I think that as music fans, it becomes easy to take our favorite artists for granted. We come to expect the creativity, and in some ways, fail to recognize the practice and long hours that are necessary for its production. We”re not fully able to realize that a 3 minute song may actually take 3 or more weeks to finish before it hits our ears. I also think it’s often the most creative, most explorative, and most elaborate artists that get taken for granted the most.
Del is one such artist. It’s hard to argue that he”s not amongst Hip Hop’s most creative talents I mean, the dude can rap as three different characters without becoming corny or just a joke. He went from missing his brother and ragging on Mr. Dabalina to raging against the corporate rulers of Deltron Zero and rocking with the Gorillaz. Del’s still doing it all, just as he promised when his Hieroglyphics crew told the world that they would be around from ’93 Til Infinity.
Infinity is looking a long way off for Del right now. This week saw the release of his latest studio album, The Eleventh Hour. Del caught up with DJ Roosevelt Treasurechest to talk about the new album, his descent into music theory, and how it’s all music all the time. Read on to see exactly what it takes for Del’s creativity to hit your speakers.
Ruby Hornet: First I want to thank you for taking the time out to do this interview today, so thank you for that. I want to get into the new album, The Eleventh Hour, out now on Def Jux. What does it feel like with this album being your first solo in 7 years, and you produced the album in its entirety?
Del The Funky Homosapien: Honestly, ambivalent. I’m not really tripping. It’s good that it’s coming out, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not overly excited about it. I’m already working on new music now. That’s what I do all day everyday, so as far as I’m concerned it’s the natural progression of it. It’s supposed to be coming out. I’m not overly excited, but of course I’m happy that is it getting a chance to come out.
Ruby Hornet: Can you talk about the title, The Eleventh Hour, and why you decided to name it that?
Del The Funky Homosapien: At first I just thought it was a groovy name. I was like, damn! That’s an ill name. I’m gonna have to keep that. As time progressed it started becoming more prophetic. It started really becoming the 11th hour. Hella stuff was happening in my life that was preventing me from putting the album out, or preventing me from being able to finish it until everyone else around me was like, it’s the 11th hour. Ok, you’re doing this woopty, woop, where is it at? At first it was just a really cool name, then it started to really fit.
Ruby Hornet: I was watching The Eleventh Hour DVD. I got it when it first came out, and I was watching it again in preparation for the interview. There’s a scene where you’re explaining how you got into production and it seemed it was motivated by your feelings that people could tell that rapping was not that hard to you anymore, and you felt like you had to earn your keep in a sense. Is that what motivated you to get into music theory and production, and if so, how do you feel an understanding of music theory has expanded your career?
Del The Funky Homosapien: Time will tell I guess how music theory has expanded my career so to speak. I’ll say it like this man, basically it just makes everything easier. That’s what music theory does, it just makes everything easier. Before, I had gotten to a certain level with songwriting and with the production that I basically reached a ceiling where I couldn’t go no higher without knowing some more stuff. And I’m the type of person where self-improvement is a big thing for me. It just became that time where I was like, Ok. You’re not going to last very much longer, Del, unless you pick up a book about it and actually figure out how you’re supposed to do it.â€™ You understand what I’m saying? I had been winging it for a while, like a lot of us I guess. But I figured at this time in my career the people deserve more. I deserve more. I guess that’s what initiated it though, the fact that I had reached a ceiling and I wanted to keep rising. But the music theory helps no matter what music I make. Being able to hear everything the way I need to hear it, knowing what will fit, just from a technical aspect, the tools that I have at my disposal. It just makes the music I’m trying to do easier, even Hip Hop. You may think Hip Hop’s not really based on melody anyway, it’s more based on rhythm, but even still, it works for that.
Ruby Hornet: I have a friend who said he’s been in the studio with you before. He told me an interesting story that one time you were writing to a song and let the beat play for a little while, then you started drawing it and made a visual representation and then turned off the music and wrote to what you drew. Is that right? Do you do stuff like that?
Del The Funky Homosapien: I don’t remember that, hahaha. Do you remember what song I was doing?
Ruby Hornet: I don’t know the name of the exact song. I’m in Chicago, and he said it was for a song you did with the Molemen.
