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Less Than Zero
Del the Funky Homosapien’s latest album is priceless, literally
Like more acts every day, Del the Funky Homosapien (formerly spelled “Tha Funkee Homosapien”) has decided to release his music for free. The longtime alternative hip-hop legend—of cult solo success and Deltron 3030 and Gorillaz fame—is even giving away his new album, Funkman. Starting April 7, fans can download it via ?delthefunkyhomosapien.bandcamp.com, where they can also stream nearly every Del record, including his 1991 debut, I Wish My Brother George Was Here, and the ’93 classic No Need for Alarm.
So why is he doing it?
“To make a long story short, people aren’t buying records,” he says. He believes his fans are as jaded with the music industry as he is, and to prove that his heart is still in his work, Del isn’t charging for Funkman. “This is not a mixtape. It’s a real album,” he continues. “No strings attached. Just like, ‘Here, listen to this and see if this don’t open your eyes.’ I got other albums sitting around. That’s what I do every day.”
In fact, just before our phone interview, Del had fallen asleep while working at his keyboard.
“I don’t even go to bed,” he laughs. “I don’t move from the same spot. I’ll be in the same spot all day every day, workin’ on music. Seriously, that’s all I do.” Using the computer program Ableton Live, Del now constantly builds songs from loops, beats and stray rhymes. He has even unleashed raps through Twitter, though fans won’t hear them on a future recording. “They’re miscellaneous,” he says. “When I write a song, I usually want everything to go together. I want the rhythm of my flow to somewhat match the rhythm of the beat. I want some sort of marriage between the lyrics and the music.”
That marriage has always helped Del’s rhymes go down easily, no matter how dense or absurd. Though his cousin Ice Cube helmed I Wish My Brother George Was Here, which yielded the fluke hit “Mistadobalina” when Del was still a teenager, No Need for Alarm firmly established him as his own weird entity with his own weird friends (the famed Hieroglyphics crew) and, more important, as the eccentric uncle of brainy West Coast backpack rap. Since then, his albums have grown darker, from 2000’s Both Sides of the Brain to last year’s much-anticipated Definitive Jux follow-up, Eleventh Hour, but he can still be relied upon for dirty, wordy flow crammed with creative putdowns and revelations.
Along the way, he has rapped with Dinosaur Jr for the Judgment Night soundtrack, done a cartoon guest turn on the inaugural Gorillaz hit “Clint Eastwood,” and dreamed up a dystopian future for Deltron 3030, his concept-album collaboration with producer Dan the Automator. He’s even got a Best Of, though it was the work of his former label Elektra and he wasn’t involved. Despite his initial unhappiness with it, he admits, “They did a pretty good job. They got some songs that are pretty hard to find.”
Following an eight-year lull that he attributes to a “psychopath” girlfriend who’s now fortunately an ex, Del is proud to be prolific again. There’s even a new Deltron record in the works, which is fitting since the first one envisioned a world consumed by corporate greed.
“Oh, yeah, I knew all this stuff was gonna happen,” he says of the current economic meltdown. “Not to get too on the political tip, but certain things historically are just known. So I’m not really hella shocked by it. I knew all this was gonna happen with the record industry, too.”
The next Deltron record will focus on a major collapse of technology that leaves Earth stranded in another Stone Age. As for the faltering music industry, Del has made sure to take the reins when it comes to recording and releasing his music. And as anyone who has played a Tony Hawk video game knows, Del’s music can find its way into any medium.
“I’ll do anything,” he asserts. “Whatever avenue it could go in . . . I know people need music for anything—birthday cards, anything. I’m not above it. It’s not like I feel like that’s beneath me. I love all music.”
And with that ex out of the way, Del is again free to pursuit any avenue he pleases. “If you’re working against a force for a long time,” he says, “you get used to doing that. So when that force is away . . . It’s like I’m a superman now.”
Del the Funky Homosapien with Mike Relm, the Serendipity Project and Bukue One at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; www.theglasshouse.us. Thurs., April 9, 7 p.m. $15.