By Justin Cudahy, Columns Editor
Key Tracks: “Wheel of Fortune”, “The Glow”, “Sit Ya Ass Down”
Ever since the release of his first solo project in 1991, Del the Funky Homosapien has managed to stay within radars in hip-hop culture, mainly through his collaborations—spanning from the Oakland-based collective Hieroglyphics to the Wu-Tang Clan, Deltron 3030, Gorillaz, Kool Keith and now most recently, Amp Live. Their project, Gate 13, is an exercise in electronic-infused rap which, despite a strong beginning, starts to suffer heavily due to a lack of direction and general inconsistency throughout.
Prior to Gate 13, Amp Live made a name for himself as both a producer and DJ serving as one half of the duo Zion I. His remix of Radiohead’s In Rainbows received attention after he was threatened with a cease and desist letter back in 2008 when issues of copyright and creative use policies were still a hot topic.
As a DJ and producer, Amp’s sound concentrates in an electronic landscape, filled with heavy bass and an almost sci-fi-esque style. For Del, he’s no stranger to this kind of sound (e.g. Deltron 3030), so the two are already on the same page. Gate 13 establishes itself as a concept album, with an introductory track which has Del introducing his “Funk Pippen” persona before heading into the first full track.
“Wheel of Fortune” sets things in motion on a strong note giving listeners safe assurance that this album may actually work. Lines such as “Detached without a body / Like a bat defile by Ozzy” prove that Del’s subtle comedic lines haven’t changed along with his signature choppy flows. Amp’s production skills shine on this track as the instrumental segues into a relaxed reggae-infused beat about a minute into it, teasing what was to come throughout the rest of the album. It’s weird, it’s different, but it works.
The few tracks following “Wheel of Fortune” aren’t bad either. “The Glow” follows a similar formula to its predecessor track, with Del advising people not to get caught in the limelight with an eerie yet inspiring buildup instrumental from Amp. Gate 13 progressively gets funkier in its sounds with heavier basses, flutes and a basic drum kit, creating a certain degree of rawness and authenticity to an otherwise heavily electronic soundscape. But unfortunately, the “safe assurance” mentioned previously ends up turning into faux hope from there.
The album begins to lose its sense of direction and awareness as it enters its second half, starting with “Humble Pie”. Presented in a fairy tale fashion, the track turns itself into a cheesy anecdote about a school bully. Del’s simplistic storytelling is awkward and confusing, with an awful oversaturated chorus that will make you scrunch your face. Despite this being the lowest point on the album, it doesn’t improve much from there.
“Chili Sauce” abandons the funk genre altogether, resorting instead to an electropop dance song. It’s a good song on its own, and guest artists James Melo and Mr. MICRO provide great vocals to the track, but it has no place on an album such as this.
As the album winds down to its conclusion, it somewhat compensates itself with tracks such as “Sit Ya Ass Down” and “Get some of Dis” which revert back to the same sounds and direction as the opening half but ends up falling flat on a rather lackluster instrumental conclusion.
Gate 13 is a subpar entry into the list of Del collaborations. Funk Pippen may not have worked, but at least we still have Deltron to cling on to.