Del Tha Funkee Homosapien: The Future Interview
You could call Del tha Funkee Homosapien a legend or an OG – if you want. He might not take it as high praise.
“It’s sort of like they’re killing you,” he told SF Evergreen recently. “It’s like, ‘Oh, you an OG or a legend,’ it’s like you’re preserved in time. I’m like, I’m still making new music.”
True, the Oakland-born hip hop impresario and anchor member of the Hieroglyphics crew rose to fame when today’s listeners weren’t even born, releasing his first record at 18 – way back in in 1990. But at 42, he’s still rapping – the set at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass with SF’s own Dan the Automator, in the guise of their dystopian futuristic supergroup Deltron 3030 (with a string section accompaniment) was considered by some to be the performance of the weekend – he’s still skateboarding, and he’s still touring the world.
Before heading to tour in Australia, Del will appear at the International Cannabis Business Conference at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco on Feb 15-16. Ahead of that appearance, he took time to talk with us about marijuana, living in the East Bay, dealing with police in the black lives matter era, music, and a lot more.
Our 40-minute interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
EG: What’s your connection to marijuana?
DEL: Well, I don’t personally smoke or anything like that. I’m not opposed to it – it’s a good thing doors are opening up, there’s more awareness… it’s been demonized for so many years. There’s a lot of other stuff you can fool witht that’s legal that will tear you up way, way, way more than boom would.
You feel me? Arresting people for weed or trying to chase down people for smoking. If you’re allowing people to drink liquor, why are you tripping off of this? It’s like that movie…
EG: Reefer madness?
DEL: Yeah. My momma still thinks like that. But you know what? It’s noto true. Drinking is worse than anything else out there. You lose your motor skills, you’re more apt to do stupid stuff… I don’t see that with marijuana. And it helps people. It does have medicinal properties.
You ain’t gonna die if you smoke too much weed. If you drink too much alcohol, the next day, you gonna feel messed up. Maybe if you’re smoking shatter or something like that… but you gotta be smoking concentrated THC to the dome, you feel me?
EG: Like dabs.
DEL: Shatter dabs? I haven’t tried that. A+, he fool with that.
EG: Whenever we do that, we’re shattered all the next day.
DEL: That’s why I don’t do it… But I definitely fool with the vaporizer. We in the future. I definitely do that. I used to smoke bidis a lot, and then I peep this, and I ask – why was I smoking bidis? The flavors they come out with, the flavors, the juices, it’s just crazy. They got dope flavors, and when it comes out it’s vapor and not smoke. You can be chiefin in the hotel room, feel me? And it’s comfortable. It’s not as bad as smoking smoke. I’m not saying it’s good for you, but it’s not smoking smoke.
EG: Can you tell from the crowd if you’re in a legal marijuana state or not?
DEL: You know what? Everywhere I go, people are smoking. Colorado may be a little bit more mellow, maybe, but just because it’s not legal somewhere doesn’t mean I’m looking around and seeing fools not smoking.
EG: What’s your history with the plant?
Del: When I was a kid, I used to smoke and I noticed I would get hella paranoid. That was before I realized that you don’t have to smoke weed. Before, I just felt like I had to deal with being paranoid.
EG: So you don’t touch it anymore?
DEL: Ah, naw. I smoked not too long ago. I was with Hiero [the Hierogphylics crew] and I was smoking with them. It’s just got to be a special occasion. I don’t really drink, neither – know what I’m saying? I’m getting older now, I’m not really trying to party.
EG: Does it surprise you sometimes to see how much things have changed?
DEL: We’re living in the future.
EG: Like with Deltron 3030?
DEL: No, this is different. It’s real. 3030 ain’t real. I remember watching the Jetsons when I was a kid. And now it’s like, we here now.
As far as music’s concerned, if you have any traditional wooden or metal instrument, the kids are like, “What is that? That ain’t gonna captivate nobody.” It’s just all crazy noises and sounds. That just proves we’re living in the future.
EG: So what do you plan to do at the International Cannabis Business Conference next month?
DEL: I’m gonna be up in there, politicking, talking to people, you know what I mean? I’ll let them know how I feel about it. Entertaining, getting people to pay attention to it. I’ll be there for you to tocuh me or to talk to… And to bring attention to myself, of course.
EG: You and Automator blew a lot of people away with that Deltron set at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Hip hop is a tough act to do live, and you guys…
DEL: It’s like this, man: you gonna do something that’s gonna be entertaining for people. You can get a DJ and it’s just them and a laptop, just them and maybe some light. And they’re rocking it. It just depends on what you’re there to do, man.
