Challenging ‘the nature of man’ with Deltron 3030

Deltron-3030_postPhotos by Kory Thibeault // Written by Molly Kish //

Del the Funky Homosapien, Dan the Automator and Kid Koala brought their brand-new album Event II to their hometown audience at The Fillmore last Saturday. They joined forces once again as Deltron 3030, and a full orchestra accompanied the Hieroglyphics labelmates.

Directly after the Joseph Gordon Levitt-narrated “Stargate” intro, the Deltron 3030 Orchestra, conducted by a maestro clad Dan the Automator, fittingly broke into “Return”. Bringing life to old classics with the help of top-notch turntabalism from DJ and local legend Kid Koala, the full band and vocal ensemble took the fully packed Fillmore to a whole new astral plane.

Smoke hung languidly in the air as the crowd rocked to the interstellar groove and futuristic lyrics brought hard by Dan and Del, whose undeniable chemistry commanded the stage and was backed by an all-star cast of bay area producers and immensely talented touring bandmates.

After a full set and two-song encore, Showbams got a chance to catch up with the hip-hop royalty. Kicking it amongst Bay Area friends and family in the legendary Fillmore balcony, we sat down with Del the Funky Homosapien and Dan the Automator to rap about the post-apocalyptic past, the “fucked up present” and the chicken-masked murdering future of Deltron 3030.


Showbams: Del, I know today is kind of a big day for you. Twenty years ago your second album, No Need For Alarm came out, it was the first release after you parted creative ways with your cousin Ice Cube and ultimately was the official introduction of the Hieroglyphics crew. What ultimately was the reason you wanted to branch out on your own as an artist and producer?

Del: Um, it’s kind of funny but basically my peer group at the time with my first album, they kind of made fun of me. You know what I’m saying, because I guess in their minds it wasn’t like real hip hop or whatever. Because Cube was on board it was a shinier sound and I was using P-Funk, so I guess to them it meant that it wasn’t “real hip hop”.

So after some time it just kind of depressed me, you know what I mean. Because you know, you want your peer group to like what you’re doing and whatever. So from that came No Need For Alarm. Really, I was just trying to prove a point to people. Now looking back, it was just so foolish, it’s like, “Wow, I was depressed for years because of that.” Now it doesn’t even matter. They were probably just hating because I was on the scene at the time, and they weren’t doing nothing. Looking back at it now, that was pretty much what it was.

For Cube, it wasn’t like I just didn’t want to work with him, I actually really enjoyed doing so on that first album. It is still one of my favorite experiences in the studio ever. I learned a lot of stuff them. They taught me a lot and I had a lot of fun with them, they were hella funny. But on the second album, I just wanted to go back to what I was doing, like at the Onion Lab (shout out to Onion). I used to go to his house and make demos, basically. You know practice our craft before we came out, that’s how we started getting known around the Bay Area.

So, I went back to more of that style just to let people know, I’m still there. I didn’t sell out or whatever you think and I’ve just been going harder and harder ever since then.

Showbams: Did you always want to do something like Hieroglyphics, with a whole rap collective in the East Bay, or was this something that just kind of naturally transpired?

Del: You know what? It wasn’t really something that I made, that was something that just kind of happened. There was only so many people that were just about “really rapping” in the Bay Area anyways, it wasn’t like there was hella’ us you know? But really whoever was close knit and got together the most, I guess became the general band, Hieroglyphics. That’s just the way it was, it wasn’t really a creation of mine.

But if I want to be real about it, me, A-Plus and Tajai is pretty much Hieroglyphics, because we’ve know each other the longest since like second and third grade. We was always into hip-hop, so it was from the beginning never about money or nothing like that, because that wasn’t even a dream back then. It wasn’t even a thought in our mind that could ever happen. We were just doing it because we loved it so much.

Showbams: That whole album in general really helped to expose the regional sound of Bay Area hip-hop, the style of the era, and eventually in 1997 the formation of your own record label. As an artist in charge of their own label, what can you say are some of the positive aspects of assuming complete responsibility over your work and what you put out?

Del: I guess it’s like anything you take total control over, it’s all up to you. So, if you know what you’re doing and you’re good at it and can stay on top of it, it can be great! But, you know you’re still going to need help from other people, no matter what you do. You’re going to need distributors, somebody to press something up or to make something happen for you, or whatever. So, it’s never just on you, but your creative output is.

