Del Tha Funky Homosapien now qualifies as “elder statesman” when it comes to hip-hop. He cut his teeth with Da Lench Mob “back in the day,” to use the appropriate vernacular, waxing militant and angry with Ice Cube’s notorious backing band. But since he went solo 18 years ago, he’s never been as charged—bringing more of a jazzy, East Coast, lyrical sense to the Left Coast. Here, he talks about his days with Cube, the fact that the recording industry is the naked emperor and why he loves Zappa.
French Davis: Hip-hop evolved from curious distraction to full-fledged industry. What gave it staying power?
Del The Funky Homosapien: The staying power of hip-hop, of funk music in general, I believe, is the fact that it can be whatever it needs to be at the time. As long as it’s got a groove and it’s got a consciousness, it is what it is: our music. Created from pain, with the strength from the will to survive. Dig that root up and plant it on somebody.
FD: What was it like in the early days, working with Ice Cube and pioneering what would later become an institution?
DTFH: Working with Ice Cube, Lench Mob, Sir Jinx especially, back then was really fun. Everything was like so surreal, so a lot of it I was just in awe, shock, whatever you wanna call it. Cube and Sir Jinx definitely helped to mold me to the point where someone would maybe be interested in hearing an album from me. It was a family; everyone basically helped each other out to make records, but we always were like that. Cube and Jinx were high school buddies, I’ve known Cube all my life and he’s still my favorite cousin I would say. We were kinda similar, but he’s a bit older, a tad bit more responsible, so I did and still do look up to him.
FD: How has the chill effect of copyright litigation changed the way you approach your writing? Or does it at all?
DFTH: Piracy? I know that I may have an unpopular answer, but I really don’t care too much, and here’s why: Companies have been full of s**t for a long time and their practices leave the door open a lot of times for people to wanna go around tha back way, so to speak. As far as music is concerned, they ruined if for me, straight up. I don’t blame people for downloading music, first of all, it’s music…We may as well go back to making music from tha soul, which is what gave tha music its value in tha first place. When it lost all soul, or value, and became nothing more than a marketing scheme, when tha opportunity came to just snatch, what do you think people are gonna do? Tha industry has been conning people for years, manufacturing acts and artists specifically for tha purpose of getting their money, nothing else. Tha well ran dry, people need to face it: Tha emperor has no clothes.
FD: As you look across the musical landscape today, what do you see that you find encouraging?
DFTH: A lot of youth are really interested in how we did it, and I feel that’s a good thing. There’s a lot we can both learn from each other, old and young and in-between. Because it’s all tha same thing in essence, music with soul. And funk is tha motor that makes it move.
FD: Who are you inspired by?
DTFH: Right now, tha biggest inspiration is probably Frank Zappa, I just really relate to his whole thang, man. It’s scary tha amount of similarities there. I had to lay off of him for a minute because it was disturbing me. But it’s good.
FD: You’re on a desert island with three albums and a CD player. What are the albums and why?
DTFH: Every Parliament-Funkadelic record ever created and every offshoot group associated with them because it never gets old. Funk can sit and never go sour. That’s my lonely island package.