SXSW Flashback: Interview With Del Tha Funky Homosapien
It was my third night in Austin. Devin had just blazed through an epic set that had been celebrated in the appropriate fashion , El-P was currently on-stage and I was wandering around the Def Jux party with four cups of Jack in my stomach, a head full of smoke and the strange desire to approach people and ask if they had also expected everything to be "1984" themed and staffed entirely by surly robots. But I held my tongue, instead approaching a ornery, heavily tatted bartender at the Scoot Inn, noting the sign above his head that read: "Sorry We Do Not Have Redbull, Wine coolers or Smirnoff Ice, Please Don't Even Go There P.S. No Shiner Either." So I did the only sensible thing, I ordered a Jack on the Rocks with a Zima chaser. The barkeep didn't find this funny and come to think of it, neither did I.
Luckily, I ran into my friend, Will, who was whispering weird gibberish about Del tha Funky Homosapien. As that's not a name you want to say sotto voce, there was a slight misunderstanding but when things were finally straightened out, I learned that he had canceled his interview with Del moments earlier because of a bout of laryngitis. Naturally, I volunteered for the assignment.
"It won't be a problem, I rambled. "No one needs prepared questions. Performing interviews without questions is like the freestyling of journalism. Chris Matthews, Larry King, Ellen DeGeneres, they all do it.""Maybe I can help you think of some questions?" he said. I could tell that he was a fan of common sense and this frightened me. After all, Finding Forever was terrible.
"Nonsense. I freestyle questions all time," I scoffed. "It's part of my plan to improvise everything, release my interviews as mixtapes and win the 2008 Pazz & Jop poll. It's foolproof."
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He shrugged and handed me his video camera and told me to press the red button, obviously ignoring the fact that I was in no condition to perform such a complex feat of coordination. But there was no time, someone escorted me into the VIP section, a tent with no walls consisting of Del and his posse smoking beadies and Bushwick Bill waddling around, chirping bizarre nonsense. Sadly, before I could tell him that was going to name my first born son, Dr. Wolfgang Vincent Gobin Bushwickin the Barbarian Mother Funky Stay High Dollar Billstir Weiss, Del's manager grabbed me and led us out of the building to the back seat of a Jeep
On my way there, while I was deliberating whether to address Del as Mr. Tha Funkee Homosapien, Deltron, or just plain-old, Mister Dobalina, his manager took me aside and gave me the warning, "Just to give you the heads-up, Del's kinda' faded."
Which was pretty readily apparent, considering Del, nose ring and all, was rambling, drunkenly in the backseat. Not to say that I was doing all that much better, with my sobriety level teetering somewhere between Lil Wayne and UC-Santa Barbara freshman. I figured I should probably just start the interview, but then there was the logistical problem of trying to turn on the camera. I pressed the red button furiously. Nothing.
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"What's the problem with that thing," Del said pointing at the camera.
"I have no fucking clue," I shrugged. "I think it may be defective. Maybe we can exchange it below the freeway underpass for an eighth"
"Let me see it," he took it from me, also struggling to turn the thing on. "Forget it, " he handed it back . "It's defective."
With the video camera out of play and my tape recorder nowhere to be found, I did the only thing possible, write the interview down long-hand. Needless to say, I probably missed a lot and am only now piecing together the exchange from my chicken-scratch notes. But check for when my mixtape drops. I've got a street single, "Interview with Lil Mama," that will have the Internet on lock. It's going to be a hot summer.
Q: Why did you pick now to come back after pretty much taking off most of the decade?
A: I was trying to come back but I couldn't come back. I was dealing with a lot of bullshit and nonsense. A lot of it has to do with female problems, if you want to call her a female. I've been dealing with a lot of feminist haters lately, saying I'm hating on women, but I'm not hating on nobody.(As Ben Westhoff's piece in the SF Weekly, had already explained Del's female problems, I decided prodding him further might not be the best option.)
Q: Did you think that the current environment in hip-hop was conducive to your return?