Del The Funky Homosapien: Damn I don’t even remember, man. It must have been a while ago. My main thing that I do when I’m writing something, man, I just sit and I zone off the beat. I try to zone out and let the beat tell me what I need to be rapping about. My usual direction is talking s**t. I usually try to be a comedian with the s**t, I’m just talking s**t, getting s**t off my chest, real braggadocio. But I’ll still have a certain type of vibe or direction that I’ll take it in based on what the music is telling me to do. If the music is a little bit more laidback, I might be less aggressive. If the beat sounds kind of sneaky, I might try to sound sneaky or something. I just try to match what the beat does. Lyrically, now I try to follow the pattern of what the beat is doing. Whatever the dominant musical pattern is for the beat, I try to follow that somewhat. I don’t try to go against it so much. I don’t want it to be simpleton with the same exact flow for the whole song, no deviation, but I do try to set up some kind of structure.
Ruby Hornet: When you’re writing for this solo album and the music you put out as Del The Funky Homosapien, is there a different mind state or any methods as opposed to when you were writing for the Gorillaz or Deltron 3030 projects? Do you really switch up your mind state, how are they similar or different to each other?
Del The Funky Homosapien: I basically got to get into a character, man. With Del it don’t take nothing, cause I’m Del all day everyday. That’s probably the favorite thing I like to do, the easiest thing for me to do. Deltron’s a little bit more difficult because I got to get into character. I’m not always in that mind state or thinking about those type of things. In Gorillaz, same thing. I had to get into that mind state, and really they gave me little to work with. I had to just make some stuff up. I was asking them, what is this character about? The ghost that lives in Russel’s head or whatever? They’re like, whatever you come up with, man. I’m like, whatever I come up with? Ok dudes. Remember you said that, whatever I come up with.
Ruby Hornet: When you talk about the braggadocio stuff, and I was listening to the new album, you have a song “Bubble Pop” where you say, “why do you think you’re all that when you ain’t.” It seems like in life at some point or another we all have our bubbles popped. Would you say that’s the sooner the better for us?
Del The Funky Homosapien: The sooner the better? Probably. I mean, your parents probably should be popping your bubble real early, before you even leave the house. My mom and my pops were popping my bubble real early. Like, oh naw, you’re really going too fast, dude. I was on one growing up, so my parents had to do a lot to try to keep me in line sometimes. So, yeah,, the sooner the better. Especially if you got a little money or something, then you can’t tell nobody nothing.
Ruby Hornet: Also you have a track on the new album called “Last Hurrah” Can you talk a little bit about that track, and also kind of what you said in the beginning of the interview, that your fans may be like, oh wow the first Del solo in album in a longtime. To you it’s like, this is what I do. I’m making music constantly. On the track “Last Hurrah” that seems to really come through, and it’s you saying, I’m not stopping anytime soon. Is that correct? What’s the message on that song?
Del The Funky Homosapien: Really the message on that song is just braggadocio with some free form, whatever is on the mind of Del at that moment. I just say it all on that track, as well as KU. My boy KU is rapping on it, he’s featured on it. And he actually produced the track. We just did it like we used to do in the old school. He was around when I was doing stuff with Hieroglyphics too, I went to high school with him. We used to do like rap concerts, and little shows around the neighborhood and stuff like that, we used to hang out together, make music together. So we just took it back to that like we used to do. We just go back to back with the mic.
Ruby Hornet: You just talked about going all the way back to Hieroglyphics and such, this album is coming out on Def Jux. How has Def Jux influenced you? Have they made any impact on your style, your approach to music?…Why did you decide to put this out with them?
Del The Funk Homosapien: I’d say Def Jux has left a little impression on my style indirectly because I listen to their stuff. But that was before I signed with them. They didn’t step in and say, you have to do this. The album was done when I gave it to them. I just needed an outlet to get it out now, so they allowed me to do that.
Ruby Hornet: Do you think they will allow you to reach more people? Because you’ve been out for a real long time, you have a couple different fan bases. Some fans know you from My Brother George Is Here, others have come along the way, and now Def Jux may be able to take you to another fan base. Is that part of the reason you went with them?
