On the phone with two hip-hop legends
Del the Funky Homosapien: Can it be true that I’ve been listening to Del for more than 15 years? Even Del sounds a bit surprised: “Yeah, I guess that sounds about right,” he says, reluctantly. Usually after 10 years in the game, the youth of hip-hop boils away and the “Ice Cube effect” sets in: You up your salary by starring in corny-ass movies (Are We There Yet?). That’s not to diss Del’s cousin Cube (after all, he did produce his first album, the brilliant I Wish My Brother George Was Here), but there’s this allegiance to raw hip-hop that Del possesses, which makes him so utterly attractive to hip-hop purists.
In the ’90s, when most hip-hop was coming from the East Coast, Del and his crew, the Hieroglyphics, made sure that West Coast rap played just as loud in our headphones. As a solo artist, his take on hip-hop has always been innovation before imitation, which sums up the moody, ingenious Deltron 3030. And remember his part on Gorillaz’s hooky “Clint Eastwood”? Masterful. Del’s creativity is certainly to our benefit. But to his pocketbook? Not so much. His curious move from the Hieroglyphics Imperium label to Definitive Jux for his latest studio release, Eleventh Hour, wasn’t exactly profitable. “We didn’t make shit on the album,” he admits. But Del takes risks, and people who “just don’t get it” are a side effect of being a fearless pioneer.
As for a new album from his alter ego, Deltron 3030? He’s sick of the question. “If these Internet trolls don’t stop harassing me … I might not come out with it,” he says. He’s joking, of course.
And being that Del’s huge personality barely fits on wax, the inevitable question arises: Will he ever take his act to the big screen, à la cousin Ice Cube? “I’ve thought about comedy,” he says. “I’ve studied it … especially George Carlin.” He pauses to catch his thought. “But I’m not that funny.”
DJ QBert: I woke him up from a nap at 8 p.m. It’s understandable, because the guy’s a workhorse. He took turntablism (using record manipulation as instrumentation) and made an empire out of it. A founding member of the now-defunct Invisibl Skratch Piklz, QBert is a three-time DMC world champion (1992–94) and he’s been called on many occasions the Jimi Hendrix of deejays.
To someone who doesn’t follow turntablism, it’s hard to describe exactly what QBert does with a set of Technics (it’s something akin to tweaked-out aliens landing at Disneyland), but it’s a spectacular sight to behold. His hands move like hummingbirds.
A fan of Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Delta waves CDs (for sleep) and vegetarian living, QBert is soaking up the world, almost as if he’s sampling the Earth—always trying to find new combinations of sounds to create.
“There’s infinite possibilities,” he explains. “Have you seen the Scratchlopedia Breaktannica DVD?” The DVD, a cataloged reference of just about every scratch known to man, is a must-have for aspiring turntablists. In addition to making DVDs and touring around the world, QBert’s hosting an interactive online tutorial for wannabe deejays, called Skratch University, starting in early 2009 (check details at www.thudrumble.com).
QBert’s itch to teach stems from his love of “giving to others,” he says, which he explains doesn’t even have to involve music at all. “When I’m in the airport and a lady drops her purse and I pick it up and she smiles, that makes me happy.”
But don’t be fooled by the kindness; check out DJ QBert at www.youtube.com/thudrumble to see what kind of murder this deceptively nice man is capable of.