As a hip-hop head and music geek in general, whenever someone asks me who my “top five” is, or who my favorite band is, it’s generally impossible to come up with a satisfactory answer.
More often than not, this line of questioning results in a chuckle, followed by, “Shiiiiiiit...I can give you my top five for like, this month?” Even then, the list goes through about three or four amendments before I finally concede that, “this is fucking impossible.”
Ask me my favorite hip-hop album, though, and for some reason, there's no delay. Deltron 3030.
I’ve been listening to and studying hip-hop music for over 15 years. It’s what I do, every day. Weekly, I’m bombarded with new artists from new places with new albums that have new sounds—and I love it, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
To this day, though, nobody—not Kendrick, not Kanye, not Jay—has made an album that I love listening to more than Del Tha Funky Homosapien, Dan The Automator, and Kid Koala.
If you’ve never heard the self-titled project from Del, Dan, and Koala, it’s a concept album about intergalactic rap warriors, set in the year 3030. As I typed that last sentence, I realized it sounded like a concept that would be much better suited to a forgotten 90s comic book, but Deltron 3030 is so much more.
From the album’s first few seconds—a sullen introduction to the times by Damon Albarn of Blur/The Gorillaz—Deltron 3030 makes perfect use of both eccentric production and perfectly placed features from a who’s who of late 90s and early 2000s underground favorites to build a dystopian universe that somehow exists between breakbeats and punchlines.
Throughout the album, Del the Funky Homosapien acts as the main character of this interplanetary space opera. His character, Deltron Zero, is a former mech soldier/computer wiz on the run from, and battling against, a dystopian New World Order hell-bent on squashing human rights and along with them, hip-hop.
Global controls will have to be imposed, and a world governing body will be created to enforce them. Crises precipitate change...
The underlying themes of the album—an unbridled extrapolation of oligarchic tendencies and corporate omnipresence—struck my rebellious teenage mind with a surge of relevance that has only deepened throughout the 16 years since Deltron first infiltrated my ears.
Though Del displays lyrical acrobatics throughout the entirety of the project, it’s said that the lyrics to the album were written in two weeks, and Del has admitted to freestyling a large portion of its content—a testament to his prowess, as none of it seems anything less than studiously premeditated. Some of the verses on this album still blow my mind every single time I hear them, “techno-babble” or not.
"No one believes in specters and spooks / They just lecture the youth about having respect and couth / Toward the US, and you guessed it / The rest get imprisoned or incisions in their medulla / No president, we have a ruler / "You are to be inside by 9 o'clock or we will shoot ya" / Missile launchers haunt ya in your nightmares / It ain't quite fair, little tykes ain't prepared / They've got your wife naked bare in the subway / For some thug play, neo-punks with cerebral pumps / For enhanced recognition of politicians and witches / Senior citizens are disposed against their wishes / Aliens landed and said our planet wasn't worth invadin' / 'cause all the natural resources are fadin'"
Del’s futuristic lyricism and Dan The Automator’s haunting production are the main stars of Deltron 3030, but for me, it’s the little things that really made this album so captivating.
The infomercial for the Intergalactic Rap Battle, the inexplicable future-review of Strange Brew, my introduction to MC Paul Barman (known as Cleofis Randolph the Patriarch in the context of the album), all of the seemingly scattered offerings that somehow made the album and its concepts whole, and to this day make it fun as hell to listen to.
With this album, Del and company followed in the footsteps of Kool Keith, MF DOOM, and the Wu-Tang Clan, expanding the collective imagination of hip-hop and reinterpreting what the culture could and should encompass. They also ignited a deep passion for hip-hop in a 13-year-old kid from Kansas who would never be able to look at music the same ever again.
Deltron 3030 changed the way I looked at what an album could be, hip-hop or otherwise. It changed the way I perceive the importance of music to this day. In short, it changed my life.
By Brent Bradley AKA Brentron-X The Blastmaster. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram