Though celebrated for years in the indie hip-hop realm, Del the Funky Homosapien remains relatively unknown outside of his collaborations with Gorillaz and the fact that he’s Ice Cube’s cousin. “Golden Era” suggests contentment with his level of fame, and the album makes no effort to change his critically-acclaimed style of blending quirky, precise lyrics with relaxed funk beats. Part of a 3-disk set including older digital-only released albums “Automatik Statik” and “Funk Man,” “Golden Era” comes right out of Oakland packed with ten more tracks of brilliant lyricism. While some tracks suffer from thoughtless instrumentals, the album succeeds by underscoring his poetic prowess as an indie-rap star.
Del escalated into fame with a style distinct from the more grim California gangsta rap like that of his cousin Ice Cube; his was a funk-inspired, versatile, and innovative brand with a classic ’90s rap flavor. Best known perhaps for his appearance on Gorillaz’s singles “Clint Eastwood” and “Rock the House,” Del helped Gorillaz achieve their astounding chart success. “The Golden Era” comes after his latest, album “It Ain’t Illegal Yet,” which was available on the internet at an unfixed rate.
The memorable track “Makes No Sense” directly addresses Del’s obstinate refusal to forsake his idiosyncratic style in favor of mainstream rap. He attacks belligerent ‘haters’ that “launch personal attacks” and calls for some humbling and self-analysis. In his hook, he raps “Everything you try to say really don’t make no sense to me / The way that you act and misbehave really don’t make no sense to me.” Much of the album’s lyrics are outwardly directed towards dismissive, mainstream listeners: “My vision will play out as intended / I don’t care who the fuck is offended.” Indeed, Del’s refusal to give up his own sound leads him to define himself against others in the mainstream. While this lyrical theme could be limiting, Del’s humorous and swift wordplay keep his raps from becoming dull.
“One Out of a Million” also embodies Del’s traditional sound. As he makes the case for himself as a uniquely talented rapper, he makes yet another assault on unappreciative listeners: “My secret vow is to beat the style into the hard heads who aren’t impressed. / Who you know who come as hard as this?” he asks, before launching into one of his strange lines: “Put pressure on ‘em just like a zit.” Where his rap posturing might seem typical, his bizarre zit simile suggests a lightheartedness not typically found in similarly self-aggrandizing raps. Not only does he show his adept rhythmic talent through his effortlessly rapid flow, but he fearlessly flaunts his playful sense of humor.
While his lyrical talent keeps his similar themes from running together across tracks, he does not succeed in distinguishing his instrumentals. Many songs fall into the same mid-tempo funk grooves, and often the unimpressive instrumentals change little between tracks. Quality rhymes get lost in certain tracks like “Pearly Gates” where the percussion is overpowering and distracting. The funk-inspired instrumentals serve as a signifier of his rejection of mainstream club rap, but do little to actually support his lyrics.
As he frequently points out, Del’s music might be an acquired taste. Despite the potential inaccessibility of his sound, Del yet again refuses to sacrifice originality to be part of mainstream ringtone rap. He remains consistent and continues to showcase what he does best—delivering powerful, raw lyrics while simultaneously not taking himself too seriously. Though he could benefit from experimenting with more diverse instrumentals, Del defends his idiosyncrasies well on “Golden Era.” Extremely underrated, Del recalls pre-gangster rap hip-hop’s best quality—carefree unconventionality.
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