When an 18-year-old Del Tha Funkee Homosapien came on the scene in 1991, hip-hop was still younger than he was, and without many defined blueprints. His cousin Ice Cube had done well for himself inventing gangsta rap with his N.W.A. cronies, well enough to help Del snag a record deal by lending his name as executive producer. Meanwhile on the east coast, artists from the Native Tongues collective like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest were offsetting the harshness of west coast gangstaism with Afro-centric positivity and Blue Note records samples. Informed by both of these two disparate worlds but aspiring to neither entered fresh-faced Del with I Wish My Brother George Was Here. A benchmark debut doused with humor, good-natured wit, and more P-Funk samples than possibly any record before it (even the title is a reference to George Clinton), Brother George brewed up an unprecedented mixture of irreverent fun and funky production values which would make the album a blueprint for underground hip-hop to come. Despite Ice Cube's involvement, Del went off script of the harsh West Coast take on inner city life, opting instead for a more mellow view. Breezy rhymes about deadbeat friends crashing on his couch or the occasional line about shopping at the Gap are supported by liquid basslines and cartoonish impersonations of nasal characters from Parliament songs. Two off-kilter singles, "Mistadobalina" and "Dr. Bombay," meld rolling rhythms with laid-back samples and manage to sound inspired even 20 years later. Revisiting the album with its place in hip-hop history in mind, it becomes apparent that Del was going it alone in every respect. While aided on the record by the still-new Hieroglyphics crew, Del's rhymes are almost always first-person narratives from deep inside a youthful head space of everyday experiences. Whether he's avoiding harassment on the bus ("The Wacky World of Rapid Transit"), dissing Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer through a stoned haze ("Pissin' On Your Steps"), or doing something as banal as walking us through his morning routine ("Sunny Meadowz"), Del is on a solo mission, an almost isolated perspective on party rap where not a single house party or group event gets so much as a mention. The lone wolf underpinnings that flow through this debut would go on to define much of his later career. After laying the groundwork for Souls of Mischief, Pharcyde, Digable Planets, and many others with his first few solo joints, Del would take detours into conceptual interstellar rap-opera territory with his Deltron 3030 album and then cameo on two of the strongest tracks on the first album by Brit-pop/trip-hop sensations Gorillaz before taking long leaves of absence from the public eye. He's clearly been writing his own rules since the beginning, and the lucid dreaming and everyday observations of I Wish My Brother George Was Here are the first and some of the best examples of this, and how wonderful the results can be.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas