“It must have taken many moons/to become so ignorant/it isn’t any use/you should really think before speak . . . You got a platinum chain/you got a platinum brain.” These verses begin one of the tracks (“I’ll Tell You”) on Del The Funky Homosapien’s new release, “The 11th Hour,” and they pretty much sum up the appeal of this artist: He’s smart, and he’s able to turn verses that don’t appear lyrical on paper into smooth flow. I first heard Del back in 1991, on his now-classic “I Wish My brother George Was Here,” which helped launch the West Coast new school movement, a less love-and-flowers version of the East Coast native tongue style. He also was a leader in indie rap, the Hiero Imperium label with other members of his Hieroglyphics crew.
Back then, he was known as Ice Cube’s cousin. Then, most knew about his work with Deltron 3030 (with Dan the Automator and Kid Koala). Lately, he’s better known for hiw work on The Gorillaz single, “Clint Eastwood,” but it’s really his solo work that needs to get your attention. If there’s one problem with Del, it’s his same-y flow. But his words are usually complex enough to capture and command your attention, and is certainly true of his latest release, on Def Jux.
It’s been seven years since the last one (some reissues/best ofs came last year), and it’s worth the wait. A few of the tracks show how well he merges the modern with the classic. “Raw Sewage” has a great groove, and ends with a symphony of scratches, old-school style. “Bubble Pop” is over rock-the-bells chimes, but it’s got faster pacing than the original. The fade-out chant (“Why do you think that you are all that, when you ain’t?”) is delivered as Humpy Hump, of Digital Underground (it sounds just like him). “St8 Up And Down” has a great bouncing rhythm; Del manages to make his voice go up and down, just like the words and the beat.
A few of the songs—but just a few—don’t work so well. “Slam Dunk” uses basketball as an allegory for something (not sure what), but Del’s flow never changes and the beat isn’t much. “Situations” is similarly dull. But apart from these few missteps, 11th Hour is one of the best Del platters I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. “I bet I reach even the hardest Gs/Because my artistry ain’t too hard to see,” Del says. True enough.
St8 Up And Down