When: Sat., May 23, 9 p.m. 2015
DEL THE FUNKY HOMOSAPIEN
SATURDAY, MAY 23
CAT'S CRADLE, CARRBORO—When forced out of the major-label system due to low sales or high costs, most artists stumble during the relocation process to dependence on an independent, especially in hip-hop. Rappers who go gold or even multi-platinum on prior releases can soon become RIAA cardboard—Foxy Brown's Brooklyn's Don Diva and Joe Budden's No Love Lost come to mind. Known for picking up declining emcees kicked to the curb, indies like eOne serve as incubators for lowered expectations and diminished returns. The artists fade into mundane new lives or tragicomic punchline fodder.
After his second album for Elektra, Del the Funky Homosapien was dropped, too. But he constructed a compelling, unconventional case study in hip-hop success. Operating outside of the major-label system for nearly 20 years, he capitalized on the power of downloads earlier than most, starting with the online-first availability of 1997's Future Development. A core member of the Hieroglyphics crew, Del helped form the aptly named Hieroglyphics Imperium Recordings, which persists. This is true self-reliance in a realm not known for it. Semi-autonomy alone doesn't equate to success, though, and Del has consistently worked outside of his circle. Around the turn of the century, he got his music in front of the skateboard community, a self-sustaining scene that scarfs down videos and music compilations. And as the illmatic charismatic Deltron 3030, the dominant Blue Meanie of Gorillaz's "Clint Eastwood" and "Rock The House" and the tongue-twisting wordsmith of early solo hit "Mistadobalina," Del survives on the iPods of millions. As such, a Del solo gig can be one of passive recognition, with tiny epiphanies like, "Wait, that's one of his songs, too?"
Even with the benefit of genuine skills and a distinct voice, he's unlikely to ever become a household name. Throughout his post-Elektra career, he has remained a low-key thriver, a modest hitmaker and a go-to for some of music's most brilliant minds. He's got current phone numbers for acclaimed artists like Dan The Automator and Damon Albarn—and they've likely got his, too. Showing no sign of stopping, Del's discography continues to grow in size and interest, offering perhaps the most poignant "fuck you" possible for major labels. 9 p.m., $15, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro, 919-967-9053, www.catscradle.com. —Gary Suarez