Del the Funky Homosapian Heiroglyphics member and hip hop legend Del the Funky Homosapian is back with his new album “11th Hour”. Del discusses the reason he went to Def Jux instead of his own label for this release, his work with Gorillaz, Dan the Automator, as well as some important knowledge on Dr. Dre and N.W.A.
By William Hernandez
WHO?MAG: Tell me about the new album? DEL: The new album is called “11th Hour” and basically my return because it’s been a while since people heard something straight from Del, not Deltron or Gorillaz, you feel me? Set the story straight and let everybody know where I stand at. I reestablished everything that goes along with me personally on this album.
WHO?MAG: Who do you have on the album as far as cameo appearances and producers? DEL: I produced most of and executive produced most of it. My boy KU produced a track on it and he’s also on the album. He did a track with me on my last album “Both Sides of the Brain” called “Protoculture”. He rapped on that too. It’s a song about video games. Mecca Ladybug is on a track that I produced called “I Got You”. That’s pretty much all the guest appearances on there. It’s all me to the end. J-Zone produced a track for me on this album called “Funky Homosapien”. Opio did a track for me as well called “Naked Punk”.
WHO?MAG: Why did decide to go with Def Jux and not just put the album out through Hieroglyphics label? DEL: I wanted to put it out now not later (laughs). It’s already been hell years. I need to put it out now. I was looking for a way to do that because we got a lot of stuff happening at Hieroglyphics right now. Souls of Mischief got an album about to pop off. We got a lot of acts that are signed to Hieroglyphics Imperium that we’re trying to help out. We’re working on the new Hiero album right now which is of the utmost importance. I decided to something else because I wanted it out now I didn’t want to wait and I knew I needed some push behind the album too. I’ve know El P for years. That’s my homie. I feel like I’ll be in good hands if I went over to his ship. I’m cool with Mr. Lif too. I’ve known him for years. I like what they did with Mr. Lif’s stuff. I support their whole movement over there. I like where El-P took it from where he had it to where he is now.
WHO?MAG: How did the Hiero label come about? DEL: Necessity is the mother of invention, I guess? We had too. We all got kicked off all our associated labels that we were on. Basically, we were back to square one. That’s what we came up with. We came up with the label and came up with putting a Hieroglyphics team album. That way we can get everybody out at the same time. Everybody can get some shine at the same time. We united to make an album out of necessity, but we’ve always been separate units that’s under the umbrella of Hieroglyphics. That’s pretty much why we did it like that.
WHO?MAG: How did you get your first record deal with Elektra? DEL: That was basically through Ice Cube. That’s my cousin. When he started Street Knowledge the production company, that’s when I got more into the mix. That’s when I started writing stuff for him and YoYo, which was getting me trained so when I was ready to put out a solo album, I would know the ropes. Around this time, YoYo album was out already. Cube already released his album that was already a hit. Then he put out YoYo’s album and that was it. At this point, record labels are salivating over themselves waiting for the next thing that Cube has to offer, which was me. There was a nice little bidding war over who was going to get me. Elektra happened to have the best set up. A dude over there by the name of Dante Ross (that’s my homie too; I’d like to give a shout out to him) saw the talent that I had and pursued me to get on the label. He signed Leaders of the New School, KMD, Brand Nubian and I. He ushered in that whole little era of hip hop around at that. I’m pretty much glad I was part of that and that’s how it pretty much stepped off.
WHO?MAG: How did you end up writing “Jacking 4 Beats” for Ice Cube? DEL: Ice Cube and I were always around each other a lot. It wasn’t nothing really. He just wanted a little bit of my flavor that I had. He had like 2 verses and he probably tried to help me out and he called me and told me to write this verse for him. That’s how most of it went. “Gangsta Fairytale” was the same thing. He had the concept for it and he let me peep it. A lot of time, he let me peep the raps that he had. He let me peep “Dopeman” before it came out. He let me peep “F*ck the Police” when it was still on some paper. He was like “Yo! Peep this out! Tell me if it’s tight or not.” I was like “Ok wow! F*ck the Police. That’s hard!” Then it turned out to be “F*ck the Police”. That’s just the way it went. Muthaf*ckas just bouncing ideas off each other all the time and it turned into “Jackin 4 Beats”.
WHO?MAG: What were your thoughts when Ice Cube got with NWA? DEL: He was already kicking it with this cat named Sir Jinx. Sir Jinx is Dr. Dre’s cousin I believe. Jinx is like my mentor as well. I learned everything that I know about making beats and creating songs from Jinx. He brought me under his wing. Cube, Jinx, and KD had a group called CIA in high school. Dr. Dre was pretty much helping them out doing that. Dr. Dre was in World Class Wrecking Crew at the time. That was just a natural progression. Dre knew Cube had lyrics. Eazy-E came to Dre with the proposition of Ruthless Records. They came up with the idea of Eazy-E being an artist and putting him out. The first person that Dre go to write some sh*t for Eazy is Cube because he knows Cube’s got lyrics. Since I’m Cube’s cousin, I’m peeping it go down as it’s going down. It never shocked me. It’s just a natural progression.
