When you hear Del talk about the Hieroglyphics crew one point stands out loud and clear, “we’re not just thinking about what we want to express, we’re thinking about what people want to hear, as well.” Maybe this is why Hiero, and Del in particular, have been such fan favorites over the years. Recently Del released “The 11th Hour” DVD as an appetizer for his upcoming album of the same name. Del sat down with us at RapReviews to discuss the DVD, what was going on in his life during the recording of his upcoming album, and how actually learning music and music theory has affected the way he works.
Adam Bernard: Tell me about some of the things you’ve been working on. “The 11th Hour” DVD, and some of the other things.
Del: I just put out the DVD and it’s a documentary, “The 11th Hour.” I’ve got an album coming out of the same name. The DVD has a little footage from the road but it’s more about some of the situation I was in that brought about 11th Hour, or the conditions that I was creating “The 11th Hour” in basically. A lot of it has to do with me studying music theory, a lot of it has to do with personal issues, handling those, plus being on the road, what I do from day to day because I think there was a lot of myths going on behind that.
AB: What were some of the craziest myths?
Del: I’m dead and I smoke crack are probably two of the worst.
AB: How do you think those got started?
Del: People ain’t got nuttin else to do, basically. People talk anyway.
AB: So why “The 11th Hour?” What the significance of the title?
Del: Basically it’s pretty much just saying we don’t have as much control over events as we as humans tend to think we do. You feel me? Because people try to control time more or less now to the point where either everything is automated and we’re using computers now because we as humans can’t even keep up with the output. Things are wanted from us better, faster, stronger, more durable, slicker, whatever you want to say. Now at this point if you don’t have a computer you can’t keep up, it’s impossible. You need some kind of computational device so you can keep up. So I was really just sayin that it’s not up to them to really be like OK you’ve got to get it out now. No, it might not come out now and that’s gotta be OK, because you don’t know what’s gonna happen. I could be dead and then ain’t no more albums coming out. You can’t really plan ahead too much like OK next ten years this album gonna come out. You can’t really say that, or force it out of somebody.
AB: Though a lot of dead artists put out a lot of albums.
Del: Yeah, but that’s what I’m tryin to say, though. It’s like somebody’s trying to force the hand. Tupac is dead but he’s been putting out albums ever since he’s been dead. But like I said, 11th Hour can be either right on time or not on time, either or, depending on the way you want to look at it.
AB: What were you going through when you were writing and creating this album?
Del: Little faith in what I was doing from people surrounding me because it was just different and new. I guess it wasn’t the normal thing as far as what they’d seen. It was kinda changing their scene a little bit and people were probably kinda uncomfortable with having to change their scene. Street shit, basically. Crazy shit. Drama. Trying to keep the dam from bursting, basically. But also throughout that just studying hella hard, not letting the outside things prevent me from studying and trying to get where I was trying to go. I wanted a more consistent album or a more consistent product. I felt before like my product wasn’t really consistent, I covered a lot of bases and I think it was kinda like spacey so I wanted to make it a more solid production all around. I really had to sit back and think about what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be represented as, you feel me?
AB: Is that why you went back to study music?
Del: Well I studied on my own, that’s not really why, it was just a natural progression, so it was my interest that sparked me to do it, really, but at the same time I knew I wouldn’t survive if I didn’t start learning something about music. Everybody that was successful that I was turning around and looking at, from my heroes like Parliament Funkadelic, they are excellent musicians, to The Neptunes nowadays, they’re a group that I really like and they’re highly successful where a lot of people aren’t because they know what they’re doing, same thing with Dr. Dre. I just started figuring this out, it’s not a gimmick like people say, or it’s not because they got bigger budgets or better promotion necessarily, it’s because they know music and damn near everybody else don’t so it’s not even a choice, of course you’re gonna buy their stuff over everyone else’s, it sounds better, period. So I was like I need to get some of that knowledge because I didn’t know much about music, really. It was a survival tactic, but at the same time me being a musician I’m just naturally growing to that spot anyway.
AB: So do you think this is something more Hip-Hop artists should do?
Del: I would say for anything you want to do in life it would probably help to have some background knowledge about the subject, just to put in general terms so it’s not like a Hip-Hop thing specifically or nuttin like that. I will say this about music, you don’t need to know technically about music to make great music because music is natural and anybody with hearing can hear how music works, it’s obvious, but it does help knowing what you’re doing. In general the best artists are people that can organize the music better. The best composers are the ones that know what they’re doing, it’s not by chance, it’s something that if you ask them to do it again, or to explain it, they can probably do it to a certain degree as opposed to somebody being like I don’t know how I did it, I just be grooving and then it come out. Especially in this time and era where everybody wants everything lickety split, if you can’t make the demand they’re gonna go to somebody that can. So it helps to know what you’re doing so you can sit down and be like OK I’ma make every joint I make hot, I know how to make it hot, as opposed to waiting for that hot joint to possibly come out which it might never come out.
AB: Basically knowledge plus inspiration creates great music, or great anything.
Del: Yeah, well you gotta be inspired to make anything, you’re right, but that’s something we ain’t got no control over, that’s something that God gives. You walk around one day and you’re just like AHA! Nobody knows how they get inspired, nobody knows where it comes from, it’s just drops in your head, but you don’t get inspired by just sitting there and doing nothing either.
AB: So what do you do to get inspired?
