Quiet as kept, few MCs have been more consistent or prolific over the last twenty years than Del the Funky Homosapien. From his funk-fueled debut to his lyrical free-for-alls with the Hieroglyphics, on through the futuristic excursions of Deltron 3030, the Oakland-born MC has cultivated fanbases in multiple generations and hip-hop subspecies by continually redefining his image and sound. Yet, he has done it without ever straying from the whimsically cerebral brand of lyricism that set him apart from the gangsta’s paradise of West coast rap in the early ‘90s. In 2012, as rap nerds clear space on their zunes for the upcoming Deltron release, Del has decided to take a brief detour with East coast production duo Parallel Thought to re-visit a less-heralded side project, 2010’s Parallel Uni-Verses. What results is an exercise in form, rooted in the basics of Hip-Hop 101 and bolstered with the improvisational flourishes of jazz instrumentation.
Attractive Sin opens with the aptly titled “Momma’s House,” where a blast of horns and a soulful beat transport the listener back to the days of boomboxes on the front porch. Del does the rest, delivering five minutes of stream-of-consciousness rhymes that bounce freely from clever braggadocio to conversational knowledge, dropping to slice-of-life vignettes. There’s no hook, no bridge, no musical breakdowns. The variations come solely from Del’s MCing – cadences, inflections and phrasing, and the result is a hypnotic testament to the raw power of beats and rhymes.
Del and Parallel continue to eschew traditional song structure for the majority of the album, opting instead for an improvisational template, in which Del’s rhymes weave in and out of musical crevices like a particularly dexterous instrument in an inspired jam session. And–while undeniably spirited–amorphous workouts like “Ownership” and “1520 Sedgewick” are more likely to make listeners want to check out what is almost certainly an inspired live show than hit “repeat.”
The project is at its best when Del returns to the tight song structure that drove his early hits. The dirty, mid-tempo funk of “Blow Your Mind” would make Del’s big cousin Ice Cube proud (and brother George wish he were here) as the Funky Homosapien rides the groove into an infectious, no-frills hook. Likewise, the hard drums, playful keys and sing-song chorus of “Act Like Ya Know” would be perfectly at home on a Hiero posse cut, though Del proves more than agile enough to do the track justice all by his lonesome.
Attractive Sin is far from a great album, though there are certainly moments of greatness from all involved parties. Ultimately, the collection plays like exactly what it is: a fun side project that re-affirms the core values of vintage hip-hop at a time when the genre too often seems to value everything but vintage fun.
– Jeff Harvey