In May of 2000 three legends of hip-hop formed a supergroup and created something nobody saw coming: a futuristic, sci-fi rap album. When Deltron 3030 was first released, it didn't fit in with the gangster rap that was dominating the charts—and over the years it developed an almost fanatical cult following. The long awaited sequel—officially released today—is likely to do the same.
Deltron's debut was different. It was weird. It was awesome. It was, frankly, like nothing we'd heard before. The tracks (produced by Dan the Automator with Kid Koala on turntables) were incredible and intricate, and it was all tied together by the off-balance lyrical delivery of Del tha Funkee Homosapien, who led us on a journey through the galaxy as these mythical heroes battled corporate corruption. And, y'know, aliens. It was the first time most of us had heard a rap album with a plot.
Today, more than thirteen years after the original record dropped, the trio is releasing the long-anticipated follow-up entitled Deltron 3030: Event II. The crew has been working on it for almost ten years. And we're happy to say that it's well worth the wait.
We recently caught up with all three members of Deltron backstage at Rock the Bells in Los Angeles, and got an exclusive look inside the album. One of the things that both Deltron albums do so deftly is to create a sonic landscape. It's immersive. It brings you into that world and makes you feel like you're floating through space with them. So, what we really wanted to know is how you make a record that feels so futuristic when you only having access to present-day technology.
It turns out that it's not at all about having cutting-edge instruments or effects that "sound" futuristic. In fact, many of the instruments used in the creation of the album are quite old. Not just 1940s tube mics and plate reverbs from the '60s, but live string and horn sections. It's decidedly old-school a lot of the time, but that isn't the point. "It could be new digital, it could be old analogue," says Automator. "I'm a purist in that I like to get the real version of it, but the real version could be some new thing. It's not all vintage."
In other words, it's not about the tools you use—it's about the mood you create. All three of the group's members agreed on that point. They treat the album's creation almost like the score to a film. Automator and Koala create the world and summon an emotional response from the listeners, while Del drives the spaceship through it.
In other words, it isn't about the bells and whistles or flash; it's about the fundamentals of good story-telling. That's why Deltron 3030 has amassed such an incredible following from hardcore hip-hop heads to people who generally don't even listen to rap. Yeah, the beats are beautiful, the turntabling is incredible, and the lyrics are clever and interesting. But ultimately, everybody loves a good story.
The best news in all of this is that after more than a decade of building anticipation, the new album holds up. Actually, it really holds up. The beats are no less incredible, and the lyrics are no less weird and compelling. In fact, there are a lot of parallels between this alien dreamscape and our own, which make the album feel especially relevant. It's sure to set the bar for nerd-rap for years to come.
Thanks to Dan the Automator, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, and Kid Koala.
Cameras: Peter Gutter, Brent Rose
Edit: Michael Hession