Published on August 14th, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Del The Funky Homosapien On The “Gate 13” Album, His Recovery, & Hip-Hop In 2018
Active in the hip-hop world since the late 1980s, Del The Funky Homosapien released his first major album in 1991. Del next made waves as part of the hip-hop collective known as Hieroglyphics, which last released a studio full-length in 2013. While Del has remained popular as a solo artist over the years, a lot of his success has come as a collaborator with other artists. This includes high-profile work with Gorillaz, Dinosaur Jr., MF DOOM, The Dirty Heads, Dan The Automator, and the Wu Tang Clan.
The latest release by Del The Funky Homosapien is the Gate 13 album, as made with Amp Live. Del recently sustained a near-fatal injury while touring with Gorillaz, which has postponed touring related to Gate 13. However, he is coming along well, and I had the pleasure of talking with Del by phone about Gate 13, the Judgment Night soundtrack, the state of hip-hop, and his love of cats.
Tour dates, videos and other Del info can be found at www.delandamplive.com.
Del The Funky Homosapien: Not very long. Maybe about 2 weeks for my part. For Amp, it took a while longer, because on the production side you have post-production and things like that. My writing didn’t take too long.
Is your writing ever done in the studio?
Del The Funky Homosapien: I record all of my stuff here. All the stuff from Gate 13 was recorded here. But to answer your question, I have written in the studio before, I don’t like it. (laughs)
The “Help” video is very cool. Is the video meant to be biographical in any way? It looks like the teenager is portraying a younger Del.
Del The Funky Homosapien: In the video, yes. But the song itself, sorta kinda. I try to keep things universal, kind of general, so that anyone can relate to it, from my experiences or what I have seen from other people’s experiences. Just things that I learned about life, I try to put them in songs, you know what I mean? I try to keep it on the ground so that people can relate to it.
In terms of recovery, how are you doing? Are you getting better by the day?
Del The Funky Homosapien: I’m still in a good amount of pain, but I’m coming along. Physically, I still have trauma and anxiety. I just got a cat to help me with that.
Really, what kind of cat?
Del The Funky Homosapien: A Calico.
Is that the first time you’ve had a cat?
Del The Funky Homosapien: Oh no, I’m a Leo, so growing up I always had cats. Other kinds of animals too, but I always loved cats growing up. As an adult, I’ve been on the road damn near since my first album came out, so I couldn’t have a cat. Now that I’m basically bed-ridden, I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, so I thought I’m going to get a cat now. I’ve wanted one for a while… My step-daughter helped me adopt a cat from the shelter.
Del The Funky Homosapien: Oh no, I’ll tell you. Izzy is the name of the cat. She already had a name at the shelter, Izzy is her name.
Speaking of your first album, working on the Judgment Night was also early into your career. You did your track with Dinosaur Jr. How did that collaboration come together?
Del The Funky Homosapien: I don’t remember who brought it to me, at this point, maybe it was Deb or Shelby working at Elektra. I’m not sure who brought it to me, but basically — to make a long story short — they were working on the soundtrack with a rock and rap hybrid, and they asked J. Mascis to be part of it, and what rapper would he like to work with? He didn’t know too much about hip-hop, but he knew who I was. That’s how that came to me. I didn’t know much about his music either. I’d heard of Dinosaur Jr… But that worked out hella good. I learned a lot from him and I think he learned a lot from me about hip-hop.
One thing that amazed me was everything in the track he did. His band was there but they didn’t do nothing, but like they was playing pool in the other room the whole time. He did everything except for maybe this 808 sh*t that I had running through the production. Everything else he did. I’m looking at him like, “You don’t even need these motherf**kers.” (laughs) That just blew my mind, like “He’s the genius behind the whole operation, pretty much.” That sparked me getting interested in learning more about music and learning music theory. He learned a lot about hip-hop from me, we were just chopping it up, we were in the studio the whole time talking. He was a cool dude, I enjoyed working with him a lot.
