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16 February, 2003@12:00 am

Editor’s Note: No rating will be attributed for this release since it is over seven years old.

I Wish My Brother George Was Here. No Need For Alarm. 3rd Eye Vision. Both Sides of the Brain. Deltron 3030. Gorillaz. Not to mention penning half of Ice Cube’s early solo classics, if that catalogue of classics and near-classics isn’t enough to make a G.O.A.T. case for Del The Funky Homosapien, adding Future Development to the list should force doubting Thomas’s to reconsider. Finally released on CD after a seven-year wait (it was issued on vinyl last year and before that was available on cassette through the Hieroglyphics’ web-site), the story behind the delay centers around Del’s refusal to adhere to Elektra’s “recommendations” concerning content; the label, unsatisfied with this unwillingness to compromise, dropped the funkee one and shelved his album (see: rule #4080). Moving away from the past and into the future, Del’s lost product isn’t just another reminder of how clueless record execs are – it’s also his best work.

Opinion is generally split when it comes to Del’s creative peak (some love the playfulness of I Wish… while others prefer the more aggressive No Need For Alarm), but Future Development puts that debate to an end by successfully melding the best elements of each of his first two albums. Funny, sad, profound (sometimes all at the same time), Del’s performance on the mic is basically flawless although what really pushes this effort ahead of its predecessors is the maturity exuded by Hiero’s leader. While he was never immature per se, the ideas presented on Future Development make some of his past concepts (think “Dark Skinned Girls” and “Boo Boo Heads”) seem almost asinine in comparison. Playing the role of sage throughout the album, Del preaches without sounding preachy; he’s not telling people what to think, but rather to think.

Maturity and growth aside, the music itself is impeccable. The opener, “Lyric Licking”, is really the only track dedicated to showing off The Funky Homosapien’s skills (which he does); that it’s placed where it is almost seems like his way of saying “I can still rip a mic, but I’ve got other things to talk about too.” Those other things range from trying to pick up girls at the mall (“Why You Wanna Get Funky….”) and true friends (“Games Begin”) to Hip-Hop (“Don’t Forget The Bass”) and even slavery (“Del’s Nightmare”). Relatable to thugs, nerds, and backpackers alike, Del’s words paint portraits as vivid as Illmatic (which is saying an awful lot): “Po-po said they got there on time / they lied / but you’ve got to give ‘em credit / they tried / I see a mother cry and I’m wondering why / and my man said ‘Fuck it, there ain’t nothing we can do but continue our mission down the block for the brew.’” Del plays Dear Abby on the album’s lyrical standout (“Love Is Worth”), flipping two completely on point tales about unrequited love: “She said she likes you as a friend / not a lover or wife / so get a life / let her live hers and find another.” 

Production duties are split between Del and A-Plus (with Opio and Toure’ kicking in a track each) and they’ve definitely cooked up some marvelous beats to get mouths watering. Mostly laid back with a touch of Hieroglyphics’ jazz thrown in here and there, Future Development is the perfect album to relax to. The simple horn loop on “Corner Story” qualifies as one of the most addictive ever and the smoothed out sounds of “Stress The World”, “Games Begin”, and “Town To Town” don’t lag far behind in catchiness either. The album’s only sonic departures are found on the title track and “Del’s Nightmare”, which both feature dark, panicky loops befitting their respective themes.

So, seven years late, was Future Development worth the wait? Absolutely (tape owners note the CD and vinyl-only bonus track “Checkin Out The Rivalry”). Whether or not it changes anybody’s mind about Del’s place among Hip-Hop’s all-time elite is really irrelevant – just bump it and be glad he stuck to his guns. Of course, one will always wonder what a Funky Homosapien-Keith Sweat collaboration might have sounded like, but that’s team-up probably best left to the imagination.

  Mixtape D.L.
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