Del Tha Funkee Homosapien‘s appeal doesn’t lie in machismo or a larger-than-life persona. Instead, the veteran Oakland emcee’s strengths are being relatable and spinning entertaining anecdotes. On notable tracks like “Mistadobalina” and “If You Must,” he was like the ideal next-door neighbor: Once in a while, you visit Del’s place for drinks and video games. He’ll talk some very amusing shit and give you an evening full of insightful observations. But on Golden Era, his ninth solo LP, the shit-talking takes center stage without the well-reasoned witticisms to back them up. Thus Del threatens to become another rapper concerned more with talking about how you shouldn’t fuck with him instead of proving why you shouldn’t.
The chorus of “Upside Down” encapsulates the whole record: This is dedicated to the haters and the novices/Who always want to argue about what hip-hop is. Distinct narratives and killer punch lines are mostly absent; beats aside, the album never alters its current, running together like a freestyle written without any breaks. “Fallout” contains the worst boast in I be ripping this shit till it fall out/A lot of these fools be all mouth. (“Ripping,” “shit,” and “fall out” combine to make something that sounds way more icky than it does badass.) Del is capable of so much better than this. On the positive side, the music on Golden Era (whose physical release comes packaged with re-releases of 2009’s Funk Man and Automatik Statik) is varied and mostly good, with the mangled ice cream truck jingle of “Double Barrel” and the Pac-Man-meets-light-jazz of “Fallout” making for particularly sturdy beats. (The Council)