WHO?MAG: How did you meet Domino, Souls of Mischief, and other guys from Hiero Imperium? DEL: Tajai and A-Plus I’ve basically known all my life since second or third grade. The rest of them came into play later on in life as we were rapping. There weren’t too many people rapping at the time so we were kind of like outcasts. So anybody that was rapping and tight, we just kind tried to get together. The people that got together that were the most serious about it I guess became Hieroglyphics. That’s pretty much how that happened. I met Casual actually in a battle. I think A-Plus and Tajai lived by Casual and they rapped against Casual. They went to my house and brought me to their block to battle Casual. We battled and we ended up digging each others styles. It was kind of unexpected. After that we started kicking more and found out we had a lot in common and started collaborating more.
WHO?MAG: Who are some of your influences as an emcee? DEL: Anybody that’s tight. I still get a lot of inspiration from a lot of new cats that are tight, but in general, my main inspiration probably were the Jungle Brothers because I knew knowing were I come from. The whole African heritage I grew up with that in my head. Jungle Brothers were somebody I could relate too because they had that, but they were still street. One of my heroes growing up was Malcolm X because he had that leadership lean, but he still could holler at a street person in their language and put them up on game. I always admired him and that was why I always admired the Jungle Brothers too. Then there are other cats too like A Tribe Called Quest who are affiliated with Jungle Brothers and De La Soul. Ultramagnetic MCs, Kool Keith, and De La Soul were more of an influence because they were more creative with their lyrics. I don’t think like everybody else. I feel like I have my own original way of looking at things. I used to be bugged out as a kid. Cats like De La Soul and Kool Keith, they just appeal to that. Also NWA was an influence. I learned how to write my first rap from Ice Cube on paper, because before then, I used to just freestyle. I used to think writing was whack.
WHO?MAG: Talk about the Deltron 30/30 album. How did it come about? DEL: That was basically a concept I had that was like something I was doing in my spare time basically. I came up with concept because I was into Japanese animation. I grew up on Robotech and the book 1984 by George Orwell was a great book I read growing up. All that sh*t influenced the Deltron album. I’m just writing these raps and coming up with these concepts and somewhere in my mind, it just clicked that I could actually put it out and sell it because it’s kind of like Del, but it’s different from Del The Funky Homosapien. Therefore, in my mind, it was worth putting because it was different from Del. So I hooked up with [Dan the] Automator. I f*cked with him and Prince Paul on Handsome Boy Modeling School. Domino hooked me up with Automator and made that happen. We just clicked with that and made it happen real quick. He just gave me some beats and asked if I felt them. I felt them all and just started kicking sh*t to them. A week later we had the album done, because I had all of it written and he had a lot of beats. Then I gave it to him and he put his master touch on it and got Kid Koala to put his cuts on it. Automator got his famous buddies to come and do little cameos and just made it complete like that. Automator really was the one who put it together as production, but the concept was something I came up with. Dan the Automator is pretty easy going in the studio. He’s not too overly picky about sh*t. He let me go and do whatever the hell I’m going to do. If I do it in a take or too and it sounds good, he’ll let it stay. He ain’t the type that’s going to have me doing it in there hell of times just so he can have a whole lot to choose from. It was cool working in the studio with him . A lot of time we would be talking about music theory because I was studying music at the time. We would talk about where hip hop is now and what should be done with it and where it can go to?
WHO?MAG: Can you break down your writing process? DEL: At this point, I try to approach it from a songwriters point of view. Which means I try to match the music with my lyrics. A lot of times I don’t write raps for the sake of writing them. I don’t have to have a beat, but I like to write to a beat. If I don’t have a beat I do have the musical skills to create a composition around some lyrics if I want to. I try to keep a certain flow that’ll match the music rhythmically. That’s one thing that I do. I try to stay to in between a certain vibe or emotion. I try to make so that the average person can dig it, but if you want something deeper, I got some extra content in there. It’s not like disposable music. That’s pretty much how I go about writing my lyrics now.
