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#FF Follow Friday | Deltron 3030: Sci-fi hip-hop

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Deltron 3030 is a science fiction hip-hop album crafted by three of the geniuses behind the debut Gorillaz album: Del the Funky Homosapien, Dan the Automator, and DJ Kid Koala.

A science fiction hip-hop album.

The story goes: In the year 3030 mech solider Deltron Zero, played by emcee Del the Funky Homosapien, rebels against the intergalactic mega-corporations that dominate the future. Deltron Zero, a genius hacker and slick-tongued rapper, uses both code and rhymes in his battles against the forces of corporate evil on the way to becoming Galactic Rhyme Federation Champion.

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Deltron Zero, as well as the man behind the mask, Del the Funky Homosapien, has a captivating tendency to pen lines that flow like a river without banks, veering into free association and non sequitur rhymes seemingly at whim.

In a review of Deltron 3030, Sam Eccleston said of Del the Funky Homosapien:

Del has always seemed irritated at having to address the real world, and as such, his best verses are completely divorced from it. For the most part, his last few albums have kept things defiantly surreal, which is great fun, but also chafes the listener. Surely, a lyricist with Del’s heavy-duty intelligence has interesting thoughts to share about something other than how cool he and his friends are. It seemed we’d never know…until now.

He’s right. The distant future frees Del. He can use his abstract and surreal tendencies to paint pictures of Deltron Zero’s 3030 insurrection with thousands of quickly painted strokes like some clairvoyant Monet. We don’t crave a linear narrative so much as we want simply to experience those paintings in our imagination. It works wonderfully, though Deltron 3030 certainly came with potential pitfalls.

For an example, let’s looks at Coheed & Cambria, a rock band who built their career on a now-seven album space opera. At first by hailed listeners, they eventually faced fatigue from critics like Rolling Stone’s Christian Hoard who declared the storyline had grown “labyrinthine…silly and retrograde.” Fans like my friend Amy, who turned me onto Coheed’s first album Second Stage Turbine Blade, also suffered that fatigue. I remember we listened to the second album when it came out and loved it, but on subsequent albums the sound and concept started to dull.

Del, Dan the Automator, and Kid Koala have spent their careers creating new and exciting projects. Deltron 3030 was just one of them. It’s a favorite for so many because, yes, it’s well executed, but also because it was such a fresh and daring risk in a genre that at the time was devoid of futuristic molds to follow.

So maybe Deltron 3030 is less about a science fiction hip-hop subgenre than it is a tale of reinvention and artistic boldness. Musicians accepting risk rather than bumping out the same album every two or three years.

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For the Deltron 3030 crew, the album wasn’t about abandoning the genre, only about being daring.

Recently Del and the guys released the first single from Deltron Event II, “Pay the Price.” You can listen to it here. I’ve long championed a follow-up to Deltron 3030, but now that it’s almost here I’m feeling a bit of anxiety. Will it continue to push hip-hop or will it sound more like a rehash of a beloved album?

We’ll have to see. In the meantime, it’s comforting to remember that I still have Coheed & Cambria’s magical Second Stage Turbine Blade. I’ll certainly always have Deltron 3030, too.

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