Del The Funky Homosapien & Tame One – Parallel Uni-Verses (2009)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Potholes
Del The Funky Homosapien (or Tha Funkee, however you care to spell it) and Tame One make for an interesting duo. Del, being the eccentric lyricist who tore apart the west-coast alternative rap scene at a time when G-Funk dominated, brings much of the same quirkiness to this tandem, while Tame One, one-half of the NJ based Artifacts, brings his steady, yet fragmented, boom-bap flow.
What Parellel Uni-Verses really represents though is the uniting of two of hip-hop’s most talented journeymen. Del’s been through various projects, starting solo, then working closely with fellow Bay Area artists Souls of Mischief and forming the Hieroglyphics crew. Next he moved onto more left-field hip-hop with Deltron 3030 and other projects with Dan The Automator, Gorillaz, and more. Tame’s journey is similar in that he’s been involved in various projects and even flipped styles. He’s bounced around from Artifacts, to solo work, to the Def Jux collective The Weathermen, where he too tapped into his experimental side. So although coming from different origins (one west-coast alternative, one east-coast boom-bap), Del and Tame, through their career journeys, actually share more in common than is immediately apparent, and thus the album is aptly titled.
However, Parellel Uni-Verses may actually be seen as more than a duo, when considering that the entire album is produced by Parallel Thought, and they hold little back. Expanding on a rich musical palette, Parallel Thought makes these tracks pop out of the speakers with nasty guitar riffs, thick basslines, and an overall rock-oriented sound that comes nowhere close to traditional boom-bap, but instead tends towards a fun blend of groove-based beats and a bit of electronic experimentation. Parallel Thought also has strong attention to the fine details here. There is not a beat out of place, and quiet keyboards and turntable scratches drift in the background of many tracks, adding to the spatial feel of the production.
Tame One takes the first verse on the majority of these tracks, opening with what at first appears to be just random pre-track talking, but actually weaves right into his bars. His flow is fragmented, at times leaving empty gaps where traditional emcees would throw in words, but it’s intentional and it works (he’s been doing similar lyrical tricks for years). He’s usually noted for particularly biting punch lines, but those punch lines are largely absent here, and when present, they miss the bulls-eye. This may be his most glaring flaw on Parallel Uni-Verses, but it is still small, and not enough to detract from his terrific glorification of b-boying, rocking shows, and emceeing. Tame understands well the roots of hip-hop culture, and raps about them to near perfection (memo to rappers: write about what you know; it works!). Check the fantastic shout outs to old-school hip-hop on “We Taking Over” or the positive ode to hip-hop on “Keep It Up”.
Del on the other hand is an interesting case study. It’s no secret that during the 90s few rappers could match Del bar-for-bar, and that he struggled (mightily) over his last two albums. Well to all you Hiero and 3030 fans, rest easy, Del has returned. He may not be on a time-warped interstellar mission here, but he does have a certain focus and drive to his rhymes that have been missing in recent years. His vocabulary is expansive and he doesn’t hesitate to play with multi-syllable words.
Where this album needs a bit of work is in pacing. The opening tracks fall in line without a problem, transitioning nicely into each subsequent track. The middle of the album presents us with perhaps the two best tracks, the banging “Before This” and the aforementioned “We Taking Over”. The latter takes a mellow, laid back vibe, which is then taken a bit too far on the next track, “Life Sucks”. Not only is it topically depressing (although with a bit of dark humor), but the track just creeps so slowly that it errs on boredom. The final track, “Gaining Ground” suffers from a similar affliction, and a boring track is never a good way to end an album.
Still, it is a good day in hip-hop when top-notch lyricists bring mostly top-notch lyrics, over extremely solid production. The whole album is tied together well thematically, and sonically, which adds to the benefit of playing this one front to back. To Del: Welcome back. Rhyme like this all the time. To Tame One: Please don’t go on another lyrical hiatus like you did when Artifacts broke up.