Some say hip hop is dead, but with events like Red Bull EmSee and rap legends like Del The Funky Homosapien still dropping albums, it seems hip hop may still have some life to it.
Hip-hop purists know about Del The Funky Homosapien. They know his top albums, his role in founding The Hieroglyphics, his artwork, and of course, ‘Mistadobalina.’ But most don’t know that he’s still going strong after 20 years in the music business with new songs and ideas.
When Red Bull EmSee: The Road to 8 Mile stopped by Del’s hometown of the Bay Area, they made sure he was on the scene judging and performing, a testament to his legendary music career. We sat down with him to catch up on what he’s been up to and find out what it takes to succeed in EmSee--aspiring MCs, please take note.
Your early music videos, along with your extensive music catalog, were ahead of its time. Do you have a couple of favorites that still impresses you today?
I don’t particular enjoy doing videos actually. But ‘Get it Right Now’ and ‘Workin It’ are really one of my favorites. Of course, I also love ‘Sleepin’ on My Couch’ and ‘Dr. Bombay.’
Michael Lucero directed those videos. They were groundbreaking at the time. He had innovative ideas that were later copied by other directors. He’s not with us anymore. But those videos definitely helped launched my career--those are my staples.
Other staples in your career also include founding The Hieroglyphics. Can you tell me how you feel about being the godfather of such a legendary crew?
Ambivalent. I know how I feel about it. It was the same as it was when we started. It is what it is. The world finally got to see what we can do.
But I don’t want to get stuck in that position and be some mythical figure that can’t breathe or move. I’m still moving, you feel me? I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m still moving.
The third-eye logo was also your creation, and its concept is still being rapped about by artists like Dilated Peoples and Talib Kweli. What was the theory behind that logo?
I was into the whole counter-culture thing from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, even though I was brought up in a different era. I got into a lot--I related closely to that era. I also studied graphic design, so I used the counter-culture idealism into the logo.
I wanted to do the something similar to the happy face, but I wanted to do more to it. Circle for the face, a straight line for the mouth, and three eyes. The third eye is the mind’s eye--your consciousness, a higher level of thought.
I actually drew the original on a napkin, scribbled it on there long before anyone saw it. When I felt it was time, I took it out and show it to the world.
What are you currently listening to now? What’s on your daily rotation?
I really don’t have time to listen to other people’s music. I’m focusing on my own music. I’m trying to be futuristic with it. When I need to get inspired, I listen to funk and listen to music that I can learn from.
From time to time, I do listen to cats like Cam’ron, Lil’ Wayne, and Drake. For underground shit, I like Just Ice. Just Ice is one of my favorite MCs of all time. I also listen to Too Short, and Greg Nice is one of my favorites.
Of course, I listen to Guru. He is a really special dude to me. He was always hella cool and gave me a lot of advice. After he passed, I wanted to absorb everything he did. I’ve been listening to him since high school.
You judged the Red Bull EmSee event in San Francisco, what were you looking for when you judged these aspiring MCs?
I’m looking for creativity, cleverness, and how well they they’re prepared. I’m looking at how well they gather ideas, to see how they save themselves if they fall. It’s all about how well you can hold on to it.
If somebody has five things to rap about, and they only rapped about three things and missed two, but really killed those three--they will get judged higher than someone who did all five things in an average way.
I’m also looking for voice control, breath control, and overall presence. I’m assuming these guys want to take it to the next level, and I’ll be looking at them to see if they’ll be able to be good at being pro.
I’m focusing on my own music. I’m trying to be futuristic with it.
What would you tell these kids who are trying to come up and become someone like you one day? Any advice?
If they don’t win Red Bull EmSee, it’s not the end of the world. This is just good training to see if you’re on point and to sharpen your skills.
On the other hand, if you win, that doesn’t mean it will solve everything either. It might actually turn into a curse. It just all depends on how you parlay it.
Just look at it as a challenge--don’t take it too seriously.
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