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Cheat Sheet: Del the Funky Homosapien

Keeping tabs on all the great hip-hop artists out there can take some time. To help you out, Cheat Sheet is a regular feature in which we give you the quick facts on some of today’s hottest and most influential artists. This week’s Cheat Sheet is on Del the Funky Homosapien.

Who: To say Del the Funky Homosapien is the weird cousin of West Coast hip-hop is both literally and figuratively true. Born Teren Delvon Jones, Del is a first cousin of renowned West Coast rapper (and less-than-renowned West Coast actor) Ice Cube. Del got his start playing in Cube’s backing band (Da Lench Mob), and this association helped him land his debut release, I Wish My Brother George Was Here, on Elektra Records in 1991.

Whereas Ice Cube’s verses were grim, violent and dripping with affected machismo, Del professed a lighter tone—more prankster than gangster. I Wish My Brother George Was Here employed heavy funk beats as a stage on which Del could practice his humor and wryly-combative take on race relations. Del’s music was unquestionably more open to risk than Cube’s, and though George chalked up decent sales, Del’s sophomore album, No Need for Alarm, was a commercial flop, owing mostly to Del’s insistence on rampant experimentation. Casting aside P-Funk samples for an array of synthesizer riffs that bordered on squelchy jazz, No Need for Alarm was one of the most forward-thinking hip-hop albums of the nineties and a record that, unfortunately, doomed Del to a decade in commercial exile.

Over the past ten years, Del has released several albums (the most recent of which is 2011’s Golden Era) and become a fixture in the left-of-center hip-hop community, fronting the super-group Hieroglyphics and making frequent appearances in Damon Albarn’s cartoon trip-hop collective Gorillaz.

A remastered version of I Wish My Brother George Was Here was re-released in March, along with a limited addition poster.

The Sound: It’s difficult to pin down Del the Funky Homosapien’s sound, owing mostly to the fact that Del insists on changing it on what seems like a daily basis. Whereas I Wish My Brother George Was Here was a prime example of early-‘90s, funk-influenced hip-hop, No Need for Alarm obscured this approach in favor of a collection of raggedly synthesized oddities. Golden Era hews closer to the banging swagger that has become universally regarded as “trip-hop”.

Throughout all his stylistic left-turns, the key to Del’s longevity and devoted cult following has been his unique, relentlessly clever flow. His devotion to a no-bullshit approach to rapping has progressed in lockstep with his love for psychedelics and combative sense of humor.

Essential listening: The entirety of I Wish My Brother George Was Here. It’s a classic; it has to be consumed whole.

Of Del’s more recent releases, “Double Barrel” and “Makes No Sense”, both off of Golden Era, are good examples of the trip-hop styling with which Del has been increasingly associated.

As to Del’s collaborations, Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood” is without a doubt one of the best, in addition to being a generally unimpeachable single. Del’s fruitful work with Hieroglyphics has resulted in plenty of worthy tracks with “Make Your Move”, off of 2003’s Full Circle, serving as a worthy point of entry.


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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

Shane Danaher's affection for pop music has peppered his adult life with a variety of aesthetically rewarding and financially disastrous decisions. After moving to Portland, Oregon for college (because that's where he heard Modest Mouse was from) Shane has wound up participating in the music world in roles ranging from 'drummer' to 'promoter' to 'bathroom floor scrubber.' He has toured without money, written about almost every band ever to have come out of the Pacific Northwest, and one time traveled all the way to Los Angeles just to see a catch hip-hop show. He currently resides in Portland, where he writes about hip-hop, pop and rock music for a variety of publications. He still plays drums. He wants to meet Kanye West.

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