Evolution of a Funkee Homosapien

“I’m a pretty funky dude man,” a voice bellows from the other end of the line. It’s low and enthrallingly frog-like. “Unless I’m too tired or too sick that I can’t really pull it out, but even then we try to do a lot.” Del Tha Funkee Homosapien may not know exactly where he is geographically (“We’re headed to the East Coast,” he says), but he knows where he’s going and where he’s been as far as his music is concerned. Despite the popular perception of just being “that rapping cartoon guy in that Gorillaz video,” Del has experienced the ins and outs of the recording industry since 1990 and, after a long minute without an LP, will let loose his atypical rhyming style in “The 11th Hour,” his latest album, which is still in progress. Del’s style is undeniably unique, and his newest album should be a testament to that, but it’s hard for him to call anything “new” at all. “I guess at the very base of it, we’re all human beings,” Del muses. “We’re not going to try to invent a new kind of tire, the one we have is good enough.” He is imultaneously working on “11th Hour” and another disc under his alias Deltron, to be produced by Dan the Automator and Kid Koala. It’s going “slow” according to Del, whose tone speaks volumes. It has been about six years since he has dropped an album on his eager followers, following an unexpected fallout with Elektra Records. And aside from his multiple side projects with Hieroglyphics and Gorillaz, Del has been putting his time and mind to good use. “The best thing I’ve done since then is study music theory,” Del says. “I’ve studied music theory for like seven years.” But while he has studied the concepts and philosophies of music under a teacher, Del says that he really started to understand music by studying on his own. Who needs a mentor? “Honestly, a lot of teachers don’t know what they’re talking about,” Del says gruffly. “The best book I probably read was ‘Lies My Music Teacher Told Me’ by Gerald Eskelin. “It’s…about things you learn in life, even. It’s not just about music.” Del has pointed himself forward with his newfound knowledge and he’ll apply it to every track on “11th Hour” and from now on. It is a conscious evolution of his own style that he says is necessary for survival as a creative and productive artist. “You could’ve asked me like seven years ago, ‘How did you come up with the ideas to make this album?'” Del says. “And I would have said, ‘I don’t know, I just did it.’ So ever since then I was like, ‘I need to figure out what the hell I’m doing.'” This album has to be the bomb or it could be over for Del,” he says. Not to say he’s fretting, but Del points out that if he came out with another album like “Both Sides of the Brain,” it would be “played out.” Del’s articulation of what it takes to be an efficacious and progressive rapper is admirable. In a melee of hip-hop acts, many of which play follow-the-leader, it’s refreshing to hear Del’s stance on self-improvement and individuality. “If I don’t have no control over [my music], who’s to say it’s really music and not just a fluke? That’s how you get a one-hit wonder.” The state of the music industry in general is dictated by record companies’ idea of what’s going to sell, and recording artists, in turn, tend to fall in place and conform to those ideas. Del is trying to find a balance between what the public wants to hear and what conceptions he wants to deposit into the jumbled airspace that is hip-hop. “If [record companies] wouldn’t push it so much and force the industry to be a certain way, then artists…would take more chances,” Del says. “And there’s not too many people that are brave enough to step outside and be like, ‘Well I don’t care if I starve,’ you know what I’m saying?” Del’s voice is a little raspy from a cold he picked up on the road, and he says hoarsely, “Hip-hop grew to be as big as it is now because rhythm is just naturally catchy-an African design based on call and response.” He does a beat box impression with a steady snare on the two and four. “I’m just trying to make some music while I’m out here. I got my computer on right now,” Del says enthusiastically. “I’m just trying to make some music, man.”Del Tha Funkee Homosapien comes to Higher Ground Oct. 22 with A-Plus, Psalm One and Bukue One.