Del the (Funky?) Homosapien – The Eleventh Hour

First, some new business: this week’s tagline is brought to you by pure science. It’s inspired by an experiment at Harvey Mudd that I’ll refer to as The Measure of a Man, where “the measure” is determined by water displacement in Nalgene bottles. Over booze and video games Friday night, a friend suggested that you could never use that Nalgene bottle again. I merely suggested (per this week’s tagline) that there might be one or two good reasons to keep a cocked up Nalgene bottle around.

Now then. Del the Funky Homosapien has a new album, his first for Definitive Jux (my favorite hip-hop label, by the way). It’s called The Eleventh Hour and it’s… it’s…

Look. I eagerly anticipated this album. My track record for eagerly-anticipated albums is actually pretty good. Consider: I eagerly anticipated the last two Tom Waits records and they were awesome. I eagerly anticipate every Hold Steady album and they are consistently excellent. I eagerly anticipated a new Atmosphere album this year (I still do, in fact) and Slug and Ant went ahead and gave the world a whole free album (Strictly Leakage which is strictly awesome – and it’s free. Go get it. Now) just to tide us over. Okay, I did eagerly anticipate Around the Sun by R.E.M., but nobody’s perfect.

So maybe I’m doomed by my own expectations here but I’m kinda feeling like The Eleventh Hour is my Around the Sun for 2008. To be fair, I’d rather listen to The Eleventh Hour than Around the Sun (and I’m a huge R.E.M. fan), but still. It’s been forever since Del released new music and his back catalog is a compelling argument for high expectations.

The Eleventh Hour starts off with some guy asking Oakland if they want to rock. Apparently, he can’t hear Oakland and he asks them if they want to rock. Well, if they do, they should skip album opener “Raw Sewage” and go straight to “Bubble Pop,” which is a pretty good track up until the forced laughter on the outro.  That forced laughter bugs the shit out of me, really. This is the guy whose flow on “Clint Eastwood” by Gorillaz was both effortless and relentless. Consult any of Del’s previous albums for other examples of this. What the hell is an MC of Del’s caliber doing faking laughter on the end of one of his tracks? It’s disturbing, but it’s a solid indicator of things to come. Most of the first half of The Eleventh Hour has some pretty decent beats but some jaw-droppingly lackadaisical line delivery.

Part of the problem here is that the Eleventh Hour finds Del lyrically going to the same well a million lesser MC’s have dipped dry – discussions of his own lyrical prowess and songs about bitches and ho’s. He’s the guy who rapped about hijacking a Mech on Deltron 3030, one of the best hip-hop (or non-hip-hop) albums ever.  Someone asked MF Doom if he made a conscious choice not to swear on 2005’s The Mouse and the Mask (w/ Danger Mouse) and he pointed out that he was trying to do something different than he’d done before. This is perhaps best illustrated in the line from DangerDoom’s “Vats of Urine” – “Everybody’s talkin’ ’bout pistols/ gats is borin’/came with a new topic to flip ya/ vats of urine”.

Shit. See? I’m so bored with The Eleventh Hour that I’ve resorted to talking about an entirely different hip-hop album in the middle of my review. (Seriously, though, The Mouse and the Mask was a good album). As I write this, I’m on probably my 20th trip through this album (I like to listen to everything several times before I write about it, with the exception of Doughty’s Golden Delicious, which I should have listened to more before heaping much praise upon it), I’m seven tracks in and I don’t care about anything I’ve heard so far.  “I Got You” is the best song on the album and it comes at track 12, so I might hold on long enough to hear it, but I dunno… I kinda want to hear DangerDoom now.

The real problem with The Eleventh Hour is that I don’t feel like Del was as excited to be back as his fans probably are to have him back. “I Got You” is the only song on the album where he sounds like he’s got some spirit and that’s a real shame. I hope that it won’t be years and years before his next album because I know he’s still got good music in him – The Eleventh Hour is just far too timid a step back onto the stage for an MC as talented as Del the Funky Homosapien.


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