I remember that you got to perform on Arsenio with Dinosaur Jr. and Mike D played drums. Was that your first time on television?
Del The Funky Homosapien: I don’t think it was my first time on television, I think I was on television before then. I don’t know, my recollection is off because I was doing a lot of stuff at the time. But I know Mike D, I knew that he was going to play drums that night, so I was like, “Oh, okay, cool!” That just made it more exciting for me. I think I wasn’t sure if I knew the lyrics, I was scared that I was going to forget the lyrics. Ice-T was there too, he was like, “What’s up Del?” That was fun.
That project was probably the first you did genre-hopping where you meld together people from different genres, which you have also done with Gorillaz. But did the Judgment Night soundtrack lead to other artists, including rock bands, seeking you for a collaboration?
Del The Funky Homosapien: Not really, not like that. First of all, I’m from California, I’m from the Bay Area, so it’s multi-culti out here anyway. I grew up here around hella different types of people, you know what I’m saying? I had all different types of friends growing up. Some of them was into rock, some of them was into smoking weed, some of them was into wrestling, some of them was Latino, some of them was Filipino, some of them was Chinese, you feel me? That’s not strange to me. I get down on all types of levels.
As long as it’s just good music I don’t care, really — it’s got some kind of soul or funk to it, it can’t be bland. As long as it’s good, I can get with it, even though I prefer something street-oriented, something hard, but that’s just my preference. But to answer your question, nah, I didn’t get a flood of people being like, “Can you do this rock collab?” Nothing like that. It’s just if I come across somebody, we liking each other and we just vibe, stuff just happens. It’s not really planned.
Del The Funky Homosapien: That’s kind of how it works. I studied music theory for quite some time, how to be a producer and all that… The way you become a producer is you kind of just fall into it. You just fall into a position where you meet a band, they need a producer, you happen to have a talent, and then it just starts from there, you know what I’m saying?
A lot of this industry is like that. You just kind of fall in the right place with the right people at the right time. I think the industry at this point feels like it has a formula, and they just throw stuff together, but as you can see, you miss some of the magic doing that. I t just becomes formulaic.
Aside from promoting Gate 13, are there any upcoming projects that you are working on that you can talk about?
Del The Funky Homosapien: I’m always working on something. The main thing I’m working on is trying to make a form of hip-hop music that will be able to appeal to whoever will give it a listen. If they are willing to give it a chance, they will find that they like it. Not so deep and so complex and so technical that the average person can’t get into it, and I feel that hip-hop has gotten to the point where it’s so technical that only if you were a hip-hop junkie you could possibly get in. Otherwise it’s going over your head.
So that’s what I’ve been working on, just trying to come up with the perfect model, just trying to update it because I feel like nobody has really done that. I feel like a lot of people have forgotten how to make hip-hop records… The music that they call hip-hop now, I wouldn’t categorize most of it as hip-hop. It may be related to hip-hop, but it don’t follow none of the rules. It’s not about competition, that’s like the first thing, competition, you trying to be the best. They’re not really trying to be the best, they don’t care, if it makes money they’ll do it, you know what I mean? If it means putting on a clown suit with a red clown nose and big red shoes, they’ll do it if it sells.
The second rule is not to bite. Be original. Everybody before was original or you wouldn’t be accepted in the culture. That went out the window. “If it works for you, I’m going to do that too” — which never works. We have this, why would you want to knock off of that if you’ve got the original? That’s what I’m working on.
So in closing, Del, any last words for the kids?
Del The Funky Homosapien: For the kids? (laughs) Whatever you want to do, just investigate. You’ve got the Internet now, before you had to go to the library or go to college. You don’t even have to go to college. All the information that you need, if you’re willing to go seek it out, is on the Internet. But a lot of misinformation is out there. So to make a long story short, don’t let the misinformation sway you from doing what you might want to do. Just look it up and see for yourself what it is. I found a lot of times it’s way easier than what is put out there. A lot of times it’s put out there like, “You couldn’t possibly do that.” It’s so possible, you’ve got to want to do it. That’s all.