When the Gorillaz single “Clint Eastwood” became a major hit in early 2001 thanks in large part to Del Tha Funkee Homosapien’s guest rap, Del was practically the last person to find out about it.
“I didn’t even know how popular it was until a lot of people just started coming up to me in the street and were like ‘Hey man, you got this new song on the radio, blah blah blah.’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about?'” Del recalled.
“They were like ‘Gorillaz, you don’t know?’ and I was like, ‘Oh, yeah. I kinda remember doing that.'” he said. “I didn’t know it was that big, but I got a platinum plaque off of it, so, I’m happy.”
It’s certainly not an understatement to call Del easy going or laid back, but that’s not to say he doesn’t also have his workaholic tendencies. He typically spends hours a day writing, practicing and perfecting hip-hop. It’s this dedication that has helped him maintain a loyal following since his debut album dropped in 1991.
Back then he was a teenage rapper who associated with a network of other artists that would later become his Hieroglyphics crew. They were looking for a break, which ultimately came in the form of Del’s cousin, Ice Cube.
“My cousin just happened to be down with Dre, and then he came out with NWA, and that’s when I started bugging him more,” Del said. “I told myself that if I could get on, then I’d help [the other Hieroglyphics members] get on, to.”
Cube went to produce Del’s debut album, which became a moderate hit. Although the two don’t talk that often, they’re still on good terms.
“He’s pretty large now, and he’s pretty busy, so he has people around him that stop people from getting to him, asking for money or favors or whatever. So I don’t try to call him that much,” Del said.
“I definitely wouldn’t mind working with him again,” he added. “I feel that I could make him something that could put him back on top, or get him even further, because we work real well together. But that’s something where I’ll bring it up if I see him, or if it comes up in conversation or something. I wouldn’t call him up and just be like ‘I wanna do something with you,’ because then I’d be like every other relative he has, calling him up for houses, or cars or a new sofa or whatever. I mean, I got a lot of family in L.A.”
Currently, Del is on tour with Hieroglyphics staples the Souls of Mischief. Two Souls members will be promoting solo releases: Tajai’s album came out this spring, and Opio’s is slated for release early next year. Del is also putting the final touches on his next album, The 11th Hour, which will be released by next summer.
While on surface the record will sound like his last one, 2000’s Both Sides of the Brain – Del’s trademark flow and funk/hip-hop hybrid production haven’t changed – it will also showcase an increased emphasis on music and song-writing.
“A year after Both Sides of the Brain, I decided that I need to polish up on my skills,” Del said. “So, I just went to the lab, brushed up on things and here we are. It’s really up to the people to decide how The 11th Hour compares and whether it’s better, but I think it’s hella better. Honestly, I put a lot of work into it.”