[Interview] Del – From Gangstas To Gorillaz (Part I)
In anticipation of his new album Attractive Sin with production duo Parallel Thought, Del spoke with Hip-Hop Authority’s Matt Wright about his entire career. From his first album to Hiero to the Gorillaz, no topic was left off of the table. Additionally, we spoke to Parallel Thought about their work with Del on his new album and their history: http://hiphopauthority.com/interview-parallel-thought-sinfully-good-production/
HHA: How did you first get together with Parallel Thought?
Del: I hooked up with them through Tame One; they produced the album that me and Tame One did, Parallel Uni-Verses. They was already working with Tame, and they liked my work when I was working with Tame, so I was talking with Adam from Parallel Thought. I was talking with him quite a bit, and we just hit it off, and he sent me some beats. I started working on some stuff and it became a whole project.
HHA: Which tracks do you view as personal standouts on the new album?
Del: The one about the youth center in the Bronx
HHA: 1520 Sedgwick
Del: Yeah, that’s definitely a standout one.
HHA: What lead you conceptually to coming up with that track?
Del: You know what, I read about it, and I seen the t-shirts; they have t-shirts for it.
HHA: The Sedgwick & Cedar line?
Del: Yeah, it was a while ago; maybe a couple of years ago. It just struck me, you know what I’m saying? So I’m a write something about it. It was pretty much that simple. Obviously it’s important to me.
HHA: It’s the cornerstone of hip-hop. For you personally, what was the first time you heard hip-hop?
Del: How could I explain it? It just kind of creeped in, you know? Let me explain it like this – out here, we didn’t call it hip-hop. If it was kind of funky, we just said that was the beat. That could be on anything. There was stuff like “Double Dutch Bus” out around the time. “Alligator Woman” by Cameo was out, a couple of George Clinton tracks was out –“Atomic Dog” was out around the time. They weren’t rap songs, but they was kind of meshed in with the hip-hop.
Africa Bambaataa was one of the first dudes I heard. “Renegades of Funk” was like the one song that hella stood out to me. “Renegades of Funk,” I felt that for some reason. Just the whole theme, the video –I like the video because it had graffiti in it and shit. But the one song that really really stood out to me, and made me trip off of it, had to be “The Message.” When I heard “The Message,” I used to just love that song cuz everything he was rapping about I could just see. Like all that shit they was talking about, I seen that every day. That was the first time I heard somebody saying some shit like that in a song; I thought you couldn’t do that.
But what really made me want to rap –this was when I was in elementary school- my boy at the time, his older brother was just hella hip. He had anime figures, anime comics -and this was before anybody even knew about that shit- hella comic books and shit. Like he used to collect comic books; this was before anybody ever collected comic books having plastic on them and shit like that. But he was also up on old records too, so he had Run-D.M.C. and all this shit. So, Run-D.M.C. was the first muthafuckas I heard that I said, ‘Okay, I want to do this shit.’ The song was “Sucker MCs,” and what made it stand out to me so much was just the beat. I was like, ‘Damn, that’s it? It’s just a beat?’ It was so hard to me. That was the hardest I ever heard any song. Like funk was kinda stripped down, but that was even funkier than funk was. So, that’s what really got me into rapping; I wanted to emulate them fools.
HHA: Ice Cube is your cousin, how did you first find out about his involvement with the music?
Del: I’ve known him since we was small children, so when I first started getting into hip-hop he was getting into it too. We kind of have the same type of taste, we kind of have similar personalities –he’s kind of one of my move favorite cousins. A lot of my family live in L.A., but he’s one of the dudes that when I went out there I was trying to find out where he was at and trying to kick it with him. He’s a little bit older than me though, but I knew what he was doing. He had a group in high-school called C.I.A., so C.I.A. was basically the beginning of N.W.A. Jinx was in that group with Ice Cube, and Jinx was my mentor too, and that’s also Dr. Dre’s cousin I think. Jinx would stay right across the street from my cousin, aunt, and shit, so they was over there; everybody knew each other. I didn’t know Dre but I knew Jinx. They went to school together, so that was their group, and Kay-Dee was in the group too. They did a little something around, but I think Dre must have peeped, ‘Oh okay, this fool Cube is kind of raw.’ Eazy came and started all that shit with Ruthless Records and shit and was like, ‘Oh, let me fuck with Cube, he raw,’ and just pulled him into it.
He knew that I could rap too, because that’s all we used to do. Like little kid shit when Fat Boys came out, and all this other stuff came out, we would try to blanket it. But I was on some other shit. I think he more –well, he was from L.A., so that’s kind of a different culture out there- but I was on some other shit. I was on some Ultramagnetic MCs here and some other crazy shit. He more like the EPMD, Public Enemy –which I like them dudes too, they like my favorite dudes too- but I was on some other other shit, like some lyrical shit. Not saying he wasn’t, but I was deeper into it I think. So that’s how that was formulating.
