I remember the day I brought my first Del record*, "Sleeping On My Couch" b/w "Ahonetwo, Ahonetwo". I was already curious from seeing/hearing his name associated with Ice Cube (EX: his radio listener call-in at the end of Cube's "Turn Off The Radio"). Beyond the Ice Cube association, there were a few other attractions to the record; It was produced by DJ Pooh, one of my favorite producers. It was on Elektra Records, who had one of the all-time best rosters at the time, so their records were usually a sure shot. Plus the cover art was interesting, leading me to feel that if some thought went into the art, then that probably extended to the music.
Of course, none of those really guarantee a good record, but that was the case anyway. When Del dropped "I Wish My Brother George Was Here", I picked it up right away and gave it lots of play. However, what was more impressive was the constant flux of new material on the following singles. Remixes & B-sides that introduced his crew and showcased his significantly growing skill level, particularly leading up to what is possibly his greatest lyrical achievement, "Eye Examination".
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/03-del-eye-examination.mp3|titles=03 del - eye examination]
By the time he was preparing for his second album I was a full fledged fan and curious to what his growth would sound like. Around this same time I was just getting started in Hip Hop Journalism with Chicago Magazine, The Flypaper, run by Mic Shane and Raymond O'Neil (later of Blaze Magazine/Battle fame). Due to that, I was spending a lot of time at The Flypaper office which was also Mic and Raymond's spot. I was there for meetings about articles, hanging out, lengthy Hip Hop discussions/debates, and the occasional hanging out with "rap stars".
For some reason, in 1993, right around the time "No Need For Alarm" dropped, Del spent a few weeks in Chicago on a couple different occasions. Most, if not all, of it was spent staying at The Flypaper headquarters. Del was fun to hang out with. He was like a cartoon character come to life. He was mega-animated all the time, excited and/or amused about most everything, and always having a good time. As to be expected, there were lots of video games, japanese animation, and comic books*. However, some of the most fun for me was just picking his brain about different rap stuff. I remember asking him who is the next ill MC coming out of Oakland I should look out for and told me about Saafir and how ill his style was (I believe this was even before the Saafir debut on the Digital Underground album). I recall an extended conversation where we learned we both were big fans of Chubb Rock, Funkytown Pros, and a couple other names that escape the memory. While standing in line to get in a club one night I decided to quiz him on "Don't Forget" and ask him who the last verse was about. He asked, who I thought it was about. I said I assumed it was about Ice Cube. He just looked at his guy (possibly Toure??) and said, "Hey, he thinks 'Don't Forget' is about Cube...". They both laughed and he never answered my question. Not sure if that meant I was right or an idiot for thinking that...ha.
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/11-Dont-Forget.mp3|titles=11 - Don't Forget]
This was also the time of the tension between him and Twista, who was just getting ready to drop his underground classic diss track "Suicide" going for the throats of Treach, Beatnuts and Del. I asked him if he had dissed Twista or knew what the beef was about and seemed genuine when he said, "No". I never had a direct conversation with Twista about it and the only thing I could think was that he took exception to him calling himself "Mista Twista" on "Eye Examination". That hardly seemed like reason enough to diss him on record though, so I assume there must be more to it...
Oddly, I don't remember any "real" Del in show in town during this time, just a couple small things and they were both weird in their own right. One, I believe was at Red Dog, and they didn't really have a stage so he just performed on this balcony like thing... Maybe I'm tripping, the memory of it is vague but I remember it being strange and I don't recall any other rap performances there. I do remember thinking that Del reminded me of Golem from Lord Of The Rings with how he moved when he rapped...ha. The other performance wasn't even a show, it was a recording for a local video show in Chicago. This whole experience was awesome!! I agreed to take Del to the taping so we were chilling backstage for a while talking about rap. The show wanted him to perform "Catch A Bad One", as it was his latest single and Del was a lil frustrated because they told him he had to lip sync it because of the way the show was set up or whatever. When it was almost time to go on, we are standing on the side of the stage and there's just this whole weird vibe happening out on stage and we are looking at each other like "What the hell kind of show is this?". Then the curtain goes up and the host is there in like a red sequins shirt and there's this huge open dance floor with like only 10 young couples dancing...looking a bit awkward. It was basically "Soul Train" meets "Saturday Night Fever"... Del runs out on stage and is just laughing so hard at the scene the whole time he almost doubles over. He gets thru the lip syncing of the song, just barely because he can't stop laughing. I really really wish I could find a video for that show, it has to be classic. I wonder if they ever actually aired it?
All in all, there was some fun times kicking it with him. He was super cool and down to earth. I have only seen him once since then, but it was like ten years later and in a different city. I doubt he remembered me from then and I didn't even bring it up, I just said what's up and kept it moving.
I continued to support him and the Hiero crew for years to come. Remaining a fan of a lot of the stuff they dropped. I admittedly missed out on a lot of music in the last several years with people doing digital only projects because I just don't have the time to keep track of everything. With that in mind, I missed his last two albums. When I heard about the "Golden Era" album I was intrigued. When it dropped I picked it up right away and was really impressed. I love the production style and the rhyming is filled with lots of word-play, clever word linkage and it just sounds like he's having fun recording it. It's definitely been one of my most listened to albums of the year. The vinyl version is dropping this week with 4 bonus cuts not on the CD!
Del-Pearly Gates from "Golden Era": Definitely one of my favorite cuts on the album. Great effectively noisy production and very fluid MCing. Of course, the bonus for for the cartoon heads for the dialog at the end all about Laff-A-Lympics...classicness!
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/06-Pearly-Gates.mp3|titles=06 Pearly Gates]
*Although I'm a comic book fanatic, in the late 80s/early 90s I had stopped buying comics. I wasn't that excited with the new art direction, I much preferred the classic styles. Plus moving out on my own meant no more allowance for comic books...ha. I decided to spend my "extra" money on records & tapes... However, it was during this time hanging out over there that I learned about Image & Milestone Comics and got hooked and ended up spending a lot of money on these. I brought pretty much every issue of nearly every series on Milestone; Hardware, Blood Syndicate, Static, Kobalt, & Icon particularly. As well Spawn and Savage Dragon on Image.