Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Deltron 3030 - Deltron 3030
My last few reviews have dealt with rather dark albums, so naturally I wanted to listen to something more light-hearted. Thus, my thoughts turned to Deltron 3030, a collection of futuristic hip-hop songs featuring Gorillaz collaborators Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Dan The Automator, and noted turntablist Koala The Kid, as well as a handful of other producers and lyricists (such as Prince Paul, founder of the hip-hop skit) making short guest appearences. Deltron 3030 is a concept album focusing on the exploits of Deltron Zero and his crewmates in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity has finally been forced off planet Earth into the impersonal chill of outer space. As expected, outer space is far from a perfect place, as society has become corrupted through increased government oppression, but unlike other futuristic-aimed albums (Bigg Jus' "Poor People's Day" album comes to mind), the tone is often optimsitic (or at the very least humorously cynical).
The overall production of the album is meticulous, with techno elements usually prominent, along with a grab-bag of sci-fi sound FX, several spoken word clips, and many different turntablist elements (including a few instances of Del's older albums being scratched). In keeping with the futuristic theme, Del raps are almost entirely composed of very complex clusters of futuristic references, often taking the form of elaborate stories (in "Battle Song", detailing an actual battle fought in outer space). Lyrically, they serve well in setting the mood, as long as you do not mind the fact that 90% of them are probably tongue-in-cheek.
While a few songs ("Virus", "Upgrade") explicitly focus on technological aspects, the majority of the songs explore the various aspects encountered living in the year 3030. The song "3030" serves as a good introduction to the basis of the album, illustrating the exploits of Deltron and evading the police whilst confounding the general populace. "Time Keeps On Slipping" is (as Del himself states) incredibly funky with a groovy bass and hi-hat bed (as well as making the connection between them and Gorillaz instantly clear). Meanwhile, "Turbulence" tells a brooding tale of mutant rats, corrupt politicians, tracking chips, and floating educational facilities and "Love Song" is a humorous story of Deltron's fortunes finally reversing for the better ("Yo...I just won 10 grand in the Galactic Rhyme Federation championship, so I'm laughing a bit").
A notable exception to this trend is the song "Madness", in which Del laments the deplorable situation of music in the year 3030, even though many of the situations he describes are sadly true in the present. A good summary of his feelings can be found in this verse:
"I must appeal to you people with your faculties
Cuz everybody else is gonna laugh at me
People try to get over and take a crack at me
The universe is one and I can see what rap can be glorious
Put in the Smithsonium my podiums for holy hymns
But you see whos controlling them
F**k myself off cuz of the egotistical mode I'm in
No I can't slap you no five"
This and the verses that follow paint an incredibly melancholic experience, even though it is quite emotional as well. These are also broken up by the sung chorus "I'm caught in the grip of the city...madness", an apt description of the feel presented by the song.
This is far from a perfect record, and the main reason for this is in the prevalence of smaller "skit" tracks present in the album: nine of the twenty one tracks are under a minute in length and are largely unneccesary when considering the album as a whole. Also, while Del's delivery is (as usual) quite good, his lyrics are almost purposefully over-technical and obtuse on occasion.
Despite this, Deltron 3030 is a high-spirited glimpse into a possible future of hip-hop and the planet, galaxies removed from the cliches and staples that currently oversaturate the hip-hop/rap genres. Currently, there are rumours that a second Deltron 3030 album is in the works (from statements made by Kid Koala). Awesome, but next time, let's leave the skits at home, and let the music fully speak for itself.
Dan The Automator