A: Hip-hop is cool right now. It's not the same how it was when I was young and it was so cool and so fresh and people didn't rap unless they felt it. Now people only do things if they think it's going to bubble. But it's cool in a way, it's like skateboarding. I remember when no one used to care that people were skateboarding, people said that skaters were wasting their life away. People use to tell me that about rap, they said that we were losers for doing it. That's the thing in life, once fools catch on, things get big. But I think in a way that maybe it's time for things to change. We've done the hip-hop thing for a long time, not caring about school and education and maybe it's time for us to catch up to square life instead of running around in the streets. That doesn't always do you good. Things go full circle and right now, I'm trying to sit down and observe it.
Q: Are you still living up in the bay?
A: I'm living out in Richmond. I got out of Oakland a while back and Richmond's pretty cool but I've even robbed there. Someone broke into my house and stole my old Gamecube and all my computers.
Q: What made you sign with El-P and Def Jux?
A: I signed with El because he the folks. I figured that he and the label could hustle for me and do stuff that I couldn't do myself. He told me that he could help me for a profit, which is cool, he deserves some of the money, that's my partner. I'm pleased with how well it's gone.
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Q: So what exactly does the idea of The 11th Hour mean to you?
A: The 11th Hour is about the idea that some people are right on time and some people are too late and some people get in just before it gets too late. I've been gone for eight years and some people are happy to see Del back and some aren't. People been talking shit on the album. They be hating.
Q: Do you read a lot of the press on the Internet?
A: Hell yeah, I read everything. I can go on the Hiero boards a lot and see what people say...but I knew this was going to happen, I had to make it though.
Q: How was the writing process different for this with something like say the Deltron record?
A: Well that record was all sci-fi. Everything was about sci-fi.
Q: Are you working on a new Deltron record?
A: Yeah, me and Automator are working on it right now.
Q: What's it going to be about?
A: It's going to be called Deltron: 2nd Event. I've been writing bars. I've got 240 of them and once I get to about 500 or 600 bars, I'm going to break them into songs. I've been showing them to Automator and he tells me what he likes and what he doesn't. He says it's dark, but that's my vision of the future, shit is going to be fucked up. But he's like you need to lighten up.
Q: What exactly is your vision of the future?
A: I'm ambivalent. Most of what I see ain't great but I have hope in things.
Q: Politically or just socially?
A: If Obama wins that would be great. A black president is something I never thought I'd see. I don't think my mother or father thought they'd see it either. I wouldn't be mad if Hillary won thought. I thought Bill did a good job and they just booby-trapped him with that impeachment business. Finding out about all that was just finding out that Bill was like one of us.
Q: What would like you people to take away from your new album?
A: The album is the story of me. It's just the way it is and I'm putting it all out there as an example, letting people know I've been in these situations. I want the common people to know that there's hope if you get into some bad situations. I love music and making it and I'm happy to be doing it again.
Q: What about the concept of an underground. You've always been labeled an underground artist but there seems to be no real concept of an underground anymore when guys like Common and Kweli can debut at or near the top of the charts?
A: My problem with the underground is that to be an underground rapper, you're supposed to be on some fuck being commercial type shit. Everyone's trying to be the same. No one's like, 'I'm myself."
Q: Who the rappers that influenced you when you were coming up?
A: Shit, when I was coming up. I've been rapping for 15 years, it's been a long time. But when I was a kid, I loved Afrika Bambaataa, the Soulsonic Force, Melle Mel and Flash and the Furious Five. But I guess Run DMC was the breakout artist of the area when I was growing up. My partner and I at the time had all the old school shit, trying to be renegades of funk. I didn't even know why but I loved it. We didn't have anyone to pretend to be until Run DMC came along, we'd be like you be Yogi Bear and I'll be Huckleberry Hound. But when Run DMC came we could be like, you be Run, I'll be DMC and then everyone would get pissed when they had to be Jammaster Jay. Also, Melle Mel in "The Message," really captured me, especially the last verse where Melle kills it.
I also loved George Clinton. They were the funk superheroes. George Clinton knew, I loved that song that started Dr. Funkenstein, that cut used to scare the shit out of me when I was kid.
Q: What about dudes right now, anyone you check for?
A: Styles P is my dude. Of course, the dudes in Hiero. Peedi Crakk. Erykah Badu. Mary J. Blige. Janet Jackson. Even though she tried to come out all ultra-pop, I still got love for her.