It's a weekday afternoon, and Del the Funky Homosapien's mom has just left his house. She was passing through to pick up an iPod the rapper had bought for her -- but left empty-handed, as she wasn't confident about being able to use Apple's dinky little music player. "She's gonna come back in a couple of days and I'll show her how to use it," he says. "I'm trying to convince her it's really simple to use."
In the meantime, Del has a new album out this week to promote. Entitled Attractive Sin, the project was cut with East Coast production unit Parallel Thought, and has Del twisting his malleable flow all around tracks that are heavy on the horn samples. Before he snapped back into parental tech-support mode, we recently chatted it up with Del about random matters like his first ever rap performance at a roller rink, the influence of Kool Keith, and why he's not an Angry Birds fan.
What's your advice for teaching an older person how to use an iPod?
Hop in and try to use it. A lot of times when I'm trying to use a device like these, I'm over thinking it. Then I'll realize, "Oh, it's that easy?" It might take me a few days to realize like I'm doing too much; it's very basic, turn it on and that's damn near it. Turn it on, pick it up, point your songs at it.
Do you ever use any music apps on your iPod?
Definitely. More for my iPad and iPod Touch though -- I just use my iPhone for a phone. I got all three: iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. For apps, there's BeatMaker if you need something that's a full and consummate D.A.W. (Digital Audio Workstation) -- that's probably the best thing you can get right now. I'm waiting for this one celled Auria, but it's taking a long time for it to come out. That's supposed to be like the next level. Until then I fool with BeatMaker. That's more like an MPC but kitted out, like kiddie programming and sequencing that works.
What's meant to be better about Auria?
It's definitely more advanced. It's more of a full on D.A.W., like if you've been using [Ableton] Live but on the iPad. They tried getting there -- I think Meteor is very good and the closest they've got -- but Auria is supposed to be even closer that that. And they let you use V.S.T. plugins. It's not the same ones that's on the computer, but they figured out a way to convert it so you do have some of the plug-ins you have on the iPad. That's amazing to me. I don't care how they made it happen, that's the next level, that's what I need!
Have you ever released a song you made using an app?
I don't make full songs on there, and the things that I'm talking about is pretty much why. I might use an app for an instrument or for a part of the song. But then I haven't really dabbled in it enough. Now I'm good enough in BeatMaker where I think I could make a beat with it and use it as the basis of a song.
Do you ever play games on your iPhone or iPad?
I'm playing a game right now.
Alien Hominid. It's about an alien running form the Secret Service. You've got to kill him, capture him, like a cartoon kinda game. I just started playing it. Monsters Ate My Condo is the game I play a lot too, and another game is IronWorm.
Did you ever get into Angry Birds?
Nah, not really. I was late on that and when I seen what kind of game it was... I need something with a little more activity. I like arcade games and action games.
Talking about the new record with Parallel Thought, Attractive Sin, how did you first hook up with those guys?
I found those cats through working with Tame One [formerly of The Artifacts]. It was through him. We started sending music back and forth, and that's pretty much how it started.
You have a song on the album called "1520 Sedgewick," after the place where Kool Herc held the first hip-hop party. Can you remember the first old school rap song you heard?
The very first song was like Sugarhill Gang, of course, but as time passed my friends and older siblings, they had other stuff like a Run-DMC or a Grandmaster Flash, and at that point they started playing more stuff on the radio. But the one that was my favorite was Afrika Bambaataa's "Renegades Of Funk." That was the one that got me, because for one, I already knew what funk was, and then the renegades part appealed to me. Then the video had the urban scenery. From there, Run-DMC was probably that one that really stuck in my mind -- those dudes is the realest to me -- and Melle Mel is still one of the dopiest rappers to me. He's raw. Melle Mel is like some advanced lyricist to me. These fools is geniuses! It's the next level! That's what really got me into it.
I remember trying to imitate what Run-DMC was doing and trying to incorporate my own routines into their songs. Then after that, I'd have to say Kool Keith from Ultramagnetic MCs. Kool Keith was the first one I really heard who was rapping like I wanted to rap. Other rappers was saying normal stuff, but Kool Keith was like whatever came in his mind, he incorporated that. Him and Just-Ice, too, 'cause he was a fool too. Just-Ice was pretty crazy with it.
Some of Kool Keith's lyrics can be quite abstract. Is there anything he's rapped that you still haven't' figured out?
Nah, I feel like I always know the direction he's going. Sometimes it takes a long time 'cause there's so much stuff flying by, but see, I think along the same lines as Kool Keith. If you talking about crushing about somebody -- and that's pretty much the default meaning behind most rappers -- no matter what you're saying that's the reference.
What's your favorite Kool Keith alias?
I mean, to me, they're all Kool Keith -- he's just coming from a different angle. That's just his vehicle to do that. I like Kool Keith 'cause he really be telling the truth about what's happening in the music industry and the personality types. It's real funny to me. Not everybody goes that far when they talk about that stuff.
I was just talking to Kool Keith earlier. I don't know if he was giving me advice or just going off, but he was basically like, "Do what you wanna do, because people will try and tell you that you got to fit this mold, but then you can't get out of it. So you go over there and do what you want to do." But, I mean, my personal advice would be to learn something about the music, 'cause at this point you got to at least learn some theory. You're in the music business and you don't know about music?
You mentioned being inspired by Run-DMC routines. Can you remember the first time you performed live?
I was rapping at school all the time, I was known for that. But like a real performance? It was at the roller rink up here, in San Leandro, with Rodney O & Joe Cooley back in the day. I used to work with someone -- The Beat Fixer [Pierre James] -- who used to work with Too $hort. And you know who else was there? Spice 1, he was there. This was before he was Spice 1, I think. [Pauses] Or I think he was named Spice 1 then. This was the infancy. Everyone was like, we're the rap guys, we're just kinda starting out.
What do you remember about that show at the roller rink?
I was mad 'cause we wasn't getting paid! I think they said they'd give us $200 and then they never came through. I do remember that part -- I was mad about that.