- Deltron Partners
By Josh Frazier, For the Daily
Published September 29, 2013
The hip-hop landscape has changed dramatically in the 13 years since Deltron 3030 was initially released. The eponymous debut album from rapper Del tha Funkee Homosapien, producer Dan the Automator and DJ Kid Koala, received widespread critical acclaim and gained a ravenous niche fanbase. The record told the story of Deltron Zero, an escaped prisoner in an interplanetary rock opera set in the year 3030. Del’s latest work, Event II, picks up the narrative paranoia and political themes of Deltron 3030 and continues to explore those realms with densely packed wordplay.
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As a body of work, Event II is a culmination of an obviously practiced emcee working with a familiar production duo. The beats on this album stand in stark, welcome contrast to the sounds currently popular on rap radio. There are no bombastic Lex Luger-esque horns, nor are there sanitized synthesizers, a la Drake’s recent smash Nothing Was the Same. Dan the Automator and Kid Koala serve up a varied sonic landscape that meshes well with Del’s underground style of rap.
True to form for an independent label release, there are no lead singles that will receive heavy radio airplay on Event II, nor will there be any big-budget videos. The cinematic aspect of Event II is due to the heavily visual wordplay and the streamlined, futuristic plot. Typically, a concept album as a specific genre project has no place in the rap world, but Deltron 3030’s risk-taking pays off to create a fully realized vision.
Ambitious projects are a signature of Del, who is best known to most audiences for his verses on Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood.” Damon Albarn, the man behind Gorillaz, is one of the many guest appearances on Event II, which features a diverse cast of characters.
Guest features include Albarn, Aaron Bruno of AWOLNATION fame and Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine, who carries the chorus and backing vocal duties on the album’s standout track, “Melding of the Minds.” Other appearances bog down the album, dulling Del’s sharp-witted rhymes with interludes that disrupt the pace and extend the length of Event II to a swollen 16 songs. Hollywood actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and David Cross (of “Arrested Development” fame) lend their vocals to the album’s many irritating intermissions, leaving only 11 full-length tracks.
Event II contains only two songs that don’t feature other artists, and many of these guest choices are unconventional. Comedy rap group The Lonely Island appears for an ill-advised sidestep sandwiched between the fiery rhymes of “The Agony” and “Talent Supersedes.” Another misstep features celebrity chef David Chang discussing futuristic cuisine on the aptly named “The Future of Food,” which is an overall lackluster track compared to the slickly organized ambience of the song that follows, the Damon Albarn-featuring “What Is This Lonliness.” Pacing and cohesion are two critically important factors in crafting a successful album, and Event II’s interludes jar the listener and feel more like interruptions than anything else.
Though the album stands out due to its faux-futuristic feel, Event II is still decidedly retro. The throwback production techniques wouldn’t sound out of place on an A Tribe Called Quest album, for instance, or on the original Deltron 3030. Over a decade after the initial release date, Event II is a worthy spiritual successor to what most hip-hop heads recognize as a cult classic.
Del’s rhymes are as densely worded as ever, and the production holds its own with the lofty standards of Deltron 3030’s debut. Del’s storytelling abilities put him in the same league as anyone in rap music today, and with the exception of several ill-timed features which disrupt the album’s flow, Event II successfully continues the narrative of Deltron Zero’s passionate rebellion against oppression.