[CD Review] Del the Funky Homosapien, 11th Hour (Definitive Jux)

Del the Funky Homosapien is an outer-space hip-hop trailblazer, helping to pioneer a weird-for-its-own-sake rap style by focusing on absurdist rhymes and sci-fi storytelling. Though a cousin of Ice Cube and onetime member of the Da Lench Mob, the Bay Area-based Del abandoned his mentors' gangster tropes but maintained the Parliament-influenced West Coast flavor on his 1991 debut, I Wish My Brother George Was Here, and reached a creative peak with 2000's Deltron 3030 (a collaboration with Dan the Automator and Kid Koala).

Del's productivity has since tapered off, with a greatest-hits album and guest appearances on tracks with Gorillaz and his crew Hieroglyphics to show for his time. So what has he been up to? According to an interview with Drop Magazine, "studying music theory, trying to shake hos off my back . . . avoiding danger, basically." This is exactly the type of weirdness you hope would inform 11th Hour, Del's Definitive Jux debut, but we're mostly left in the lurch. "I bet I reach even the hardest G's, 'cause my artistry ain't too hard to see," he raps on "Bubble Pop," an example of the fairly grounded bravado that informs much of the album.

That being said, Del's flow remains charming, and he produces 11 of the album's 14 tracks. The midtempo, scratch-heavy grooves are grounded in simple bass and keyboard rhythms, and they mainly serve as easy repositories for his lyricism. (It's hard to discern the influence of all those hours of musical theory.) Since his lyrics aren't always compelling, the successful tracks are those that stand apart musically, such as "Hold Your Hand," which employs a comforting G-funk loop and cough-syrup-hazy chorus. The only track that feels truly modern and vital, however, is "Last Hurrah," a minor-key slow-burner produced by—and featuring—Bronx rapper KU.

Del the Funky Homosapien performs with Aceyalone, Oh No and others at the Vault 350, 350 Pine St., Long Beach, (562) 590-5566; www.vault350.com. Wed., 7 p.m. $20.

 
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