Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Evening in Williamsburg: Del the Funky Homosapien at the East River State Park Pool Party

We walked over to East River State Park after eating our Sunday early-bird old-people special and got to see an excellent show by the intriguing and innovative Oakland MC Del the Funky Homosapien, who first surfaced, spectacularly, in the early '90s.

As the New York Times once said, he's the kind of rapper who can make audiences think as well as bob their heads. His effervescent, sometimes irascible set made for a great evening at this week's JellyNYC pool party.

We're always intrigued when we see an(other) older person at one of these things.

It turned out this woman was one of several foreign tourists, who'd just come because they heard East River State Park a great view of Manhattan. Oh, and they wanted to rock out.

We walked around the stage. At this point only recorded music was playing.

We'd missed performances by Gravy Train!, DD/MM/YY and Kenan Bell, but frankly, we were taking a nap.

It was purdy hot out, maybe only slightly better by the water.

Some people there prefer grass.

Williamsburg's alleged hipster shortage, we have concluded, is a myth.

When the very good DJ Prince Paul came on, crowds gathered in front of the stage. His first number was the usual tribute to Michael Jackson, and then Prince, De La Soul, Brand Nubian, et al. followed.

In addition to being a DJ, the Queens native Prince Paul is a crimefighter, an international man of mystery, and a well-known producer of lots of musicians you know well.

He got the crowd moving and shaking; clearly, he's so good at this you feel he could do it in his sleep. Prince Paul is pretty funny, too.

After Prince Paul left the stage, there were some technical glitches, but finally onstage came Buku One, or Bukue One - spelling of hip-hop performers is about as standard as colonial American English; we've seen Del the Funky Homosapien also as Del tha Funkee Homosapien - who, like Del, is from the Bay Area. He's worth catching up with if you're not familiar with him; his DJing exudes intelligence and wit.

Justin Chandler reviewed Bukue's album and said, "It becomes immediately clear that he is also quite interested in creating a persona that stays true to the art of pure Hip-Hop. The 'Cheese Intro' introduces the listener to Bukue on stage, likely at one of the many festivals that he has promoted, doing an accapella freestyle to hype the crowd. He repeats that there is a 'case of too much cheese and not enough butter.'" This was terrific fun at the pool.

Del joined Bukue onstage, and he was great throughout his set. Last year at Pitchfork, Nate Patrin reviewed The 11th Hour, the long-delayed 2008 album of this early '90s phenomenon and said he hasn't lost his touch:

As a lyrical exhibition, almost everything that makes Del the MC he is is in full effect: A taunting, sing-songy flow, internal rhymes that remain intricate without getting too convoluted or highfalutin', and the tendency to mix tightly-packed gymnastic verbiage and straightforward talk. . .

. . .[F]or an album that pushes the limits of how much you can say about so little, the stuff that's said rarely fails to be entertaining in the pure linguistically structural sense. That aforementioned flow of Del's prods into your subconscious when you're focusing on anything but the lyrics, like you're hearing fragments of a spirited conversation in an adjacent room, and when you switch your attention to the words themselves they click so well it's almost hard to believe they sound like that and still make some kind of sense, even if they look perfectly normal on paper."

"How many of you think the music industry is fucked up and full of shit?" Del asked the crowd. "Are you tired of buying an album that has only three good songs?" Yeah, we are. Who's got the cure? The doctor in the house, Dr. Bombay, of course.

Del ranted a bit about the music industry, but it was hard to disagree with his disgust. On a more prosaic level, he and Bukue complained about the humidity and heat. They're from Oakland, after all, and hey, even New Yorkers this summer aren't used to it.

He also noted that due to the heat, the audience probably was smelling a bit funky. Anyway, here are a couple of Del's rhymes from YouTube. First, "Catch a Bad One":

And go back fifteen years:

It was a great show, ending with his expressing lots of gratitude and then going into an old Gorillaz track.

As we walked back home to Dumbo Books HQ via North 8th Street, we saw some pool parties-related graffiti.

Everyone and everything eventually gets compared to Nazis.

But Auschwitz had showers, right?

No need for alarm. At least some of us are grateful to JellyNYC's continued pool parties on summer Sundays. We're glad we got to see Del the Funky Homosapien as well as Buku One and Prince Paul today.

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