Del the Funky Homosapien has been rapping long enough to remember when underground hip-hop was just called hip-hop.
He got his start in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when groups like Public Enemy, N.W.A. and De La Soul helped the genre burst into the mainstream. Then as now, Del, 39, was more interested in pushing musical boundaries than riffing off a tired formula to gain commercial success.
His cousin, Ice Cube, was a member of N.W.A., and Del, who performs at the Majestic Theater on June 22, began writing lyrics for him in 1990. With Ice Cube's help, Del released his solo debut, I Wish My Brother George Was Here, in 1991. That album featured "Mistadobalina," the infectiously catchy funk-rap song that chided those who weren't true to themselves.
Del's 1994 sophomore album, No Need for Alarm, didn't repeat the novelty element of his first hit single. The new tracks sought out blistering funk samples and socially earnest verses.
Today, rap has become ornamentation for melodic pop that's set to a dance beat, the way Snoop Dogg's rhymes help dress up Katy Perry's "California Gurls." Modern pop songwriters use rap verses in place of a bridge. The Black Eyed Peas mix Fergie's singing with the rapping of will.i.am. Rap that stands apart from pop, like Del's, is said to have gone "underground."
This spring, Del released Golden Era, a 10-track album that's still firmly entrenched in the music he loves best - funk. You can hear it in the thundering funk bass line that resounds on "Calculate." Clyde Stubblefield's original Funky Drummer beat dominates on "Come Correct."
Artistic authenticity is a theme that runs throughout the album. On "Break the Bank," Del chides artists looking to regurgitate tired formulas for the purposes of making money. "Things can't stay the same, they got to change," he raps. "Get that in your brain."