WHO?MAG: Talk about the 11th Hour DVD you put out last year? DEL: That was an idea my man Grant James and I came up with. He’s the director for it. It started off as a tour video and he was kind of interested on the way I live my life at my house and all the sh*t I was going through at the time. I had this hoe staying at my house causing trouble. That fact that I was studying music theory through out this time and pretty much doing music everyday, he wanted to capture what was going into making 11th Hour with all the trials and tribulations. If my b*tch came through busted some windows, he would capture that. If I was on the internet f*cking with Casual, he would catch that. If I was there with Abstract Rude trying to make some sh*t up there, he would catch that sh*t on video. He went to various spots around my neighborhood and got me on the street trying to get what makes Del tick and what I’m really about. Some people think I’m a f*cking recluse or something. I live in a cave or some sh*t or making mystical potions or some crazy sh*t. (laughs) I want people to see it and know that I’m pretty much a human being like everybody else.
WHO?MAG: What are your thoughts on bootlegging and downloading? DEL: Let me say it like this, I’m not total against downloading because if I’m not mistaken, there’s a law that states that you can make a copy of recording for a friend or for your own listening pleasure, as long as you don’t sell it. This is an old law before the internet came into being. It didn’t count in that internet lets you share with like a million people at once. They never considered that when they first made tape recorders. Now it’s kind of different, so they’re trying to push the digital sh*t; the digital laws. If you already got an album at the house and like you can’t find it, I don’t see nothing wrong with downloading it from the internet. You already bought the sh*t. If it’s an album that’s so old that you couldn’t possibly buy it if you wanted to. Like I downloaded Finesse and Sequence album. You can’t find that if you wanted to. Or Black Rock and Ron which was out in 1986. It never came out on CD. Sh*t like that I don’t see nothing wrong with downloading off the net and it keeps the hip hop legacy kind of strong. Being able to find some old record that pretty much unobtainable and listen and share it with people that weren’t there. I was there, but there are a lot of kids that weren’t. Now as far as downloading new sh*t like Mary J Blige album before it comes out or Wu Tang Clan’s 8 Diagram, I saw that on the internet and it wasn’t even out yet. That type of sh*t I don’t be feeling. I see muthaf*ckas sh*t on the internet and I just leave it there I saw it like this: one person probably wouldn’t hurt their sales, but that one person would gave it to 2 people then 10 people, etc. I feel the muthaf*ckers that download the sh*t aren’t going to buy it no way. Half the muthef*ckers is cheapskates and they sit back and clown muthef*ckers, talking about I’ll never buy that album. I’m going to see first and I might download song or two. He’s not pleasing me right now. He didn’t make anything as good as 36 Chambers. They never made anything as good as EPMD’s first album. Them jaded hip hop fans that nothing is good enough for them, they be sitting on the computer all damn day downloading sh*t. If I feel the muthaf*cker put the effort in it, I’m going to buy it because I want somebody to buy my sh*t too. I’m not totally against it. I just don’t download some new sh*t. But if you do download somebody’s new sh*t, you should try to buy it once you get a chance or at least be a muthaf*cking cheerleader. I tell muthaf*ckers “ok, you can download my sh*t if you feel you got to download it, but you’re my street team now”. I feel like it’s hurting sales. I don’t feel as it’s hurting sale as much as the RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America] would like you to believe. I think the overall thing that is hurting sales is the fact that muthaf*ckas are putting out whack ass music for hell of a f*cking long time and just thinking that the public is sheep and they are going to buy anything they put out. If we put out this gangsta sh*t, people are going to keep on eating it up and muthaf*ckas is like “no we’re not. We’re tired of this sh*t; now f*ck you, f*ck everybody, f*ck music period! I’m not spending my money on no music. Ya’ll muthaf*ckas have been playing for helluva long time. I’m going to buy me a DVD or a video game.” It’s the new form of entertainment where music has to compete with these other forms of entertainment. You buy a video game it’s as clean as watching a movie.
WHO?MAG: What has been Hieroglyphics Imperium secret to success as an independent label? DEL: Getting on that internet tip at an early time when it was just starting to pop had a lot to do with us being successful because you look at the internet now, cats don’t even go to the store to buy nothing. At this point, they hit Itunes. Chuck D was saying this a long time ago. Chuck D was like ya’ll better get up on the internet. We’re already up on it. Don’t sleep! This is going to be the next way. Muthaf*ckas ain’t going to be going to store no more. A lot of people didn’t want to listen thinking he was talking out the side of his neck. Now you look 10, 12 years later and he was right. We just happened to get up on that early on. That has a lot to do with the success. The fact that we were already on major labels before had a lot to do with our success because the major labels already gave us that major push and gave us that worldwide technology. That just carried over to what we were doing on an independent level. It wasn’t like we started from scratch. We already have been out and traveled the world. We just picked it up and kept the ball rolling. At one point, we were getting the most hits out of websites at the time, selling merchandise online kept us afloat for a while until we could get a distribution deal.