â€œIt must have taken many moons/to become so ignorant/it isnâ€™t any use/you should really think before speak . . . You got a platinum chain/you got a platinum brain.â€ These verses begin one of the tracks (â€œIâ€™ll Tell Youâ€) on Del The Funky Homosapienâ€™s new release, â€œThe 11th Hour,â€ and they pretty much sum up the appeal of this artist: Heâ€™s smart, and heâ€™s able to turn verses that donâ€™t appear lyrical on paper into smooth flow. I first heard Del back in 1991, on his now-classic â€œI Wish My brother George Was Here,â€ 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 Cubeâ€™s cousin. Then, most knew about his work with Deltron 3030 (with Dan the Automator and Kid Koala). Lately, heâ€™s better known for hiw work on The Gorillaz single, â€œClint Eastwood,â€ but itâ€™s really his solo work that needs to get your attention. If thereâ€™s one problem with Del, itâ€™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.
Itâ€™s been seven years since the last one (some reissues/best ofs came last year), and itâ€™s worth the wait. A few of the tracks show how well he merges the modern with the classic. â€œRaw Sewageâ€ has a great groove, and ends with a symphony of scratches, old-school style. â€œBubble Popâ€ is over rock-the-bells chimes, but itâ€™s got faster pacing than the original. The fade-out chant (â€œWhy do you think that you are all that, when you ainâ€™t?â€) is delivered as Humpy Hump, of Digital Underground (it sounds just like him). â€œSt8 Up And Downâ€ 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 songsâ€”but just a fewâ€”donâ€™t work so well. â€œSlam Dunkâ€ uses basketball as an allegory for something (not sure what), but Delâ€™s flow never changes and the beat isnâ€™t much. â€œSituationsâ€ is similarly dull. But apart from these few missteps, 11th Hour is one of the best Del platters Iâ€™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.