Del The Funky Homosapien: I went with them because I wanted to get the album out and I just trust El-P. I’ve known El-P for a long time, years. I trusted my project in his hands. I felt his company could do something with it. I like what he did for himself. When I met him he didn’t have the Def Jux imprint yet, and then from there to now it’s DEF JUX. Man, I’m really proud of El-P in a lot of ways. I liked his hustle so I said, OK, he could probably make my stuff work over here. It’s working. I’m reaching more people. I got a video out, I’m talking to you right now. This whole campaign probably wouldn’t be possible without Def Jux.
Ruby Hornet: You also talked earlier about the problems you’ve had putting the album out, and how it was really getting to the 11th Hour. Also, in the DVD you talked about some of the things you’ve been going through, you have that video of some girl trying to cut through your door and everything. But when I listen to the album it’s got a really fun, up tempo sound. How does it have that type of sound with all the other things that were going on in your life?
Del The Funky Homosapien: Cause music is my escape from all that. Through all that I had my music to keep me where I needed to be. When it comes to my music, it was just like that. And honestly, I made a conscious decision not to make it hella dark or hella sad or nothing. I made music that I would want to perform. I made music that people would want to listen to. I felt if it was going to be too complainy or sad, people were not going to want to listen to it too much. I tried to make it more uplifting. That’s my personality as well, though. It’s not always good, but I’m always looking for things to be on the up. I’m always trying to make things better. No matter what happens, I’m trying to find a way to make it work, that’s what this album is about.
Ruby Hornet: One thing that my dad always sad to me was positive things happen to positive thinkers. Like you just said you got to think things are on the up and up, do you think that has contributed to your longevity and the fact that you’ve been able to stay creative and making music?
Del The Funky Homosapien: I think my dedication to the music is one thing, cause I’m really dedicated to the music. That’s all I do all day everyday. I got more albums here, sitting here now waiting. That’s all I do everyday. Also I think my ability to talk to people in a cool way is a big part of why I’m around so long, and I try not to get a swell head over stuff. I try to keep my feet on the ground no matter how large people might think I am I try to keep everything in perspective. I think that’s kept me around a lot longer than maybe my musical skill has.
Ruby Hornet: Before you go, can you shed any light on the other projects you have going on? I’ve been told and heard that a new Deltron album is also in the works, if not done. Is that true?
Del The Funky Homosapien: The album is half done. Automator and Koala already did the musical part, that part is done. I’m just writing bars for the lyrics. I’ve just been writing bars like it’s the bible or something. It’s like, Bar 200, Bar 250 I keep writing till I got enough bars to fill up the album. I got an EP that I did with A Plus and AG’s production company. They did a whole a whole EP on me call L.E.B. It’s a seven song EP. We’re working on the Hiero album, that’s pretty much done. We’re trying to go in and do some more stuff before we just settle, but basically we got an album done. I got a bunch of various projects I’ve been working on, man. I don’t want to reveal too much because I got to figure out a way to get them out. I got three or four other projects just sitting. I’ve been working on production too, I just did a song with Pslam One the other day.
Ruby Hornet: She’s from Chicago as well.
Del The Funky Homosapien: Yeah. She moved out here so I’ve been linking up with Pslam, doing some stuff with her. We just did a song the other night that turned out real good.
Ruby Hornet: A lot of people move from Chicago move to the Bay, I think there’s some common themes out there, or something, but people over here like it over there for sure.
Del The Funky Homosapien: It’s slower out here, so I think that may be the appeal. It’s less hustle and bustle. It’s still gangster like everywhere else, you got gangster stuff going on, but I think in general it’s a little more just laid back.
Ruby Hornet: I want to ask you, with all the music you’re making and stuff going on, when do you find time to sleep or do anything else?
Del The Funky Homosapien: I don’t do nothing else. I damn near make music all day, and write raps. Like literally from sun up to sun down. All my stuff is on my computer so I can be in the bed working on music till I pass out basically, and then when I wake up I just roll back over and get on the computer and start working on stuff again. Literally, that’s all I do at this point cause I’m just trying to make my music so good. I want people to want to buy my stuff. People aren’t going to buy it no more, so I’m trying to make my music good enough so you feel like you have to buy it.