Longtime Oakland hip-hop artist Del the Funky Homosapien (the Hierogyphics member formerly known as Del tha Funkee Homosapien) has been making innovative, quality hip-hop music for over twenty years now. And, as shown by the emcee & producer's impressive new album, Golden
Era, he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Del's impressive discography dates back to his his 1991 major label debut I Wish My Brother George Was Here on Elektra. In addition to numerous other solo artist albums, such as No Need for Alarm (1993), Both Sides of the Brain (2000), and Eleventh Hour (2008), he has released collaborative project albums including the two with his longtime crew the Hieroglyphics (1998's 3rd Eye Vision and 2003's Full Circle) and the wonderful but slept on Parallel Uni-Verses (2009) with Tame-One of NewJersey's Artifacts fame.
On a wider scale, however, Del is perhaps best known for his work with Dan The Automator as Deltron 3030, who released 2000's acclaimed self titled album, and his brief but well-received work with Gorillaz, for whom he helped make the 2001 hit debut single "Clint Eastwood." Del's latest release, Golden Era (released last month by The Council), is a 3 CD set (for the price of one) that includes the all new Golden Era album plus two albums that previously were only available as special download formats, never in physical format: Funk Man (The Stimulus Package) and Automatik Statik, which were both released in 2009. I recently caught up with Del to talk to him about such topics as the new album, the anticipated next Deltron release, and why he changed the spelling of his name. This is what he told the Amoeblog.
Amoeblog: When did you record Golden Era?
Del: All of it was done around the same time I did [2009's] Funk Man but I was in a different mind set from when I was doing the Funk Man sessions. You see, I'm a producer so I can switch up and be in a different mindset.
Amoeblog: Are you happiest when producing your own stuff or does it sometimes seem like a burden to have to produce everything when you are the emcee as well?
Del: You know what? I guess so. I never really thought of it like that. I don't have a problem working with other producers by any means but it's quicker to do it myself. So I won't say I'm necessarily happier. I'm trying to be a producer too. I studied music for like twelve years.
Amoeblog: Why did you choose the title Golden Era?
Del: Because everybody is always talking about the golden era [of hip-hop] and how great it was and everything so I just decided, OK, well, let me make something that is focused on how we used to make music back then. Coz I still remember. A lot of people don't remember.
Amoeblog: Do you think that people romanticize the golden era of hip-hop?
Del: I'm glad you asked me that, man. Yes, of course people romanticize. That's always the case coz you crave them younger years and you wish you could go back there but you never can so it don't make no sense to sit around romanticizing about it. Me? Honestly, I was never that type of person anyway. Even when I was younger I was always looking toward the future. That's why I got into hip-hop in the first place.
Amoeblog: Over two full decades later and you are still making music, and music that fans want to hear. Golden Era is one of the best selling hip-hop releases at Amoeba recently, so what is the secret to your longevity in hip-hop?
Del: I don't know. I just try to keep my mind on what's gonna work and I try to stay current. And my personality ain't really changed from when I was younger so maybe that's got a lot to do with it. Like, I really actually never really changed that much. And a lot of people go through the changes. They get all hyped up on themselves or whatever and they get a lot of money and fork it off or whatever. Anything could happen. I just try to stay focused on the music cos I love the music and it don't matter if it's not hip-hop no more coz honestly I feel like hip-hop is going to change into something else finally, completely, but it's still gonna be a part of hip-hop. But I want to keep making music. So it's like, do you want to be stuck on hip-hop or do you want to make music? And that's why I studied music theory and I learned about music in general because I just love music in general. Also, I look at other dudes who are still in it, like E-40, Too $hort or Jay Z, and I listen to what they have to say.
Amoeblog: These days do you make your income from touring or from sales or from video game soundtracks or a combination of all of these?
Del: I would have to say honestly that touring gives me the most money but lately having been touring just my shows, I've been sponsored by some other companies and I have done stuff on their behalf that represents them but I'm getting stuff out of it too, like free publicity, free gear, free whatever. So I work with people that I like and respect and that I want their stuff (laughs) and I get some of that but they get some of what I got going too. And that's where I got most of my money for the last few years, coz shows are drying up cos everyone's trying to rush to that arena to get money and nobody's buying records, really. But I might get some trickle factor from those areas but really I've been working in conjunction with these other companies and that's how I've been getting my bread and floating.
Amoeblog: What about Deltron 3030; anything in the future?
Del: I'm working on the new Deltron Event II with Automator now. I was just in the studio and we've got about six songs laid so we ain't got more to lay.
Amoeblog: And will you ever do anything with the Gorillaz again?
Del: Hmm, Gorillaz, I never was a part of that anyway. I don't think Dan [Automator] has been a part of it since the first one so I seriously doubt that I would be a part of it again.
Amoeblog: But your name will forever be associated with Gorillaz it seems, and that's a good thing, no?
Del: Oh yeah. I'm not mad at them and I love the project and I love what they try to do and the first album was tight. But I'm just admitting that I wasn't in the studio with them at all when they were inventing it. I was put in on the back end when the album was done. Automator already had the song "Clint Eastwood" done with somebody's vocals on it. He just didn't like that and thought that I could make better vocals and I'm sure he was trying to look out, too. So that was how I even got on that project cos I wasn't even there for the inception of it so I can't even take credit for it. But luckily the song I did for them happened to be the lead single.
Amoeblog: One last question. I notice how the original spelling of your name Del Tha Funkee Homosapien has in recent times changed to Del The Funky Homosapien and I wondered was this your doing and, if so, why?
Del: I changed it cos that was never my idea. That was the record company's idea, to try and make it cute. And I was like, nah, that's not how you spell it. That wasn't my idea. The name is already crazy enough as it sounds so I never wanted it to be spelled hella crazy too.
But I am not mad. I am definitely not mad at Elektra. They did a lot for me, especially [Elektra A&R] Dante Ross, and I am still cool with him to this day. He taught me a lot and he really looked out for me.