I think a lot of hip hop cats got lazy. Maybe there’s only like 50 people there, and they’re not really into it, they don’t want to be there, feel me? I think in general hip hop as a genre has gotten lazy and comfortable.
EG: Do you focus more on shows now that the way artists get paid in the music industry has changed so much?
DEL: I just get in where I fit in, dude. I just adapt. It’s like, whatever I have to do. I want people to hear my stuff. So right now, I do shows. Or I’ll do mix tape or something. My main thing now though, I’m working on the next big thing… Deltron is sort of holding me over.
A lot of what I’ve been doing is wrapping my head around the changes In the industry. I’ve been working on marketing, I’ve been concentrating on my brand.
EG: Social media!
DEL: I know everybody says this, it’s like a buzzword. But really, it’s about how people connect with you. And now all these people want to connect with you in all sorts of new ways.
And they expect to connect with the artist. And if you don’t, people are gonna connect somewhere else.
EG: What do you think about where music is headed these days?
DEL: The main thing I like about music now is all these little electronic sounds, new sounds, new ways of making music. And it’s fully accepted. Before it was some weirdo stuff. You couldn’t get away with it and be successful. Now if you don’t have them sounds, something’s wrong with you. If you have traditional instruments on your record, the kids are like, “What’s this?” It’s like the blues was for us…. but that’s the one thing that’s really exciting for me. The kids wil still allow me to play with them. They could be like, “Old man – get out of here, dude.”
EG: What are you listening to now?
DEL: D’Angelo, that’s the new joint I’m bumping, man. That’s a good album, man.
EG: He took his time.
DEL: I think he’s trying to prove a point, about the level of art that’s involved in it. So many times, music’s been turned into this mass-produced product. It’s predictable and people are bored with it. D’Angelo proved that people that are serious about it are still out here.
And that’s a record that you buy. I don’t see how anybody could say, “Oh, I’m gonna download that and bump it.” That’s the record you buy.
EG: Do you feel ripped off by downloaders?
DEL: Nah. They made their point. Now most of this stuff comes out for free anyways. Now you have to go out of your way to pirate something.
EG: How has living in the Black Lives Matter era affected you?
DEL: Police are just wyling out. They need to chill it. Everybody needs to chill out. Police be tripping off me.
EG: What happened?
DEL: I was skating down the street early in the morning one day, right by my house. This is in Richmond. I see this officer pull up in front of me. He’s pulled over, waiting for me to cross, and then he stops me. “What are you doing? What are you doing with that board?” I say, “Nothing, I’m riding on it.” Then he says, “Well, you can’t ride this skateboard around here. It’s illegal to ride a skateboard in Richmond.” And I’m like baffled. So I pick the board up and start to walk away, and he says, “Wait a minute, where are you going? I didn’t say you could move. You got your ID on you?” So I pull out my ID, he looks at it, and he’s like stunned at how old I am. I can tell he’s confused.
But dude, he was young and he was black. And I was like, OK – you gotta be ashamed of yourself to be tripping off of me like this. You know damn well you’re lying to say it’s illegal to skate in this town. I skate here every day.
The police are just like any other part of society – you got good people in there, people that do bad jobs, and people frustrated with they jobs. That don’t seem like the easiest job to do, and I can understand that. But then again, you do got a responsibility to the public when you are a police officer. You still gotta uphold that. It’s no excuse to be fitting to wyle out.
EG: What’s the next move for you musically?
DEL: Me and Ladybug Mecca from Digable Planets, we got a group together. We’re called The Intellectual Project, we’re working on a record, trying to wrap it up, see if we can find a home for it, get it out to the people. We’re trying to come out with that next-next. Everybody says that, but for real though, that’s the intent.
EG: You’re going to Australia to do some shows. Why Australia?
DEL: Australia is cool, first of all. Australia is hella tight. They hip, you know what I’m saying? They got culture down there.
EG: They’re into hip hop?
DEL: Oh yeah. Anywhere outside of the U.S., hip-hop culture be popping.
EG: What happened to us?
DEL: We kind of got sick of it or whatever… don’t get me wrong, people are still into it. I just think they appreciate the music a little bit more out of the country. It’s still more of a cultural thing. Here, it’s just the default. It’s devolved into a product… we don’t appreciate it as much as we used to.