Deltron 3030 is composed of a trinity of alt-rap all-stars: Rapper Del The Funky Homosapien, DJ Kid Koala and producer Dan “The Automator” Nakamura. Individually, they stand at the top of their respective musical disciplines; together as Deltron 3030, they warped space, bent time, transcended genre and blew minds with Deltron 3030, an album that still stands today as one of the most important records in the annals of underground hiphop.
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: “Exactly what you might expect from such a teaming: a wildly imaginative, unabashedly geeky concept album,” said AllMusic.com. “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.” Pitchfork called Nakamura the “poet laureate of creepy, oppressive beats,” describing the album as an “exciting” reimagining of “the future from the bottom up” that reveals Del as a “surprisingly acute social critic.”
Now, after keeping the world waiting 13 long years, they’re on the verge of releasing the long-awaited follow-up to their debut — an album titled Deltron 3030: Event II — and the trio isn’t shy about what they think it represents. “There isn’t another record that’s like this — it’s different from anything else I’ve done and anything else that’s out there,” says Nakamura. “So I’m just going to say it: This is going to sound incredibly pompous, but to me, this is the greatest rap record of all time.”
Considering the talents that are involved, Nakamura should have every reason to be confident.
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 hiphop 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 Developments and 2000’s Both Sides of the Brain — before joining with Nakamura and Koala for Deltron 3030.
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.
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.
Nakamura began to make plans for Event II shortly after the three principals reunited for Gorillaz, the 2001 multiplatinum debut album of the “virtual band” conceived of by Blur frontman 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 September 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 hiphop 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. When it comes out, if you got the money, you’re going to wanna go buy it.”
Deltron 3030: Event II will be released by Bulk Recordings on October 1st