The last time you may have heard Del Tha Funky Homosapien rap was as the cartoon ghost Del on The Gorillaz‘ smash 2001 single “Clint Eastwood.” More astute observers may have caught Del on a pair of Hieroglyphics albums and a guest verse here and there, but for the most part, he’s been M.I.A. since his 2000 release Both Sides of the Brain. Now on Definitive Jux, the Oakland native is back with his trademark eclectic taste in sounds and rhymes.
The album starts off a little slowly with “Raw Sewage,” a relatively forgettable song that has Del sounding like he’s on autopilot with his flow. Things pick up immediately on the next track though, as Del‘s trademark charisma shines on “Bubble Pop,” though the chorus is absolutely horrendous: “Why do you think you are all that? ‘Cuz you ain’t.” “Situations” features a little more lyrical flavor than the previous songs, and is full of creative imagery: “That goes for those who feel they so elite/So weak, about how shit’s supposed to be/Y’all dopes to me, sit back and insultin’ me/But you don’t get more votes than me/I outshine, you don’t generate as many volts as me/Still, I could cut the lights – I’m low-key.”
“Str8t Up and Down” is an exercise in creativity, as the appropriately named song has Del‘s flow and inflection fluctuating over the bounce of the beat. Following this, Ladybug Mecca shows up for “I Got You,” and displays an excellent chemistry with Del. The album then closes out on a high note with the humorous “Funkyhomosapien” on which he proclaims, “I’ll let y’all be the judge, you can call me whatever you want/I just come to give the pleasure with funk.”
The production on 11th Hour (mostly produced by Del) is really a mixed bag. “Naked Fonk” features an irritating piano loop, and “Bubble Pop” reuses possibly the most played sample in Hip Hop – Bob James‘ “Take Me to the Mardi Gras.” Yes, it’s a classic sample, but not only has it been flipped dozens of times before, but it’s been flipped much better (“Rock the Bells,” anyone?). It isn’t all bad, though, as tracks like “Slam Dunk” and “Foot Down” are both provide spaced-out sound that are tailor-made to Del‘s train of thought style of rhymes, while “Situations” and “Hold Your Hand” showcase his ability to sound smooth and funky. Unfortunately, the presence of so much below-average production makes the album drag, and make the experience far from cohesive.
Overall, 11th Hour is underwhelming. Del continues his penchant for bringing unusual flows on even more unusual beats, and solidifies the claim that he is indeed one of the most unique emcees in the game; however, there’s no denying that he’s sounded more interested and engaging. It seems as though the more grand and strange the musical backdrop, the more Del reaches into the depths of his persona to pull out something truly outrageous and new. If that’s the case, maybe the sounds on 11th Hour are to blame for his unusually forgettable performance.