To us, that looks a lot like not giving a funk what anybody else says or thinks. The Oakland rapper began his career writing for his cousin Ice Cube’s backup crew, Da Lench Mob, but after Cube helped him release his first solo album, I Wish My Brother George Was Here, the two parted artistic ways, with Del doing a 180: He opens the video for “Wrong Place,” a track from his 1993 sophomore album, shaking a bullet at the camera and saying, “I don’t wanna have to clown these gangsta rappers, BUT it’s about skills. You know it ain’t right–let’s not have these flyin’ around.” Then he founded legendary underground crew theHieroglyphics and later got dropped by Elektra. Thank goodness.
He just released his new triple disc cd, Golden Era, today. In typical fashion, he’s doing a record release performance next Monday at the Key Club–for free.
LA WEEKLY: You were really one of the first rappers to cut ties with a major record label.
DEL THE FUNKY HOMOSAPIEN: We was just trying to do things our way and progress hip hop, and labels at that time (when hip hop was blowing up) wasn’t trying to let us do that. So we did it ourselves. We were just fortunate enough to be able to do that and whether it turned out to be a good idea or a bad idea will differ depending on who you ask.
Now that the tables turned on the labels, what do you think their future is?
Labels will always be around. Just because you CAN do it yourself now with all the technology and outlets at your fingertips, don’t mean people have that drive TO do it. Feel me? Shit, I got a label (The Council) that backed Golden Era that’s and they killin’ it. DefJux backed 11th Hour and GoldDust did me and Tame’s album too. In the midst of all that, I have also put out projects myself too.
Do most rappers today “need” a label- can the internet only take one so far?
Nobody NEEDS a label technically. Some people need financial backing or an “image,” and some people need distribution help. I mean the biggest advantage to a label backing you is their distribution. You have no idea how many outlets there actually are to get your music to till a label covers it … it’s pretty crazy.
Has the internet ultimately helped, or hurt, the art of making music?
It’s personally helped me a lot. Being able to download programs and trade files instantly and record on the go has really helped. That and being able to connect directly to your fans as opposed to going through middle-man outlets has really helped, too. I think it has given kids more resources to be able to make music.
But do rappers and producers need to be in the studio together, not just exchanging beats and verses electronically?
I record on tour in hotel rooms most of the time so I’m the wrong person to ask that (laughs).
You mention you like more “street-oriented” rap. Who’s making that music WELL nowadays?
A.G., Hopie Spitshard, Tame One, Nitty Scott MC, Psalm One, All Flags Burn.
Can that kind of rap make a comeback?
Style is constantly evolving. I don’t think it’s gone anywhere, I just think people’s tastes and attention have shifted. Sadly, artists follow that attention for the money and change it up.
So many young rappers today say they don’t like or listen to hip hop. Why that backlash?
(Laughs) That distinction between rap and hip hop is funny. Who knows … they aren’t interested in talent and skills anymore like we was back in the day; it’s all about money and champagne now, not who served who on the corner of Durant and Telegraph.
Speaking of … you talk about being into the counterculture and hanging out with skaters, as well as being heavily influenced by Parliment. How does that factor in to the music you’re making now?
I live and die by the funk so that’s what’s up wit that. I fuck with Parliament. And as far as the action sports industry goes, my shit was in older skate videos so those cats came up listening to me and are some of my most loyal fans still to this day.
Ok, fast answers. What’s the one thing you have to do before you perform?
Smoke a beedie.
You have to listen to one record ONLY the rest of your life. Which?
Any P-Funk shit probably.
Forget making money. What do you like to do?
Shit, make music is all I ever really do or want to do.
What is the single best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten in your life?
“Be one wit the funk.”