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Del tha Funkee Homosapien: Hip-Hop's Funkitect from the Future

Even back in 1991, when Oakland-born Teren Delvon Jones a/k/a Del tha Funkee Homosapien dropped his solo debut I Wish My Brother George Was Here, he was way ahead of his time. Inspired by the acid funk of George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, Del perfected a slightly unhinged rhyme fluidity that set him apart from the gangsta clique (spearheaded at the time by his cousin Ice Cube) while serving notice that he could still be just as raw as his Compton-based brethren.


At the same time, the now-legendary Hieroglyphics crew also provided an outlet for Del's expression both as a lyricist and as a budding producer. He learned beats by watching the Lench Mob's Sir Jinx (an integral production force on Ice Cube's solo debut AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted) and immediately applied the knowledge to his next album, 1993's No Need for Alarm. Since then, with Hieroglyphics and on his own, Del has gradually proven himself on the mic and at the mixing desk — particularly on the genre-busting sci-fi opus Deltron 3030 (with Dan the Automator, Kid Koala and a slew of guests) and on two singles from the platinum-selling Gorillaz album, as well as Hieroglyphics' Full Circle (released in 2004).

Del is a recent convert to Live, which figures prominently in the tripped-out beatscapes that propel his long-awaited solo project The 11th Hour. Meanwhile, he has recently put the finishing touches on the second Deltron album — described by Dan the Automator as "a little more uptempo, even though the record's actually darker than the last one" — and has been producing tracks with Atlanta soulstress Joi Gilliam and ex-Digable Planets Ladybug Mecca. With all this and more from the Hieroglyphics Imperium label in the pipeline, 2008 promises to be a truly breakout year for Deltron Zero.

When did you first get into Live?

It was a Lite version in another piece of software I had purchased. The graphic design is what caught me.

How are you using Live on the new album?

For everything, man — from laying vocals and arranging to production. I often use Session View to record different sessions live and then chain song parts together — it's easier than duplicating a part over and over, and it allows me to feel out a piece. I've got a few tracks I use, and I drag the different parts of those particular tracks into Session View. I use Session View for mixing, too.

I might loop a section before I start arranging for real in Arrangement View, but more or less I try to come up with different instrumentation because I play a lot of my own arrangements. I don't use Live on stage yet, although it's stable enough to where I could and feel safe, no doubt.

Are you playing VSTs or live instruments?

I use VST stuff. Sometimes I use Simpler since it allows for MP3 files. But I'm so stylized in my production, I go for VSTs that really bring a certain feel, as opposed to designing my own sounds. "Sounds of the '70s" from Zero-G in the UK is the main tool I use dead up. It's killer because it covers the whole spectrum as far as the '70s go. I love the [Applied Acoustics] Lounge Lizard, too. I'm a keyboardist, so that's my thang. [Editor's Note: Lounge Lizard has now been licensed as Ableton's Electric instrument].


Is there anything else you'd like to see in Live?

Naw, man, actually it's perfect. Every release is tweaked just the right amount so it's square — otherwise you in the stone age as far as production and meeting demands. I could never get an album done in any reasonable time frame without Live. I'm gone too much and I got too many responsibilities.

How much time do you spend working in the program when you're home?

All the time, whenever I got a chance to do music, it's on. I use it in the van when I'm out on the road. I've got it on right now!

How does Live help you creatively?

You know, you got to constantly listen actively to music, and practice to keep hip, and sometimes I just don't have the time to even focus on just music, which is where programs like Live come into play. I have yet to scour the instruction manual and I can use it pretty good, but graphically it's no punk either. That definitely helps when you're staring at the screen for long periods of time because the graphical environment keeps you in there. That's a big draw for me. With hardware, you can't see what you're doing — but just throw Live in it and I'm satisfied.

Photo credits: Ben Liebenberg