Del the Funky Homosapien

Golden Era

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Despite its well-documented tendencies toward brand-name fetishism, programmatic bling, and all manner of ridiculously conspicuous consumption, hip-hop culture is nowhere near as concerned with conformity and boundary maintenance as many musical traditions are. (Want to get in a real fight? Start a conversation with some bluegrass musicians about what constitutes "real" bluegrass.) Hip-hop is, in fact, quite a big tent, and that fact has made it possible for any number of eccentrics and even borderline maniacs to make a comfortable living while challenging virtually everything that hip-hop has traditionally been thought to stand for. Sometimes they do it by implication, by folding and spindling and mutilating the music's traditional forms and structures, and sometimes they do it by precept, calling out those who make it their business to establish and patrol the boundaries. "This is dedicated to the haters and the novices," spits Del tha Funky Homosapien on his latest solo tour de force, "who always want to argue about what hip-hop is." And it's no surprise that he should be offended by them, since on this three-disc set he ranges all over the borderlands that separate hip hop from its clubbier cousins. His beats are at times hard and propulsive ("Double Barrel," "Break the Bank"), at others either swaggering ("DZI Funk") or bustling ("Sheen and Glow"), and sometimes they lean precariously close to a sort of synthetic disco (this tendency is especially noticeable on the third disc in the set, titled Funk Man). The one constant is his lyrical flow, which is both nimble (note the constant stream of rhythmic displacements on "Calculate," and the fact that he never stumbles or loses either the rhythmic or rhetorical thread) and frequently surprising ("Raw" contains what may be the first instance of the word "loathsome" in a hip-hop song). Is there some filler? No. There are stronger moments and weaker ones, but there is not a single skit, throwaway interlude, or intro or outro. There is not a single moment of goofing off. Just two-and-a-half hours and 34 tracks (including two hidden bonuses at the end of the third disc) of solid rhyming and beatmaking, most of them excellent, some of them brilliant, a handful of them merely good. That's quite a batting average.

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