Happy 10th Anniversary to Del the Funky Homosapien’s fifth studio album Eleventh Hour, originally released March 11, 2008.
Del the Funky Homosapien has one of the most varied and eclectic careers in rap music. There have been eleven solo records, many of them acclaimed, projects with his Hieroglyphics crew, side ventures like Deltron 3030 and Gorillaz, and occasional forays into funk, rock and electronic music. He also happens to be Ice Cube’s cousin, a piece of rap trivia that never fails to raise a chuckle considering how different they are as artists—one a quirky indie hero, the other straight up gangsta (at least up until he became a movie star). It was cousin Cube that gave Del his start, however, helping to launch his excellent 1991 debut I Wish My Brother George Was Here and affording him the opportunity to write for Da Lench Mob.
That was way back in the early ‘90s. Del the Funky Homosapien has recorded for major labels and independents since that time, and has also self-released albums. He found a home for 2008’s Eleventh Hour at El-P’s renowned Definitive Jux label. It was a relationship likely forged after El-P produced and featured on “Offspring” from Del’s Both Sides of the Brain album in 2000, and it was a sensible fit for both parties. Definitive Jux had brought wider attention to the work of several so-called “alternative” underground emcees including Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif and C-Rayz Walz, and El-P’s own post-Company Flow material. It made sense they should welcome an artist making that kind of hip-hop since years before the alternative label was even a thing.
Definitive Jux were also responsible for the album ever seeing an actual release, saving the day in a way that might have given the album its title. Del is said to have recorded most of Eleventh Hour several years before the eventual 2008 release date. It left an eight-year gap between Eleventh Hour and Del’s previous album, but it’s not clear if this was due to label bullshit elsewhere or procrastination by the artist.
Eleventh Hour is notable for being almost entirely self-produced. Although no stranger to producing his own music prior to this, Del’s first four albums also leaned on various other established beatmakers, including DJ Pooh on the very different sounding I Wish My Brother George Was Here and members of the Hiero family such as Domino, Casual and A-Plus.
With the exception of tracks by KU, J-Zone and Souls of Mischief member Opio, Del handles all production. Features are also kept to a minimum, with only Digable Planets emcee Ladybug Mecca making an appearance on “I Got You.” The result is an album that has Del in full control.
As with most of his albums, there’s a sense of fun about many of the songs on Eleventh Hour—even those that touch upon more serious issues—and a lot of posturing about lyrical dexterity. It is, in fact, something found in a lot of underground hip-hop from California. Whether it be Jurassic 5, Lootpack, Ugly Duckling, Souls of Mischief, MURS or People Under The Stairs, there’s often a throwback, sunshine-soaked veneer regardless of the topic at hand. This is never a bad thing, but if there’s one slight overarching criticism of this kind of hip-hop, it’s that arguably there can sometimes be too many braggadocious rhymes.
It was a style that had also begun to feel dated by 2008, and having so many rhymes about how dope an emcee he is does make Eleventh Hour a bit repetitive. He undoubtedly still had the skills to back it up in 2008, however, with plenty of slick verses and throwaway lines, in particular on “Back in the Chamber” and “Last Hurrah.”
The danger is that it can become too much of a one-way conversation with an imaginary battle rapper. It’s a welcome respite therefore when, very late into the album, Ladybug Mecca pops up on the aforementioned “I Got You.” With someone else to trade bars with, the lyrical beatdowns are this time more impactful.
Another late contender is the J-Zone produced track “Funkyhomosapien.” It’s another welcome break, this time from Del’s own beats that by this point have become samey and formulaic. The experienced and highly skilled J-Zone gifts Del an instrumental with a little more substance that provides a nice way to finish the album.
The relationship with Definitive Jux lasted for this project only, and the label closed doors as a business not long after. Most of Del’s post Eleventh Hour albums have been self-released, often going unnoticed. But the quality remains, and he is still in demand for features on other people’s albums.