As Forecastle’s ship sails on, this year, it’s a Soul party

De La Soul

De La Soul

Year after year, like a prepubescent kid eating lots of spinach, the Forecastle Festival just can’t stop growing. Every edition brings a different venue and one or more kinds of expansion among the Music/Arts/Activism smorgasbord. The Belvedere down by the Waterfront is home to this year’s fest, which is two days (Friday and Saturday, July 27-28) plus a kick-off party (Thursday, July 26) at the Monkey Wrench (1025 Barret Ave, 582-2433).

Founder J.K. McKnight has once again roped in an army of volunteers and brought in three-dozen musical acts.
The buzz around 2006’s Sleater-Kinney set (one of its last before the indie-rock legends disbanded) is not going to happen this year — and it seems like a wise move that McKnight didn’t get enamored with the publicity quick-hit and go chasing for more. He’s still sticking to the idea of a cultural institution that’s pure grassroots community in spirit, then adjusts his business plans based on how much he sees it growing any given year: “It took me several weekends in March to develop the 19-page infrastructure plan for the Belvedere … I plotted Waterfront Park out two years ago, and hopefully will be able to raise enough money one day to implement that plan.”  

As has been the case since 2004, the music is on two stages. This year, McKnight says, the musical focus has been on diversification. (The festival also makes annual adjustments in its other arms, which this year means “expanding the educational side of the activism and pushing the ecological message into the art.”) The top of the bill belongs to alternative-rap/hip hop legends De La Soul. LEO got the rare chance to check in with Posdnuos (Kelvin Mercer) to see how he views the legacy and impact of his trio, and the directions of sampling and hip-hop that they pioneered and mastered.

LEO: There’re lots of listeners who say that De La Soul started off with their masterpiece. To some, it’s the best hip-hop album ever. Does 3 Feet High and Rising ever seem like a ghost that’s hard to shake?
We were blessed. We had a well-grounded brother with us — (producer) Prince Paul … But I saw imperfections. I still do. It’s the same with every album: We put everything we’ve got at that time into that recording. And you hear that this one will miss commercial success … and then you see that it grows on people, is influential. And then the next will have the commercial impact — you never know. Buhloone Myindstate was when I’m checking out Islam … and I hear from people who discover it like it was brand new, telling me how it’s affected them. We want to open up minds.

LEO: Do you like where sampling has gone over the last 20 years? Has it been misused or abused?
It’s been misused and used correctly. There’s so much to be used and tried. It’s hard for a lot of people to look (at sampling) from the creative aspect. But I pull down a Van Morrison album, and I might hear something. Or an Al Green record, I might hear just a piano or organ, and I can gather all the love and pain that went into that moment on that record, and I’ll work to bring that out. Now, I know that what’s happened in the business has a lot of artists wanting to not pull from anything else — to be responsible for the whole recording, to have the whole publishing (rights).
But it isn’t just that concern that leads to a continuing of different styles — it’s what you’re used to, and where you come from. A lot of Southern brothers have always liked to have a band. But Kanye (West) — he really uses (sampling). Q-Tip and J-Dilla, they’ll take just two or three and work it over and over, once they’ve got a loop that sounds like what they want.

LEO: De La Soul seemed like an alternative to where most of hip-hop has gone … like a branch on a tree that didn’t blossom and grow as much, but still produced plenty to admire and enjoy.
Someone like Jadakiss or L’il Jon … they know everything of De La Soul. But today’s musicians — they grew up with things that are different from what I had around me. And now we’re all like politicians … more with record companies than when we’re playing to a crowd. Musicians, they feel they can only do or give what the crowd wants. But the crowd’s only eating what we’re feeding them!

Along with De La Soul (July 27, 9:30 p.m.), Girl Talk (July 28, 10 p.m.) and Particle (July 28, 8:30 p.m.) top the list at Forecastle, which also has local musical talent like Lucky Pineapple (July 27, 3 p.m.) and the reconstituted Parlour (July 27, 12:30 p.m.). More info is available at

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Forecastle Festival
July 27-28
$10 (Fri.), $12 (Sat.), $20 (two-day pass)
noon-11 p.m. (Fri.); 11 a.m.-midnight (Sat.)