DJ Maseo on De La Soul’s new album, bossing hip hop at 44 and perfecting scrambled eggs

Maseo1De La Soul are currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of 3 Feet High and Rising by playing huge shows around the world, but nobody’s enjoying 2014 more than their DJ Maseo. The man born Vincent Mason has scored the sweetest gig in music: two nights playing silent discos at a pair of Caribbean resorts. I met him at his villa on Palm Island in the Grenadines ahead of the first date at the beginning of June. He’ll play a second date at Galley Bay in Antigua in September, and both sets will be recorded for future performance exclusively on the islands. On the beach in paradise, I found the man with the most distinctive laugh in hip-hop in the mood to talk Dilla, anniversaries and red, red wine.

What’s new in the world of De La Soul?
We’re working on a new album called You’re Welcome, I’ve been working on a project called DJ Conductor and I’ve also been working with an artist called Bill Ray. For me, music these days is on a project-by-project base and is conceptual more than anything. You can never rush the art process. Touring never stops, and that’s always been a significant part of what we do. Thank God for the technology nowadays that puts you in a place where you can still create. A flight can turn into a studio session, until you have to record vocals… but then a hotel room can turn into a vocal booth.

You’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of 3 Feet High and Rising this year. What’s it like to be in that first generation of rappers celebrating seminal records?
Well, hip-hop is the youngest genre. We’ve finally hit another milestone where we have another level of rappers who’ve reached their 40s and 50s and have a certain level of success with making records. The era before us didn’t have that success with making records and them having a global appeal. There were so many of us but there’s only a select few of us that are able to tour, and that’s down to the work we put in 25 years ago and the lessons we learned from the school we were among at that time. It feels good to say that I’m part of the old school, if you want to call it that. There were a lot of lessons to be learned, from a creative standpoint, a performance standpoint and from a business standpoint. I feel good to have caught those lessons and still be doing viable business today, whether it’s DJing on my own or rocking with the group.

What do you know now that you didn’t know 25 years ago?
The music business. 25 years ago all I knew was the music I was making, but I didn’t know the business that went along with it. Now I know the business and I know my place within it. Back then the opportunities that presented themselves seemed very different because the day before I would have been mopping floors or working at a gas station.
What’s the best thing you can cook?

I do the best scrambled eggs. Don’t use oil. You gotta make them with butter. Not margarine, butter. Mix them in a bowl with a little salt and pepper. They don’t need much time on the heat, just enough to get them fluffy.

What’s your DJ ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card?
When all else fails, play Michael Jackson. Everybody loves Michael Jackson. There are certain people who are really fans of Prince. Prince is a great musician, one of my favourites, but he can be hit-or-miss at times in the party. I think people listen to Prince a little more intimately, you know what I’m saying?

Why did you decide to put out the Smell The D.A.I.S.Y mixtape using J. Dilla beats?
That was our way of honouring Dilla, celebrating his life as much as everybody else has and donating to the foundation. I think it came out pretty well. It’s pretty much revised lyrics from old material on new Dilla stuff, so that’s kind of cool.

What’s the on tour purchase you’ve regretted the most?
These turntable needles I brought in Japan. I forgot the names of them but they were supposed to be skip-less needles but they sucked! They didn’t hold up and the needle wore out really, really fast. They cost about $300, I was had!

What should no man have in his wardrobe?
A man should never wear a thong. Ever. Ever, ever, ever, ever. Briefs are cool, fam, but underwear up the crack? Nah.

What current hip-hop trend needs to end right now?
I can’t advocate nothing like that. That would attack the freedom. I mean, I could honestly say that based on the freedom that exists a lot of shit is whack, but I couldn’t advocate ending it because that would tamper with the freedom.

What’s your drink of choice?
Red wine. I like Merlot more than everything else. I’m still learning. I’m still a novice, but I like red wine over everything I’ve tasted.

What’s your hangover cure?
Some scrambled eggs, man! Scrambled eggs and water. Keep hydrating yourself. That’s the best way. Protein and water. That’s the best way to do it… or have another drink. [Laughs] It’s one or the other. It’s like the best way to cure seasickness: jump in the water!

What’s the most important item on your rider?
My sound specs. That’s more important than anything on the catering rider. Me, I prefer a buy-out anyway where I can go get my own food! The sound specs are the most important to me because I need to know we have the quality of equipment to make the show as it should be.

Who’s the most stylish man in hip-hop?
Puff Daddy’s very stylish. No homo. Puff always had good style and good taste. I’ve personally bought Sean John because I like it. I got some Sean John stuff free, but I’ve bought it as well because I truly like it. He’s got a good fashion sense because he knows what he wants and he knows what the people like as well.

Where’s the strangest place you’ve heard De La Soul?
Places like Lithuania, Bulgaria, Beirut… just to know that our music has been played there enough that they’ve asked us to go and play for them.

What was the best record in your mother’s record collection?
Byron Lee and the Dragons. They’re a calypso band. That group used to have the backyard parties rocking. I’ve been thinking recently about playing more Calypso in my DJ sets. Byron Lee and the Dragons and Mighty Sparrow were two Calypso records that my Mum used to love. She’s not from the Caribbean, but they were big in my household. She loved Fleetwood Mac too!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Be yourself.” My music teacher taught me that. 25 years later I’m still the same person. You change the things that are necessary. You evolve as a person. You travel to a lot of different places and you learn new things, but I think I’m the same guy that I was 25 years ago. I’ve always been myself and been honest about my flaws. Through everything I’ve achieved, I’ve always been myself. I think that’s been the ticket to success, along with the talent and the camaraderie that I have with the two other guys. The way we came in is the way we’ll go out. Being ourselves is what truly got us this far. I don’t plan on changing. I’m in my mid-40s now. People don’t change much in their mid-40s!

Originally published by British GQ.

Read ‘Stranded in the Caribbean with rum, sun and De La Soul’.