Our digital age, where music can be shared and enjoyed in countless, previously unimaginable ways (anyone else remember going to a “store” to buy a “cd”?), is proving to be an embarrassment of riches. Sure, the artists (rightfully) complain that they’re not getting paid, and there is much work to be done on that front, but well-known artists continue to release free, top-quality tracks, mixtapes, and even albums. One such music surprise came on January 2nd, when Del the Funky Homosapien released Iller Than Most for free by posting it on SoundCloud with the message: “This is a new FREE LP that is futuristic and fun – but still on some hip-hop shit. Lyrically ill but fun to listen to, nothing super heavy. I did the production on it as well. Hope y’all enjoy it, peace.”
True to his word, Iller Than Most opens with an absolute banger. “Leader” wastes no time developing a driving percussive engine, as a keening emergency siren provides the melodic backbone. Against this aggressive backdrop, Del takes up vocal arms against “the supposed dictator of the free world of rap.” As he eviscerates industry fakers who are “sitting back, collecting off another’s work,” the tell-tale rise and fall of Del’s incantatory flow reels, as reliable and beguiling as ever.
In “Militant”, Del notes, “I never dumb down, you either get it or gyrate.” That’s a pretty solid synapsis of Del’s rhyme-style. He has a flair for dramatic, tongue-twisting verses that can alternate between nonsense, mythology, and vicious insults. All elements are at play on Iller Than Most. The most consistent theme, appearing again and again, are Del’s tirades against industry wonks and haters — certainly not a new subject in hip-hop or Del’s oeuvre, but there seems to be a fresh edge of anger, as if Iller Than Most is primarily a vehicle for Del to air some recent rap world grievances.
As Del mentions in his statement, he produced this album, and his work here is excellent. Perhaps more rappers should try producing their own work; who knows the intricacies of a particular flow better than the rapper himself? For example, “Bitin’ Ain’t Samplin” shows Del experimenting with raw, industrial sounds to remarkable effect. Various whirring, clatters, and shouted choruses twist into a coherent whole as Del rhymes effortlessly over the top. Perhaps now that he has the Deltron and Hieroglyphics itches scratched, he’s wilding out a bit, stretching both his producing and lyrical wings.
A veteran of the rap game, Del has had a peculiar career marked by both impressive highs and a string of albums that never made a splash. His work on Deltron 3030 and his collaboration with Gorillaz made his voice one of the most iconic of the ’00s. Yet none of his solo releases has ever enjoyed a fraction of the same success. It is no insult to say that Iller Than Most falls into the latter category, a consistent and fun record that, unfortunately, lacks a single likely to break into the cultural landscape of the ’10s. Considering this is the third album that Del has dropped in the span of a year, Del shows no signs of slowing his creative output as he nears O.G. status, rather pushing himself in ways he never has before.
Essential Tracks: “Leader”, “Bitin’ Ain’t Samplin”, and “Militant”