keep De La Soul going.

“It’s a magic that you can’t really describe,” Mason said.

Regarding his upcoming show in Saskatoon, DJ Mason thought that his stay in the city was just going to be another stop on the road. However, Mason’s thoughts about the city changed when De La Soul played at the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival this past summer. He said that he “had a great time” and enjoyed himself, and that his experience here was “unexpected.”

Music and family are the most important things in DJ Maseo’s life.

“My hobby is my profession. I’m a DJ in it’s truest form,” he explained.

The meaning embedded in his lyrics and the energy with which he speaks about his work clearly show that music has had an extraordinary effect on this DJ of 35 years.

DJ Maseo plays Scratch Nightclub Sept. 22.


photo: Peter Yee