Underground Essentials | Del the Funky Homosapien
The funkiest homo sapien to grace the hip hop underground was born in 1991 Oakland as Teren Delvon Jones. With family ties to the game like his cousin Ice Cube, and west coast boom bap blooming around L.A. and Oakland, Teren quickly became involved in the rap scene. Raised around soulful and African music, he developed a love for music at a young age, and would go on to be an iconic artist in his own right. Laid back tongue twisting with a deep vocabulary came easy to the teenager, beginning his journey by writing for Ice Cube and his crew. It was only a matter of time before he set off on his own, itching to show the world his art and personality.
A Funky Debut
Del the Funky Homosapien (as he went by on stage) got his wish when at age 18 the opportunity arose for him to release his own project. I Wish My Brother George Was Here dropped in 1991, debuting his talents under his own name for the first time. Ice Cube played a major role, offering production and connections to get the album out there. The hit “Mistadobalina” quickly racked up numbers, providing him the exposure that he needed to continue his run. Although happy with the success of the project, Del felt that he needed more diverse instrumentation going forward. He cut loose Ice Cube and began growing his network and working on his own skills. No Need For Alarm was his second album, arriving in 1993. This was his opportunity to show the world that he could handle a variety of beats, rapping over orchestral elements and compressed drums with his signature flow.
Homosapiens and Hieroglyphics
Gaining momentum from his success, the Funky Homosapien hit his first bump in the road when his label Elektra notified him that his contract was being terminated. Bad enough in and of itself, the timing was made worse by the fact that his newest album Future Development was nearly ready for release. With the grit that only someone with a vision can muster, he gathered his connections and launched Hieroglyphics Imperium Recordings in 1995. This would prove to be a valuable move for his career, as the Hieroglyphics crew collaborated for their 1998 group album 3rd Eye Vision. More albums would come from the group, namely Full Circle and The Kitchen in 2003 and 2013, respectively.
The turn of the century was only another chapter in Del’s story, bringing with it a host of albums. He rang in the 2000’s with the album Both Sides of the Brain, which was released to decent commercial success. The standout project that year ended up being the group collaboration Deltron 3030, a jointly created album by the Funky Homosapien, Kid Koala, and Dan the Automator. This is one of those underground albums that stands the test of time, still looked at today as a great, critically acclaimed record. This boosted Del’s image and gained him an even larger following than he had already accumulated.
Without Missing a Beat
Not one to cash out and dip just because he’s on top, Del the Funky Homosapien continued to work on putting out great raps with quality content. Every year from 2008 to 2011 found him dropping new albums. Towards the latter end of this run, he began to sell his albums with a pay-what-you-want model. This allowed him to continue to create art without the stress of trying to make a “successful” project. 2010’s It Ain’t Illegal Yet is a great example, where paying larger amounts would garner perks such as signed memorabilia or personal meetups. Years and years later he would drop a mixtape on Soundcloud by the moniker Zartan Drednaught COBRA, but as of now his last big release would be The Golden Era, a three-disk set including the previous Funk Man (The Stimulus Package) and Automatik Statik albums.
Del the Funky Homosapien carved out his own space in the hip hop landscape. While his style may have not been built for the entire population, his hottest songs gained him the notoriety and respect that he deserved. A beacon of hope for many underground artists that followed in his steps, his indie-like releases and independent label ownership frame him as the epitome of the underground. Conscious, lighter-hearted, and undeniably skilled bars paired with his talented production long ago earned this man a spot in Underground Essentials.
If you’re interested in what other artists are essential for our underground ears, take a look at last week’s feature on Pharoahe Monch, and stay tuned for more!