What made me really start bugging him was when he came out with “Dope Man,” and I heard “Dope Man” on the radio actually. I was like, ‘You got to fuck with me.’ I start bugging him, and he’s like ‘Whatever man, whatever,’ kind of not tripping. He know I could bust, but I don’t think he thought I was serious or whatever. I started fooling with Jinx, and Jinx was pretty much mentoring me, getting me ready. Jinx was just thinking I’m raw. Like I come down to L.A., and you need somebody to rap or whatever, and I got raps on deck if you want to do a new song. He was pulling teeth trying to do songs and I would do one hella quick like, ‘Damn this dudes a monster, I need to fuck with him for real!’ He started fucking with me like hella tough, you know what I’m saying? So a lot of me coming up in this shit, I owe a lot of that to Jinx cuz he showed me a lot of shit.
HHA: The West Coast at the time was perceived as the home of gangsta rap. You came out with Hiero around the same time as Pharcyde, Tha Alkaholiks, and some other artists that started to change people’s perceptions. How did you view the idea of your cousin making one type of music, and you making a type that most view as alternative, or what would come to be known as backpacker hip-hop later on?
Del: I don’t really see no difference, and back then I didn’t see no difference neither. I’ll say it like this, I started going to this school –James Logan High-School in Freemont- this school was a tight school, but it was like a Saved By The Bell type school. Like they had big football –like I never seen any school like this –like they took out time from class for school rallies and stuff like that. I’m like, ‘Damn, you actually get time out of your class to go to a rally? Like what is this? You don’t just cut out and leave and never come back? You just really go to the rally?’ But these kids up here, when N.W.A. came out, they really tripping off it like, ‘Man, they talking about shotguns,’ and whoopty woo! That wasn’t shocking to me, but to them that was something brand new like, ‘Oh my God! This isn’t just rap, this is something else.’ That wasn’t the first time I heard muthafuckas talk about shit like that, so I wasn’t even tripping.
Just-Ice was a gangsta of hip-hop hella before that. Schooly D was doing some gangsta shit too, and them fools was talking about beating fools down or whatever. Kool G Rap too was talking about hella shit like chopping up fools. That wasn’t the first time I heard something like that, it was just from a West Coast perspective; from an L.A. perspective. They got gangs in L.A., and I been in L.A. hella times, so I knew that’s what they rap about because that’s what’s out here, but the rest of the world didn’t know that that was going on. It was like a secret, but they kept that shit on the low, but it was popping; it was hella bad out there. So it started leaking when N.W.A. came out with they records, but basically that was informing everybody about what was really going on.
That’s how I look at that, it wasn’t shocking to me or my click, but we do shit different. Like up here we don’t gangbang. Like muthfuckas get shot up for dope or whatever –fucking with somebody’s money, you might get shot up- but we ain’t banging up here in no colors or nothing like that. So it’s a different climate. But muthafuckas rap about that, and Too Short was out up here, but we just hit it from a different perspective based on what we listened to and what influenced us. We was listening to shit like Ultramagnetic, or EPMD, or whatever; we was on some hip-hop shit. That’s what affected us. We could have went the other way –we had the same experiences- but we just chose to talk about it in a different way.
HHA: Once you guys came out you were embraced by the East Coast. There were several articles and interviews in The Source.
Del: Bobbito too
HHA: Stretch & Bobbito. What was it like being embraced by the East at a time when the mix shows were mainly 90 to 95 percent East Coast, with a couple of West Coast things like Cypress Hill or Pharcyde thrown in?
Del: You know what, it felt good but I didn’t really look at it like East Coast and West Coast. I was looking at it like if you making the type of stuff that muthafuckas want to hear, than muthafuckas will fuck with you. I never thought the East Coast was fronting on something that wasn’t tight. It just wasn’t hella shit coming out from the West Coast that was really on it like that. It was coming out fo the East, so after a while, as time progressed, muthafuckas learned how to do this shit better. Like, ‘Okay, that’s the way you freak it. I’m feeling it better now to the point where I don’t have to just repeat what you all are doing.’ Because before muthafuckas would just do what they were doing out there. And then after time progressed you learn how to flip it and bounce it a little bit. So by the time we got out there it was all love. I was just appreciative of everybody respecting what we was doing –they felt us and didn’t think we was biting on no weak shit.
HHA: You all got dropped at the same time from your labels. What was going on at the time? Were you still recording a lot? Like I would read in The Bomb Hip-Hop Magazine that some of you were working at record stores, is that correct?
Del: I was working at Leopold’s before it got took out like all the other record stores around got took out. I was working there for a minute. Ain’t no shame in my game. I had jobs before I started rapping, matter of fact I had a few jobs. It didn’t help me, like the money I got paid still wasn’t enough to pay the rent, but it was a good experience where I had fun doing it. People was just geeking off seeing me like, ‘That’s Del!’ It was damn near an attraction, like fools be coming in just to holler at me. But I was actually helpful because I knew about the music. Somebody come in –like The Roots just came out- and they looking for something kinda cool and kinda hip-hop but not too off the chain, ‘Well Roots just came out. They playing The Roots right now. This might be up your alley.’ ‘Okay okay, damn I never heard these dudes.’ I knew what was going on, so I just help a muthfucka out who was looking for a certain type of shit; I knew where to go. That was fun for me, and I’m around music all day, so that job was super easy for me.
Next week with Part II, Del discusses making Hiero one of the main crews on the internet in the early days, creating the Hieroglyphics collective albums and whether there will be a third one, touring, and much more. Join us next Tuesday for part II.