Del the Funky Homosapien: “One Out of a Million”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Del_One_Out_of_a_Million.mp3|titles=Del: “One Out of a Million”]
Del The Funky Homosapien has come a long way from being known as Ice Cube’s weird cousin (who isn’t even gangsta). After lending his inimitable, elastic flow and irreverent lyricism to “Clint Eastwood” and “Rock the House” (singles that helped launch Gorillaz to super-stardom), teaming up with Dan the Automator and Kid Koala for sci-fi concept album Deltron 3030, and helming his own group (Heiroglyphics), Del has carved himself a place in the halls of hip-hop history.
Although Del went from 2000 to 2008 without releasing a solo record, his current rate of output is staggering. His latest record, Golden Era, is packaged with two albums from 2009 that were previously only available electronically, Funk Man and Automatik Statik.
As the title suggests, Golden Era hearkens back to Del’s heyday, with astonishingly funky beats throughout. Smooth, nimble bass lines bounce along effortlessly, with slick synthesizers and guitars providing a melodic touch.
Some tracks, however, stray from this formula, keeping the album from repeating itself. Most notably, “Double Barrel” uses discordant synth bleats and bursts of guitar fuzz to create a noisy, Dälek-lite atmosphere. Tracks like this break up the stretches of old-school funk, keeping the record from becoming monotonous.
Del’s goofy lyrical style remains as vibrant as ever, referencing, among other offbeat subjects, Judge Dredd, Dick Dastardly (and canine companion Muttley), and the overall nice personality of Ice Cube. Lines like “Once I spit it, before you wipe your face / I’m entering hyperspace” and “My skills are top-range like Doc Strange” on “Raw” exemplify his brand of nerdy, braggadocio-fueled raps.
“One Out of a Million” finds Del dialing back the aggression and examining his career and position in the rap world. Del seems resigned to his underground status but has no regrets, saying in the chorus that he’s “appealing to the realest in society / it feel like it’s one out of a million / but if one of y’all feel it, I’m chilling.” While the track has its share of Del’s quirky self-aggrandizement (“my nefarious flows go where music rarely goes”), its relaxed instrumentation emphasizes its relatively reflective, nostalgic tone. However, it’s one of the only songs on the record that deviates from the norm.
Del’s rhymes and flow don’t falter, but the album fails to make a lasting impression, aside from its refreshingly funky beats. Del’s lyrics focus almost entirely on some metaphorical “haters,” who are determined to undermine the pure form of hip hop that Del loves and practices. The album lasts just more than half an hour, with a vast majority of the tracks fitting this mold. Del can think of dozens of ways to insult those who would destroy hip hop, but he doesn’t move as far past these one-sided battle raps as he has in the past.
Deltron 3030 packaged his style in a clever sci-fi concept, but here he seems content to simply dismantle unseen haters. The songs don’t disappoint individually, but Del has proven himself to be capable of so much creativity and innovation that this record seems to be more of a holding pattern than a step forward. Fans of Del will find lots to love, but it’s doubtful that this record will be the crown jewel of his Golden Era.