The influential hip-hop group released seven albums worth of material for free on its website for 25 hours starting Friday morning to celebrate the impending 25th anniversary of its classic debut album, "3 Feet High and Rising." The group's music, available through 11 a.m. EST Saturday, had become frustratingly hard to purchase through legal means. Demand appeared to be heavy enough midday Friday to overwhelm the group's chosen download provider temporarily.
And it wasn't just listeners excited about the move. Folks in the music business were watching with fascination as well.
"From a creative standpoint and a marketing standpoint, I think it's terrific," said Sophia Chang, a manager for GZA, Q-Tip and A Tribe Called Quest and former record label executive. "I think everybody's talking about them. I think they're all over social media. I think they remind people of how incredibly, incredibly influential and innovative that album was."
The group and its management did not respond to messages from The Associated Press. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Posdnuos said it's been a "trying journey" to get the music cleared for release on iTunes and other similar services.
"It's been too long where our fans haven't had access to everything," he told the magazine. "This is our way of showing them how much we love them."
It's also a way to gather information on those fans: People who signed up for the free download had to provide an email address and subscribe to their email list.
The group, consisting of Long Island, N.Y., high school friends Posdnuos, Trugoy the Dove and Pasemaster Mase, made their debut with "3 Feet High and Rising" with the help of producer Prince Paul in 1989. Known for hits like "Me, Myself and I," ''Buddy" and "Potholes in My Lawn," they were heralded for their eclecticism.
Unlike many of their contemporaries, not all their music was available for digital download or on streaming services. Al Branch, the general manager of The Blueprint Group, which oversees the careers of Lil Wayne and Drake among others, says he saw a day when a major act might attempt to reach a fan base in such a way out of frustration. Last year, Jay-Z debuted his album "Holy Grail" via Samsung after the electronics company purchased 1 million units and made them available to certain phone customers for free for a limited time.
"I always knew as the world becomes more and more digital and smartphones come into play that this day was coming. It makes you think from the perspective, if you're an artist, what's more important?" he said. "Is it more important for you to sell albums or is it more important for you to keep your brand afloat and tour and keep going hard?"