It’s up to you whether people buy it or not, whether you’re hip enough to really communicate with your fans and be able to translate that into something people are going to want to buy. If you sign to a label, they’ve definitely got the money and the power to make you omnipresent. You can be everywhere at once, you know. Which might help you sell records or might not help you sell records, but if you’ve got something going they can help you take it to the next level.

I’m not against major labels, it’s just that they have so much money and stakes behind whatever it is they feel like they can have a say in the creative process. That’s pretty much the basis of it, everything’s got it’s ups and downs, pros and cons, you just gotta take it the way you want to take it. If you want to be a real big star then go and do it. Personally, I need some of my freedom and my privacy so I’m not really going that route.


Showbams: A few years later, you synced up with Dan and Kid Koala to form Deltron 3030. Dan, you had been on the local scene for a minute working with Kool Keith on the whole Dr. Octagon project and Prince Paul on Handsome Boy Modeling School, along with various other collaborations. How did you guys meet up and eventually start Deltron 3030?

Dan: I mean we’re both in the Bay Area, so we probably knew a little bit about each other before we started working together. I originally got Del to work with us on Handsome Boy Modeling School, he did a couple songs on there and Del has always been one of my favorite rappers because he approaches it his own way, which kind matches in a sense to what I do because I approach it in my own way. Then, we got together and we’re all doing it our own way, and it works out pretty well. I mean, it could not work out, but it happens to work out.

Showbams: You guys have obvious commonalities between you three (Del, Dan, Kid Koala) evident in your musical background — locality and expertise in your crafts. How did you ultimately come to the decision to release your debut album in 2007 (Deltron 3030), as a concept album, something really different from what was going on stylistically within the industry?

Del: The “concept,” if you want to call it that, the major characterizations and stuff I guess you can say I created but really the continuity of the record, that’s all Dan.

Dan: Yeah, but it’s always like that. Del’s got this creative mind, like Del’s a poet who comes up with these great ideas that I can bring to life musically and in some ways conceptually. But it’s like he comes up with this stuff, like all the Deltron lyrics, (I mean I guess I do some of the choruses), but all the lyrics, like the rhyme lyrics are all Del. When you listen to them, he paints this incredible dystopian or futuristic or whatever thing and I just try to hang on for dear life and run with it.

You know, I think we challenge each other in a good way. Particularly, I don’t think it’s hard I think it’s just challenging, you know what I mean? Then we go and make records that are just the same. Even the second Deltron record, that wasn’t a challenge from me to him, it was a challenge from us against the world. What science fiction represents and what we thought we were doing. What I mean by that is like our first record was kind of a fun futuristic romp, but because of Del’s nature he had a lot of poignant points in there. Some people kind of took those to heart and we realized really that’s kind of the basis of science fiction and all the stuff that you roll with.

So then all of the sudden we have to be a little bit more cognizant of not just current events, but all events in general to be able to address the record the way it should be addressed. Quite frankly for me, it’s not whether it’s easy or hard, but those particular issues don’t affect me, they affect him more because he’s the one who has to come up and say the stuff. So, it was a matter of getting that to work, whereas for me I’m just sort of continuing to advance the craft.


Showbams: Del, we know you’re a big video game and comic book fan …

Del: Yep, I just got a new one! It’s called “Hotline Miami” and basically you’re a dude, I guess it takes place in the 80’s in Miami and it’s like hella criminal activity. It looks like top-down graphics, like the first “Grand Theft Auto” before it was 3D and all that shit, like an Atari game. That’s kind of what it looks like. You’re basically a killer, wearing these different animal masks, like a walrus mask, a tiger mask, a rabbit mask, a chicken mask, and you go in these places. Somebody calls you and they give you some cock-a-meme story like, “OK, you got a date waiting for you at this address, hurry up. Don’t be late, make sure you do it good,” or whatever. Then, you go down there and you gotta murder all these fools.

Showbams: In a chicken mask?

Del: Haha, yeah in a chicken mask. But if you get hit once, you’re dead basically! So, you’ve gotta get through a whole level without getting touched. You gotta sneak around, kill one person and make sure they dead. You gotta jump on top of them and beat ‘en to death. It’s crazy, it’s super crazy. The music is good, everything.

Showbams: Is this a common interest of yours, Dan? Are you into video games or no?

Dan: No, not at all. Haha! I actually like video games, but once they got a little too in terms of uh … (Del shows the video game interface), see I can play something like that. I can’t play like the new, fluid graphic shit. I can play it when it’s pix-elated, but not when it’s all smooth, because then it just doesn’t seem right to me, I don’t know.

Showbams: Yeah, it gets a little too intense at that point.