Del: You gotta work. You’re not gonna be inspired if your mind ain’t on nothing so it ain’t like it’ll just drop in your brain, you’ve gotta be doin shit. Like if you’re reading constantly you’re gonna read something that’s gonna strike you and inspire you to do something. Or if you’re listening to a lot of music, you’re a musician, you’re going to be in the element a lot so something is going to pop out at you and inspire you from doing that. But if you’re a musician and you ain’t listenin to anybody’s shit, you ain’t never practicin, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to be inspired by anything.
AB: What inspired you during the creation of “The 11th Hour?”
Del: George Clinton, Funkadelic. I think they are by far my biggest influences, although you might not see it immediately in my music. I just try to keep everything funky no matter how I came about it so I got some joints that I really tried to compose that got a little bit more to em but I also got joints that are straight Hip-Hop joints, kinda simple and basic. I even play with some little southern type stuff a little bit, too, because my family is from the south so I’m into a lot of that, too. E-40 was an influence on me, too, because I hella love E-40 so his new album was an influence on me like OK, I want to have some fun with that, too. I also tried to make my album current, I didn’t want nobody to get my album and feel like I hadn’t graduated past the 80’s or 90’s.
AB: Do you see that as an issue right now?
Del: I think it’s an issue with any artists, you don’t want to sound played out when you come out, like aw I done heard that before why should I buy your album? You want to sound like you know what’s going on, you don’t want to sound like you’ve been living in a cave. Jazz ain’t really cool right now to young kids, it’s so old that you gotta present it in a new way for kids to even be into it because they can’t even relate to the 1930’s, that’s so long ago, so you’ve got to present it in a new way. That’s what I try to do with funk, I try to present that funk in a new way so that kids can understand it, but also I study music a lot from the blues on up so really to me all the music we listen to is related to the blues. So I’ve got that background to where I hear something now and I can like OK you like that southern type stuff, that bounce type stuff, that crunk type stuff? All that is is 1980’s Hip-Hop. I was there, so I know. It’s like, OK that was from before samplers came out, when we were working with drum machines strictly. Like having a lot of 808 kicks and bass and stuff, they just stepped it up to the point where they mastered it. Realizing that I know how to make something like that but without copying Lil’ Jon, I know the source.
AB: Do you have any recommendations for the artists out there looking to learn more about their craft?
Del: That’s hard to say because it depends on what your influences are. If you’re into punk rock your influences are going to be different from if you’re into Hip-Hop or if you’re into jazz. So it depends on what you’re into, all I can say is that it’s out there if you want to figure it out, all you’ve got to do is type it in on your browser and everything you want to figure out about jazz or funk or whatever is sure to pop up in your browser. It’s within reach. I don’t want nobody out there to think like oh I gotta work and go to the library, naw, if you got a computer and you’re on the internet… I forget about that sometimes, it’s right at my fingertips. I gotta remind myself sometimes that it’s so easy to get information on even stuff that you’re not even supposed to be knowing about like how to make a bomb or something like that. People ain’t really got time to go to the library now because of all them demands on people so people have less time to themselves to do stuff, so we gotta have it like that otherwise we would never get any information.
AB: You mentioned reaching the kids and how they can’t relate to music from the 30’s, but they definitely relate to another project you were involved in, The Gorillaz. On the DVD you note that you’re still making money off of that and you’re making more money off of that than a lot of your other projects. Did you expect a cartoon band to jump off like that?
Del: The creators of it didn’t do it to blow up, they did it as a mutual love for each other’s art and they wanted to create something. I don’t want to say that it was a fluke that it blew up but they definitely didn’t go into it with that mind state, they did it as hobbyists, they wanted to create something new. It was on the internet, as far as I know, overseas and kids started peekin it out, it bubbled and then people over here started looking over there like “what is this thing that people are going crazy over there about? We want to get in on the action, too.” That’s how it came out here and bubbled. I knew it was a good idea from the beginning because ain’t nobody really did that before. It was dabbled with in cartoons like Scooby Doo where they’d have some groovy music playing in-between but nothing full on like that that I can remember. Plus both of them artists is dope, and Dan (The Automator) is dope, Dan is real good at taking stuff like that and putting it together as a cohesive project.
AB: So do you see future ones happening with you?
Del: It was by chance that I did it anyways. Dan just happened to need another vocalist for that song, “Clint Eastwood,” and we were finishing Deltron at the time so he just asked me to do the vocals because he knew that I was good enough to be able to do it then, when he asked me. That’s why he asked me to do it, I think, he knew that I could come up with something good and I could do it then in like 30 minutes. That’s how that happened. I damn near didn’t do it because I was so tired from finishing up the Deltron album I wanted to go home. It’s lucky I did it.
AB: Is there anything that people should know about you that they don’t know?
Del: I think everything is in the DVD, really, that they could or should know. I’m serious about my music probably is the main thing. I don’t know if fools think that I just go into it like whatever, whatever they may think, but I’m a serious musician. When I approach a project I’m really trying to compose a piece, it’s not like I’m just throwing things together. I don’t know if that’s important for people to know, though, it really don’t matter how I come across with it, or what I’m trying to do with it, all that matters to people is the output, or the finished product.
AB: You had a lot of good live performances on that DVD. Do you have any songs in particular that you love performing live?
Del: I love performing Dr. Bombay, Dobalina I love doing, too. Man, them the two top ones for me, I like doing them.
AB: Finally, your AIM ends up on the DVD at one point. Been fielding a lot of IMs recently?
Del: I talk to people when I get a chance. A lot of people saw my AIM screen name on my DVD and they be hitting me up on AIM. Everyday somebody new pops up on AIM like “what’s up Del, I just saw the DVD. You know your name is on the DVD, right?” I’m like “yeah.” I’m not trippin, I like talking to people.