February 14, 2002

Ed's Underground

Print More

Before he started rapping as a giant ape in Gorillaz, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien was the MC for another concept project spearheaded by Dan the Automator. The Automator, always known for his out-there concept projects like Dr. Octagon, Handsome Boy Modeling School, and most recently Gorillaz, reached his peak with 2000’s Deltron album.

Deltron is the rare concept album that tells a coherent story but still puts most of the emphasis on making the music. At times, the Automator’s backing tracks tread closer to a film soundtrack than a rap track, incorporating string sections, organ, and sound effects recorded at a close encounter of the third kind.

After the obligatory rap album introduction track, the LP kicks off with one of its many high points — the epic “3030.” Del drops smooth raps over a choir of voices, elastic drums, and a wiggly guitar part. And Del never lets up, delivering philosophical ruminations and sci-fi storylines with a flawless flow.

“Mastermind” shows off Kid Koala’s scratching skills, giving the track an old-school style that nevertheless sounds fresh. On “Time Keeps on Slipping,” Del spits out words like a nail gun over jazzy, DJ Shadow-esque beats, building to a laidback chorus.

“Things You Can Do” is another excellent cut, starting with a repeating high-pitched sample, leading into a playful groove. By the time the chorus comes around, the track has incorporated multiple layers of beats and samples, with everything melding smoothly together.

This is true on the entire album — half the fun is listening to all the details mixing together to create an original sound. Unlike many rap producers, who are content to just throw a steady backbeat into a track for the MC to rap over, the Automator never lets these songs get stale. This music sounds so ahead of its time that it might as well have actually come from 3030.

Archived article by Ed Howard