By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star
Many music fans causally attach the phrase “golden era” to a nostalgic entry point or a favorite genre style. But the music of Del the Funky Homosapien truly represents a lost period of hip hop, before rap was the CNN of the streets or a gangsta’s paradise.
A 20-year veteran, Del’s music eschews many of hip hop’s biggest clichés to focus on more light-hearted topics such as personal hygiene, the public transit system and friends who overstay their welcome.
As such, Del’s sold-out, one-hour set at the Riot Room on Saturday night was refreshingly devoid of social commentary or macho posturing. His humble mission to have fun and start a party was an energetic success.
Del threw his syncopated punch lines like a fighter, bouncing on his heels with each syllable as if sparring with his mic. His set included classics like “Mistadobalina” and “Dr. Bombay” from his 1991 debut album, but newer tracks like “Foot Down” and “Get It Right Now” show Del’s wit and delivery haven’t slowed down. The hilarious “If You Must” (sample lyric: “this fool’s breath, I mean so bad it’ll melt your ice cream”) was another memorable moment.
Backed by DJ Zac Hendrix and MC Bukue One – whose lengthy set together immediately preceded Del’s – the headliner at times seemed the smallest of the three personalities onstage. As Bukue handled the between-song banter, Del often briefly retreated to lean against a speaker at the back of the stage until it was time for the next song.
Despite allowing him to play the wallflower, Bukue and Hendrix were good foils for Del. Both performers kept the mood light and the crowd moving. At one point, both MCs exchanged freestyles as Hendrix changed up the beats after each turn. One of samples in Hendrix’ arsenal was a snippet of an Isley Brothers song employed by Del’s cousin Ice Cube on his hit “It Was a Good Day.”
After a short dance interlude and Bukue’s puzzling impersonation of Digital Underground’s Shock G during a cover of “Humpty Dance,” Del returned with two tracks that showed despite his comedic tendencies, he is a serious artist. A song from the acclaimed “Deltron 3030” project lead into “Clint Eastwood,” the Gorillaz’ single that featured Del and briefly elevated him out of the underground.
For Del, the golden age is now. It’s the title he bestowed on his new three-disc release and singing along to the familiar chorus about “sunshine in a bag” it’s not hard to agree.
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