Hieroglyphics emcee Del the Funky Homosapien has always gotten props for his eccentric rhymes and drawly cadence. Like a jazz musician who could solo on one note for 24 bars, he could take a nonsensical phrase, repeat it over and over again, and have it mean something slightly different each time. Take the track “I Got You,” a duet with Ladybug Mecca on his new album Eleventh Hour. The hook has them swapping the same line back and forth — Yo I got you tight as what, you got me? — with Del adding a coda at the end: If we really wanna get it, you know we gotta do it together. In its own strange, whimsical, off-handed, nonchalant, slightly tripped-out way, the song sounds really endearing — it is, after all, probably the closest Del will ever get to a love ballad.
But for a few glitches, Del’s production values have been just as funky and cutting-edge as his rhyme patterns and his crazy rap persona. Unfortunately, Eleventh Hour — which marks Del’s debut on indie label Def Jux — is inconsistent. Some of the beats sound like corny software compositions, while others, like the electronica-influenced “Hold Your Hand,” show real imagination and musical depth. On most tracks Del’s beats pale in comparison to his writerly stylings, even though the rapper wastes his better lines battling an unnamed (or imaginary) foe. What he says is generally less important than how it’s delivered, showing that the emcee’s strengths haven’t changed that much since the early ’90s.
Admittedly, Eleventh Hour outpaces most of what you hear in contemporary hip-hop. But it’s not classic Del. (Def Jux)