Patience is a concept practiced all too regularly for fans of Oakland rapper Del Tha Funkee Homosapien. Oops, I meant Del The Funky Homosapien, as it is now.
It’s very rare in hip-hop for an artist to take four and eight year breaks between dropping albums and maintain a high pro glow in spite of the slow crawl to the studio. As a matter of fact, I can only think of three dudes off the top of my head who can achieve such a hat trick: Dr. Dre, El-P, and Del, all of whom have managed to stay on the top of the A-list regardless of how long it took them to follow-up on their previous endeavor. It is highly doubtful if kids will be waiting in baited breath for the next Young Joc or Just Bleezy to come out in the same way those of us who have been waiting the majority of the decade for Dre’s perennially-delayed Detox or, in this case, Del’s fifth solo release, titled Eleventh Hour, to hit the shelves. Chances are that would be a big negative, considering cats like Bleezy and Joc get old after their time on Hot 97’s heavy rotation spin cycle comes to an end.
And now, almost nine years after his last proper solo release in 2000’s Both Sides of the Brain and over seven since Deltron 3000, his celebrated supergroup side project with Kid Koala and Dan The Automator (appearances on the last two full-lengths with his Oakland crew Hieroglyphics and a star-making turn on the Gorillaz’ 2001 anthem “Clint Eastwood” notwithstanding), Del finally unveils Eleventh Hour. But if that wasn’t enough to get all the dorks on allhiphop.com and okayplayer.com frothed up to a hype-fit frenzy, the album comes out on Definitive Jux, his Hiero Emporium boys’ primary East Coast competitor for hipster-hop supremacy.
However, with all of this momentum behind him, Eleventh Hour is only just aiight. You stand to think that Del would’ve utilized his new affiliation with Jux for this album, maybe by having El-P produce some tracks or getting down with Aesop Rock, who is now just an area code away from Del out there in California. Instead, he produced the whole thing himself once again just like he had done on his last solo outing, 2000’s Both Sides Of The Brain (which, by the way, featured a stand-out guest spot from his new label CEO on the track “Offspring”). And for the most part, it sounds like it from a production standpoint, as many of the beats Del’s assembled here sound like stuff he had been sitting on for eight years from the Brain sessions. Even those beats, however, weren’t up to snuff in comparison to the Funkadelic-laced grooves his cousin Ice Cube blessed him with on his 1991 debut I Wish My Brother George Was Here or the East Coast-branded battlecat sampledelia of his massively underappreciated 1994 classic No Need For Alarm.
True, there are some instances of greatness on Eleventh Hour based on the strength of Del’s uncanny skills on the mic, especially during the album’s second half. It’s great to hear Tha Funkee Homosapien get down with a Midwest style flow (“Foot Down”) or experiment with the whole male/female call-and-response thing on “I Got You” or even capturing a glimmer of his lighter, brighter past on “Str8 Up and Down”. But on the whole, battle rap seems to be Del’s continuously preferred lyrical method. And though he does slice off a few zingers here and there across this album, nothing touches the “Jaw Gymnastics” of his work on No Need For Alarm or Both Sides Of The Brain.
One would hope that in the instance that this guy makes us wait another eight or so years for a new solo album (which, if that is the case, he would be well into his forties), Del the Funky Homosapien might return to his Funkee-er days when he was lamenting the absence of his brother George. He’s a funny dude, really. Or at the very least, return to that dystopian futuristic trip he nailed so perfectly with Deltron 3000. And do us all a favor, kid: get Casual to do your beats once again, or El-P, or RJD2 or The Automator or Damon Albarn or somebody other than yourself (although the Blockhead remix of “Foot Down” is a good place to start). You’re really starting to make me hate video game noises, so much in fact I almost couldn’t sit through the King of Kong DVD I rented this weekend.