Stoked to share with you another, Hip Hop Insight, sneak peek. Yesterday I posted an interview excerpt of my chat with DJ QBert, today I give you Del The Funky Homosapien (check out Del & QBert’s collab, Samba Soul, on the N.A.S.A – Spirit Of Apollo LP, it’s epic!). I always love chatting with Del, he has lots of inspiring stuff to say. He’s been one of my absolute favourite emcees/beat makers since I was a teen. I have all his solo records, Hieroglyphics, Deltron jams and various collabs he’s done over the years. I especially love the Deltron 3030 album that came out in 2000; it’s always on high rotation at my house still to this day, there was a time when I was pretty obsessed with it and would lay in bed and listen to it through headphones every night before I’d go to sleep. I love that he has always continued to evolve with each project he puts out into the universe. Here we chat art, music theory, his work ethic, success, his inspirations, what he learned from his father and more…
BIANCA: As well as hearing the music you create sonically, do you see it in colours, patterns or visuals?
DEL: That’s a good question! I can’t really describe it as colours like that but the tones do have different shades and different textures and I can blend it together like having colours.
B: Your father is an abstract artist; did he teach you anything important about being an artist?
D: He taught me how to draw. Growing up I couldn’t really appreciate my father’s art, I just thought it was weird [laughs]. I was into cartoons. It’s infused in me somehow. I don’t think he really taught me directly. I learned a lot about determination and things like that from my father. He used to have his own business.
B: How does he feel about your art? Does he appreciate it?
D: Oh yeah. He taught me to go for it, my father didn’t get the chance to do that because he had me and my brother, he had to tend to that. He told me to take advantage of it while you can.
B: I understand you decided to study music theory; tell me about it.
D: Everyone pretty well knew I was studying it, people are looking at me like, ok, let’s see what’s that supposed to do; let’s see what this music theory is going to get you. Some people are really intrigued and proud of me, more often than not. Some people think it’s cool I’m studying and other people think it’s stupid that I’m studying. It doesn’t matter what other people think, you can’t let them get you down. You just gotta keep going and growing.
B: How do you feel about yourself now that you’ve done that theory?
D: I feel good. I feel way more comfortable about my future and what I can do. Before it was a cloud or fog, like I’m going down the street trying to find my house and there’s this hella fog in the way. Now the fog has begun to lift and I can see a little bit clearer now. Before I’d make something and I didn’t know how people were going to accept it, now I have an idea of how people might accept things. I have a guideline of how far I should go. I don’t want to go too far and have people going, ‘He went too far!’ I want to give them just enough to where they’re like, I can dig that. It’s familiar but not new enough so I’m not bored.
B: One of your favourite books is, The Lies My Music Teacher Taught Me?
D: Yeah. It breaks down what it is with music. I’ve been in music classes before and I’ve always been like, when are we going to make some music? When are we going to start playing something? We were always studying scales and studying chords. I just got bored I was like, this don’t mean nothing to me. The book just broke down for real, how it really works, from basic intervals to chords; it’s about relationships basically and how the tones relate. One of the more important things that I learned is major and minor. Major is really the only mode that you’re really using anything else is just based off a major mode, once I learned that, I wondered why I spent so much time practising hella scales when they all the same scales (laughs). You’re missing the point when you sitting in class studying it over and over hoping you get it. The point the book was making is that a lot of teachers don’t know that either, they just teaching what they been taught. It’s an eye opener.
B: Describe your work ethic?
D: I like to have a consistent work flow. Now that I’m back on top of what I need to be doing work-wise I try to just keep doing it ‘cause I never know if something’s going to happen or get in my way and then I’m setback for minute, like when I go on tour. When I go on tour, I can’t really make stuff. I do have ways to do it on the road but it’s harder. When I’m at home I try to get on my grind and have as much creative output as I can, I stockpile it. Sometimes it’s in spurts, sometimes when I’m gone for a while it takes a little bit longer to get back into it. You gotta work up to it. I like to work at my maximum power levels, I don’t want to go down.
B: Is there anyone that’s really inspired you? Have you had any specific mentors along the way?
D: George Clinton is pretty much one of my biggest influences. The whole Parliament Funkadelic was a big influence, James Brown too. When I was young I was listening to that stuff. James Brown is the forefather of modern music, everything can be traced back to him. It’s important to understand his whole musical theory. When I was young Melle Mel was a big influence. LL Cool J was dope. When I first heard LL I couldn’t believe how he was rapping. Nowadays music in general inspires me.
B: What’s your definition of success?
D: Achieving a goal that you set for yourself, that goal may not be money.
B: Do you think it’s important to surround yourself with positive or inspiring people?
D: Yeah it helps. I think being by yourself is the best thing ‘cause whenever you got people around you, you have to worry about them.
B: Do you feel connected with any one music community or movement?
D: My whole basis is funk. All the stuff that was poppin’ early, mid, late ‘70s, early ‘80s that’s pretty much my frame work right there. Funk is what I relate to the most. Also hip-hop.
B: Do you feel like you’ve made sacrifices to follow your dream?
D: I had to sacrifice a lot. I used to sit on my ass all day playing video games and watching anime and reading comic books. There’s nothing wrong with that but, I had to sacrifice all that. I used to be kickin’ it a lot but I got to a point where I was like, what am I gonna do? Play video games all day and lose at life; do you want to win at a game and lose at life? A lot of my friends didn’t understand what I was doing, I didn’t really have a support base it was all me. A Plus was there, he gave me support. I’ve known him since the third grade. Being around people and have people feel me is something I sacrificed. Say what you want but you’ll see I know what I’m doing. I had to sacrifice relationships to a certain degree. I sacrifice tens of thousands of dollars so I could get my set up here to record. I felt in the long run it’d be cheaper than having to record in the studio.
*All photos courtesy of Del’s IG; Del art by me.