Discovering the Relevance of Words
Del the Funky Homosapien has been around as a solo artist since 1991. As the cousin of Ice Cube, he began his career as a ghost writer for Cube’s group Da Lench Mob. Cube finally convinced Del to put out an album on his own, and I Wish My Brother George Was Here came out in 1991, and secured Del’s place as one of the most unique voices in the game. After 10 solo albums, 2 albums with The Hieroglyphics, a handful of mixtapes, collaborations, an incredible album with Dan the Automater as Deltron 3030, and an introduction to the younger generation as a member of The Gorillaz, Del has definitely made his mark on Hip-Hop. I had the pleasure of interviewing Del, and since his Deltron 3030 album is one of my 5 all-time greatest albums, it was quite the honor to speak with him.
TPQ: What are your earliest memories as a reader? Were there books that you remember being read as a child? Was there a favorite reading moment? Maybe a light bulb moment where you realized that you were reading a text that would define your life?
Del: I started reading at the age of 2. Basically, Dr. Suess was my joint, I loved all of his books and still do today. I was obsessed with them! Obviously it had a direct effect on my life…
TPQ: Do you remember your first lyrics? How old were you when you started writing? When did you begin to develop the style upon which you’d build your career?
Del: I was a gifted student, English and anything associated with reading and writing I was extremely good at. But I started out as a DJ in hiphop first, then I was breaking/popping. Last, I was rapping, and I didn’t write rhymes until Cube suggested it to me. It wasn’t about that yet, it was only about taking people out at school and in the neigborhood, rhyming off of the head free styling. Sir Jinx and Ice Cube were the ones who mentored me and helped me develop a more coherent style of rhyming, I was extremely abstract at first and went out of my way to confuse people. I guess it was a way to be mean without really hurting anybody. But as I got older, People like Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Rudy Ray Moore especially were more direct influences upon my style that I now have settled on mainly to represent what I’m about. I spent the last 12 or so years really defining what my style would really be about, so now it’s pretty solid. Most of the time I freestyle my lyrics, one by one, to create songs and the reason I do that is to capture the essence of hiphop and the fun we used to have and keep the tone more conversational since I have a tendency to over think when I write.
TPQ: Who were the lyricists that most influenced you when you were starting out? What was it about their work that made them an influence?
Del: See above, hahahaha…but as far as hip hop, Africa Bam and RUN-DMC and Melle Mel. The reason was they were all clearly street oriented, Bam also was funk motivated. The cats I mentioned above weren’t lyricists, but they were public speakers and I see MCees as that first and foremost. George and Rudy Ray actually were rapping back in the late 60’s, 70’s, they were a precursor to how we do it now.
TPQ: How has the culture of hip-hop changed over the now 20+ years you’ve been in the game? Is it a good change, or a bad change?
Del: The bad side is the commercial aspect of the game, which has been abused crazily by the labels and artists alike. The good side is that it’s still a street oriented type of art form, not only that, but primarily. I get off on that still. Some people got grown and turned into they parents, but not me. I haven’t changed much as far as how I see things. I still have a teenager’s point of view.
TPQ: Pigeon John told me that, to paraphrase, he feels as if 2chainz is the new Bob Dylan. How would you respond to that?
Del: Hahahahahahahaha, that’s funny…naw I fool with 2Chainz, but he may as well say he himself (Pigeon John) is the next Bob Dylan if that’s the case. I respect 2Chainz because he knows how kids feel and think and that’s why he still eating while a lot of other rappers his age is not able to relate to what’s going on in the music nowadays.
TPQ: Would you consider rap lyrics to be the new Poetry? Why or why not?
Del: That’s a tough question. In a way, yes, but really, it’s more flowing than poetic ideas. It’s rapping! And there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s why I love it, it’s that slick quick talk from the block. It can be captivating and that’s what it’s for. That’s why pimps always got some little rap to lay on chicks or whatever, because it sounds fly and it’s captivating. Poetry is a bit more visual I would say, actual metaphoric usage of words and stuff like that. Common is often times poetic with his rhyming. Ladybug Mecca is a lot of times poetic with her flow. This is versus say, Dolomite, his raps are not necessarily poetic in the standard sense. They are more like street rap. But they do have similarities though. One difference is that the meter involved is the beat the raps go over. In poetry it’s a predetermined thing inherent in the poetry and how it’s written.
TPQ: As the media visibility of rappers continues to grow, how do you feel that has changed the approach to writing? Do rappers need to write more mainstream lyrics because they are in the spotlight, or are they still able to write conscious hip-hop, and gain notice?
Del: Speaking as an artist, it really doesn’t matter what people write about, as long as it’s real and something they feel to express. The technical aspects often are not caught by the masses, because they aren’t hard core into it like some are. So, it’s more of a matter of being able to relate to me, versus trying to write in a “commercial” way. Naturally, if you are writing from a place that most can relate to, you have a better chance of making it in the commercial market. That only takes being able to discern between personal life and life of humans in general, it’s not the same all the time. For example, we all need love, that’s one of the basic themes for art. Anybody can relate. Also, being conscious is, to me, more than just “positive” lyrics. There’s such a thing as being so positive that one cannot see reality. So it’s a balance, a conscious mind is constantly weighing the choices and makes the best outta what is available. So, 50Cent could be considered conscious in my mind, even though his deals with another side of reality. The problem I have is with artists (I’ll call them, just for simplicity sake) who try to come up off of a “proven” formula, flooding the game with subpar material until the public is sick of it ALL.
TPQ: And finally, how do you see the hip-hop culture evolving over the next decade?
Del: Right now, I see it progressing more into electronic music, since that’s the nature of it anyway. Hiphop was the groundbreaking thing before!!! Somewhere along the line we got lazy and these other kids from around the world learned from us and came up with their thing, which is advanced. Now we picking up from there advancing it more out here. I don’t know what a lot of cats think in general, but Dubstep is that wave to me, it’s so many aspects that remind me of hiphop when it was starting. Everything is moving faster now, we are living literally in the future we used to read about or watch in movies. So “hiphop” is probably gonna follow suit and develop into something else people will have to label. But the traditional flipping samples breakbeat type thing, it’ll probably still be a place for it, but it’s like the blues of today…all these styles branched from it and you can recognise it in everything out now, no matter how mutated or modernised.