Del tha Funkee Homosapien
I Wish My Brother George Was Here
Elektra Entertainment, 1991
“Hey yo Del”
“What the fuck is a funkee homosapien?”
“It’s a human being fool, a funkee human being.”
On the opening track to Del tha Funkee Homosapien’s debut album I Wish My Brother George Was Here, we enter a realm where we in question ask: what exactly is a funkee homosapien? As Del gives us an immediate response while “What Is A Booty” slowly fades into the second track, the full answer isn’t laid out until the completion of the album.
I Wish My Brother George Was Here is more than just a representation of Del and his first-person narrative and perception on life. In fact, it’s a culmination of varying factors that eventually builds up to this. For one, Brother George is a strict ode to George Clinton and his bands Parliament and Funkadelic. Riddled with samples from Parliament, Funkadelic, James Brown and The Meters, Brother George takes the influence of funk and warps it into danceable hip-hop. The album also, almost unconsciously, bridges the gap between East and West Coast hip-hop: the hard-hitting breakbeats are often accompanied with silky p-funk grooves and live instrumentation creating an ominous West Coast style (something that should be credited to executive producer Ice Cube, Del’s cousin), while Del’s lyrics and rhyme drawl mask that of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest.
What’s most important to note however is Del’s approach on his debut album. Brother George scans and scours the everyday lifestyle, whether it’s about his frustration towards the city bus system (“The Whacky World Of Rapid Transit”) or explaining his morning routine (“Sunny Meadowz”). Moreover, it’s not just that he covers life on a grounded plateau, it’s that he re-directs the focus from harder artists like his cousin Ice Cube and shows us that he’s someone we can easily relate to.
This isn’t the only tune Del marches to however, because some of the best songs on Brother George are the ones that delve into societal issues. “Mistadobalina” takes shots at those who misrepresent themselves to fit into a stereotype (“The little two timer resembles Aun Jemima / With jeans and a dirty white hoodie”). And on “Ahonetwo, Ahonetwo,” Del attacks social norms and his ability to be his own creative self (“And I giggle when I see ya liver prune / I’m a funky human being not a monkey or a coon” and “I plan to grow dreads but first a nappy fro / The longer the hair, the easier to scare a foe”).
At 18, Del tha Funkee Homosapien unleashed a record that mixes tributes to funk legend George Clinton, stances against social and political issues and the notion that hip-hop can also be enjoyed when it covers the everyday grandeur of life, instead of the exponentially singular themes that more concise concept albums possess. It also helped bridge the gap between East Coast and West Coast rap, during a time when hip-hop was unaware of what was going to happen in the near future. Brother George is good for any debut artist, let alone Del tha Funkee Homosapien, and its this eclectic mix of subject matter that really pushes it to the top. It’s a calming voice of reason with a stab of realness, and it’s a constructed piece of social matter with varying calm-me-down songs. In essence, Brother George is what hip-hop is and always will be.
When the 1991 release I Wish My Brother George Was Here by Del tha Funkee Homosapien was released, it came in accordance amongst the racism, turmoil and oppression of California in the early 1990’s. This was a post Civil Rights Vietnam era that was still reeling from the crack cocaine epidemic and the annihilation of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Additionally, this album debuted after N.W.A. released Straight Outta Compton in 1988, only months after the Rodney King beating and just before the L.A. riots in April, 1992. This was a time when hip-hop was just being indoctrinated into the commercialization that is popular culture. Needless to say, there was a lot of subject material for MCs to discuss in their music.
Beyond the social, political and economic context of the early 90’s, it is immediately clear that I Wish My Brother George Was Here is a musical masterpiece. Drawing from legendary funk groups such as Parliament, Funkadelic, the Meters, the Monkees and James Brown, this album pays homage to a time where Funk and P-Funk would have been heard blasting from record players. For example, “Same Ol’ Thing” is constructed entirely of Meters classics, including “Cissy Strut” and “Hand Clapping Song.” A sample of the Parliament classic, “P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)” can be heard on the 10th song, “Sunny Meadowz.” What’s more, the “George” referred to in the title is none other than the funk architect himself, George Clinton. Produced by The Boogie Men, Ice Cube and Del himself, I Wish My Brother George Was Here is a production masterpiece that perfectly balances the art of making a good record with pointing out the dire situations that were a result of generations of racial discrimination in Los Angeles and Oakland specifically.
Perhaps the best part of Del’s lyricism is the fact that he raps about what he knows, what he has experienced, and how it effects his community. In “Hoodz Come In Dozens,” he describes the mercilessness of gang violence. “Hoodz come in dozens, read it in the papers / Seems like everyone caught a little vapors / You can’t escape em’, so don’t even plan it / Gangsta Boogie fever has taken over Planet Earth / Now your life is worth a pair of Jordan’s?” And again, on “Dark Skin Girls” where in the hook Del proclaims, “Dark skin girls are better than light skin / Light skin girls ain’t better than dark skin.” On this song, Del is deconstructing the socially created notion of attractiveness and is challenging the concept of beauty. It’s an important thing to rap about, especially in the wake of 15 year old Latasha Harlins’ murder in March, 1991.
As you listen to I Wish My Brother George Was Here, the funkiness jumps right out at you in the best kind of way. So many of the classic hip-hop songs feature jazz samples, but how many utilize the grooviness that was Funk and P-Funk? The brilliance of this album lies in the fact that many of these songs and their funk samples make you want to get out of your seat and dance. And yet, the lyricism of Del takes you right back to the struggle against oppression and generational fight for true racial equality in 1990’s California. This was a serious time in the cities of Los Angeles and Oakland, and Del tha Funkee Homosapien harnesses this significance and juxtaposes it with a brilliantly produced record that pays respect to the revolutionary music that existed before hip-hop. George Clinton’s music was great because it was groovy, and also revolutionary. Del tha Funkee Homosapien is able to harness the energy of funk and a revolutionary spirit to make people dance and think just like Parliament, Funkadelic, and James Brown.
“Pissin’ On Your Steps”
“Hoodz Come In Dozens”