Del: Yeah, yeah, yeah! It can make some people have like seizures and shit. They like have warnings about that.

Dan: I don’t think I have that kind of fear, but I just don’t like the vibe.

Del: I got an Xbox at the house though, I’m about to get the Playstation 4 and I’m about to get the Xbox 1. Playstation 4 is like, “Woah, I didn’t think games could get any better, right? Then I’ve seen the graphics and I was like, “Oh, oh okay.” It’s ridiculous, actually.


Showbams: Now over a decade later, the long-awaited follow0up to your self-titled album, Event II finally dropped, the production of which has been rumored to have started as far back as around 2004.

Dan: It’s possible, yeah!

Del: I had the music for a long time.

Dan: But it’s changed a lot of course!

Del: The lyrics changed because pretty much everything I wrote got destroyed on a disc drive.

Dan: What we did was like we tried, but it wasn’t the right time. We tried and then it became the right time, but then the right time happened to be a lot longer than we thought it was going to be. When the fact of the matter is, not like it was better to take long but I got to say those years between doing it, a lot of shit happened in society that really … not like it gave us something to write about because we were planning on writing and talking about it anyway. But it kind of eventually, not proved what we were thinking but was really very illustrated points to what we were thinking.

Del: We had time to sit on it and think about it. Kind of reflect on that and the world. Let me say this too, it gave me a chance to really think about how I wanted to present this album. From my experience, sequels just really don’t come off that well. People always have a tendency to feel like their first experience was the best and nothing can ever top it no matter how good it is. So, I’m thinking about that and I’m like, “OK, I really want to make it to where people are going to really dig this.” Also, I wanted to think about how to come with it and how to write it.

I actually had to study how to write science fiction, and I just really thought about it because I noticed a lot of people who are really into sci-fi and may not even be into rap or music like that at all, but they were into Deltron. I wanted to come with it and kind of appeal to them as well. I recognize it’s kind of like a different thing that I’m challenged with and am glad that it took that amount of time. Then, when we really sat down and got to work and I lost my raps or whatever, he was coming with new music. It was so much more incredible than what he had before, so I was like, “OK, I’m going to write some more now!”


Dan: The thing about Del is, it really only takes him about 10-15 minutes to come up with these incredible thoughts. Maybe you have to hone them or whatever, but it’s like me to where the genesis of getting to the point where you can do it is what takes a long time. The actual “doing it” part is just doing it. At the time, there’s always moments where you say, “I wish we could finish this or get started.” But in the big picture, you realize how complicated it is, especially when you see the final results. You realize how … it’s funny because he explained something to me, not that I didn’t think it was true, I just never really thought about it, in that everything’s not really that complicated. It’s all just the nature of man, you know? The basic tendencies — greed, power, money — and when you get down to that, it’s kind of like the crux of everything that happens.

I mean, even historically speaking, from England taking over 70 percent of the world, it’s the nature of man. Conquer, power, greed, destroy and the thing is, I always thought it was more of a complex thing. But really, it always comes down to that. When we’re thinking about this stuff and writing about this stuff, all these various things are coming true.

Then, when it actually came out, even stuff we wrote about that we had on the record came true after the record was released. It’s one of those things that’s a constant. It’s great to see that and get it. To be able to go, “Ahhh, I got this. I understand. This is the nature of man.” I feel like I became smarter making these records and that smarter isn’t unfortunately always good. It’s more like street smarts, where you realize everything’s fucked up.

Del: Nah, but it makes you appreciate the good things, though.

Dan: But you get what I’m saying, though. Like, as the layers unfold from shit, you realize it’s all the same fucked-up shit all over again. That’s all I’m saying.

Del: Now you see why I’m so dark with my shit. He was real helpful in keeping the project from getting like very dark and morbid. Even early on in the writing, he was like, “That’s cool, but you know maybe we should try to balance it with something a little bit less … ” You know what I mean?

Dan: And it is a balance and that was even proven, too. You got countries like Egypt having revolutions and you know Twitter is having a part of that. The man can’t shut down the information, or like Wikipedia, information is that power and the people have it because they can’t be subverted. You see all that. It all takes place. But although you have that power, you don’t necessarily have that money or that other kind of power, so you see the … well, not the negative because it’s all negative. It’s just, you see the hope, you know.


Showbams: What’s interesting about your records is that there are sci-fi, fantasy and surrealistic themes running throughout the content. Do you feel like it’s easier to convey those messages and sociopolitical commentary through such mediums?

