Both timely and avant garde, Deltron 3030 accurately – if surrealistically – captured the spirit of the cusp of the millennium, an era when a technology-driven stock market bubble was on the verge of bursting, when the political world was entering an era of unprecedented partisanship, when global inequality was beginning to skyrocket.
Critics dubbed it a masterpiece: ”The most purely enjoyable hip-hop album of 2000,” NME declared. Vice praised Deltron 3030 as “a dope hip-hop concept album…visionary sci-fi rap for comic book heads, cyberpunks and conspiracy theorists that closed the gaps between indie-rap, boom bap and future-music.” ”It’s not only one of the best albums in either of their catalogs, but one of the best to come out of the new underground, period,” said All Music. Pitchfork called Nakamura the “poet laureate of creepy, oppressive beats,” describing the album as an “exciting” re-imagining of “the future from the bottom up” that reveals Del as a “surprisingly acute social critic.”
Del The Funky Homosapien, founder of Oakland’s seminal Hieroglyphics crew, launched his career as part of his cousin Ice Cube’s posse, da Lench Mob, and gained recognition as a top-tier hip-hop verbalist with his 1991 debut, I Wish My Brother George Was Here, featuring the memorable tracks “Mistadobalina” and “Dr. Bombay.” He would release three more albums - 1993′s No Need for Alarm, 1998′s Future Development and 2000′s Both Sides of the Brain - before joining with Nakamura and Koala for Deltron 3030.
Dan “The Automator” Nakamura, the architect of the sonic landscape within which Del and Koala work their magic, first captivated the hiphop underground with Dr. Octagonacologyst, his collaboration with Ultramagnetic MC’s Kool Keith. He went on to produce Cornershop’s breakout album, When I Was Born for the 7th Time, and to team up with fellow superproducer Prince Paul under the name Handsome Boy Modeling School, before forming Deltron 3030 with Del and Koala.
Kid Koala, a native of Vancouver whose turntablism mixtape Scratchcratchratchatch, recorded on cassette while a university student, brought him to the attention of superstar British DJs Matt Black and Jonathan More, better known as Coldcut; the duo signed him as the first North American artist on their new label Ninja Tune, launched as a haven for the world’s most exceptional DJ and EDM talent. A year into his signing, Koala met Nakamura at the New York show of his first U.S. tour; the two hit it off immediately, and – beginning with Deltron – Koala became one of The Automator’s most frequent collaborators.
Nakamura began to make plans for Event 2 shortly after the three principals reunited for Gorillaz, the 2001 multi-platinum debut album of the “virtual band” conceived of by Blur frontman Damon Albarn and illustrator Jamie Hewlett, which Nakamura produced, with Koala providing masterful scratchwork and Del lending his lyrical brilliance to its biggest hit, “Clint Eastwood.” Though initial tracks had been laid down by 2005, it would be another eight years before the record would be finished to their mutual satisfaction. The album will be released in October on Nakamura’s Bulk Recordings label, and when it does, it will open a new chapter in the Deltron 3030 legend – one that promises to be as relevant and resonant now as the first was in the year 2000.
“This time, the album has a specific story,” says Del. “The Deltron world has gone too far with technology. Everything’s destroyed, and you just see the remnants of our technology. The streets are run by criminals, the police are outnumbered and outgunned, and we’re like pirates, running rogue, doing what we do to survive. That’s the scene of it. We’re trying to be as literary as possible while dealing with a musical format. I don’t know if you could even categorize this as a hip hop album – it’s more like a rock opera, but using rap.”
He notes that the words, music and narrative have been deliberately chosen to put listeners into a specific emotional state. “This record took 13 years, and the whole time fans are telling us we better come out with Deltron right now – quit teasing me,” laughs Del. “Well, this is beyond a regular album. Because I would say, me, Dan and Koala, we aren’t limited by what other rap groups do – we’re musicians first. I studied music theory for ten years. Dan and Koala been learning music since they were kids. We’re bringing it all together here, everything, and the fans, the critics, they all going to be surprised by what we got. You’ll see.”