6 May, 2009@2:09 am
With industry-wide record sales in the toilet, Del moved away from his Hieroglyphics imprint last year, and teamed up with one of the hottest underground labels in the biz, Definitive Jux, for the release of The Eleventh Hour. This seemed like a backpacker’s wet dream on paper – just imagine – the beats of El-P, RJD2, Blockhead, Aesop Rock, and the Def Jux allstars over the wacked out rhymes of Del. Unfortunately, what we got instead was an album marketed and released by Jux, but pretty much all handled by Del himself, with the exception of some help from J-Zone and A-Plus. Not to say that we don’t mind Del producing his own records, but given the fact that he’d done it so many times in the past, we hoped for something different, something bigger. The album moved a paltry 15,000 copies to date. (And you wonder why we’ve moved out of retail?)
Well, this time around, we’re not sure what the intention is – certainly it’s not to make money off of record sales, as Del’s new project Funk Man: The Stimulus Package is a free, downloadable album. Not exactly something that’s going to stimulate the economy, nor does it come in any kind of “package”. But hey, it’s free.
“Funkman” is marketed as “7th Del album, back to the funk funk,” alluding to his first LP, I Wish My Brother George Was Here, which was less Hiero-inspired, but instead driven by the funk-driven production of Sir Jinx and executive produced by Del’s cousin, Ice Cube. Funkman however is not as blatantly funk-inspired as Del’s debut, however. While the album art features a George Clinton-esque style rendition of Del controlling his own mothership, he still remains as experimental as ever. Funk may be the source for his samples, but in many cases here you would not know it.
Much of the LP finds Del musing on about the industry over varying styles of production. Both “And They Thought That Was Hell” and “Hardcore Punks Can’t Take It” are over almost Wu-Tang styled beats, as Del’s flow is as random as the beats themselves. The dirty “Straight From The Big Bad West Coast” is definitely one of the more funk influenced tracks, however is more El-P than it is Sir Jinx. Here, Del attacks the noisy track with what sounds like stream-of-consciousness freestyle rhymes, addressing the various factions in hip-hop and what role the West Coast plays at this point in the game.
This seemingly unrehearsed style rears its head in several places on the LP, many times sounding like Del is just making it up as he goes along, hopping on and off beat. Songs like “News Alert” and “King Of Fighters” sound like they had concepts when he set out to create them, but end up in the rap equivalent of run-on sentences that go on forever and never stop, despite whether or not Del is on beat, but he doesn’t seem to care,he just keeps going on and on without regard for a chorus or change in the beat pattern, dang this sentence is long. Yeah, kind of like that.
Looking back, Del used to make songs about things, such as “Dark Skinned Girls” or “Wrong Place”. These songs had topics, hooks and structure – even a beginning, middle, and end – and they helped him sell half a million records. Perhaps we are being too conventional, expecting Del to conform to the general idea of what a hip-hop song should sound like in 2009, but in the end, Del’s latest is too experimental for it’s own good. You get what you pay for.
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