Del: I’ll tell you this, because last night after the show somebody came up to me and said, “You know, Del. I appreciate this album coming out, and I really dig the message that you have. I feel you, and I’m glad you’re getting it out to the people.” And in my mind, I’m thinking, “OK, I’m really glad you liked that message, but I’m not really even trying to put that out there.” Whatever you think the message is, I’m glad you love it so much. I wasn’t really trying to relay no message.

Dan: I think you’re right and that’s all true, what you’re saying I mean. But I think you do have a message in there and what I mean by that, you’re shit is not random thought. I think it ties together and when I say that … see the funny thing about Del is that this guy, doesn’t even own a TV.

Showbams: That’s good, that’s good.

Dan: Well, whatever. I own a TV, I watch a lot of TV so fuck you (laughs). Nah, just playing.

Showbams: You’re the first official “fuck you” I’ve had in an interview, I like it.

Dan: Nah, but like what I was saying is that he’s so astute with what’s going on. I don’t know how you get your information or where it trickles or siphons in from, there’s just tons. You know what I mean and I’m into that, I’m just saying.

Showbams: It does come through in a serious way, but like you were saying, not too dark.

Del: Yeah, I’m not trying to preach to nobody. I’m just getting my view out there and how I view it. I feel like I’m being correct, you know what I’m saying? Maybe other people don’t look at it the same way I do. But it’s out there for however you think, to interpret it any way you want to. I’m just trying to make it entertaining for people.


Showbams: You’ve been on record saying that this album, especially Event II, is an album that has a full story to it. Can you give us a little “cliff notes” version if possible?

Del: Well, it basically has to do with what Dan was saying about power and corruption and how at the very essence it makes people do crazy stuff. In this situation, it just happens to be planetary cataclysmic, you know what I mean? It’s bigger than just a war on Planet Earth, they fucking everything up all over the galaxy. It’s like the stakes are higher, but still at the very essence, what we’ve always had to deal with. That’s pretty much what I want to try to illustrate. I want to get away from so much of the laser fire and super big whatever, all the technical stuff.

I wanted to get down to more the humane part of it so that anybody can listen to it and kind of feel it even if you aren’t a sci-fi fan. That’s one thing that I really wanted to get there, that the first one didn’t have. I’m not going to say it was “techno babble” because some people, I’ve read some reviews for it and they were kind of alluding to it as “techno babble,” which it isn’t. I was just kind of stream of consciousness using the vocabulary of science fiction and just having fun with it.

Dan: But see, there’s where I don’t … I mean, I was there and I’m not going to say that’s not all true, but the thing that’s different about it is just because of the way Del thinks the message gets in there. He may not be going, “Alright, I’m writing the message now,” but it works its way in there. Then, some stuff like “Virus”, where you’re right on top of things and even though you might be having fun with it, the fun you’re having is very profound. That’s what put us in our own trap. We trapped ourselves in the way that there’s a lot of message in this record, so we need to address the message, you know what I’m saying?

Showbams: On that note, what are your predictions for the future of Deltron 3030 and your role in the music industry within the next few years?

Del: Well, you know what at first I kind of was like “naaaahhh” because it takes too much work. But now, I kind of realize and I got this from skateboarding. I’m learning how to skate and trying to learn how to ollie, which takes a helluva lot of work! I kind of learned from that, that once you do “that,” you’ve done all the preliminary work. You don’t have to start over again. So you know, who knows? I like working with Dan a lot, though. I even like being on the road with Dan for this length of time, the whole band really. I’ve hella enjoyed it. I’ve been having hella fun with these guys. I would definitely like to work on some more stuff with them.

Dan: Yeah, you know me and Del have been around each other for a long time and I always feel good when we do stuff. It’s always good stuff, you know quality wise, but also there’s a certain … I mean, I’m a record producer and I work with a lot of people and you get what you get out of enjoyment or whatever. But we have a really good group of guys and we’re going out and having a great time. We’re smashing places, it’s a good combination, you know?

I think also the other thing is that we finally know what we need to do. I think it’s not that complicated on one level, it’s complicated on other levels, but on one level, we’re good. I think we had a lot of trouble breaking through on the second record, just understanding your place of what it means and what it is. I think that’s all done now. From that point, it could continue that way, it could jump off that way, but we now understand what it was.

If we did another record and everything blew up and we were all starting over, that’s a fantasy record again. But at least you know where you were standing to get to the next place. You know just taking what was the original Deltron 3030 that had a lot of thoughts in it, to where it is now and it really does have a moment and you get to where you are. You now have a solid platform to jump off of.



  1. Deltron is our hero, if he can’t do it, nobody can

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