Concert Review | Despite celebrity cameos, Deltron 3030’s return disappoints
Published: Thursday, October 10, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 10, 2013 02:10
When the music trio comprised of Oakland rapper Del the Funky Homosapien, San Francisco-based producer Dan the Automator and mix master Kid Koala first released their eponymous album “Deltron 3030” back in 2000, the hip-hop supergroup received high praise. Their debut album helped pave the way for alternative hip-hop groups and musicians looking to expand their horizons beyond typical samples and themes. Inspired by musicians like George Clinton and Sun Ra — both pioneers of futurism and funk — the three giants of Deltron 3030 sought to create a rap opera, blending a sci-fi story with elements from classical music, jazz, trip hop and funk. The group wanted to go beyond the musical limits of a regular record by presenting a stylistic concept album.
Since the release of “Deltron 3030,” 13 long years have come and gone. The styles that were originally fused together to create the space-rap sound of the group have since been discussed, explored, used and reused, not just by the original progenitors of Deltron 3030, but also by other artists. Trip hop, in particular — one of Deltron 3030’s major influences — has suffered a massive decline. In short, it seems as if the very area that Deltron 3030 helped to pioneer has retreated into obscurity. And from this point, Deltron 3030 has launched the sequel to its original project, “Deltron Event II.”
The world described in “Deltron Event II” is much darker than that of the first album, though it takes place in the same universe. Just as a decade has passed since release of the original album, 10 years have gone by in the world created by Deltron 3030 — their most recent venture takes place in the year 3040. The future world has collapsed. Where there once were mighty civilizations, only rubble remains, populated by renegades and outlaws. But amidst all this destruction, there is one light, one source of hope: characters Deltron Zero and Automator — portrayed by Del the Funky Homosapien and Dan the Automator, within this fictional universe. The scene is set during the introduction of the album opener, “Stardate,” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt (he appears for a cameo) narrating, “Then, when all seemed to be lost, a small glimmer of light appeared in the distance. Could it be ... back from the great beyond ... It’s the return of Deltron Zero and Automator.”
However, “Deltron Event II” fails to live up to the hype that Dan and Del build for themselves. Instead, the album is hindered by its own refusal to expand its repertoire. “Deltron Event II” sounds a lot like “Deltron 3030.” But while “Deltron 3030” innovated, “Deltron Event II” rests upon the previous album’s laurels — like Jay-Z in “Magna Carta ... Holy Grail” — and contributes little to the conversation regarding the future of genres such as turntabilism and trip-hop. In short, “Deltron Event II” has lost the originality and freshness that made its predecessor so great in the first place.
This is not to say that “Deltron Event II” does not have its share of diamonds in the rough. Of particular interest are the second and third tracks, “The Return” and “Pay the Price,” and the rather engaging “Melding of the Minds” — a collaboration with Zach de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine. Nevertheless, the rest of the album is easily forgettable. Despite appearances by The Lonely Island, David Cross and, curiously enough, David Chang — the head chef and founder of the Momofuku restaurant group — the skits in the album aren’t worth listening to. “Deltron Event II” is adequate at best, featuring an almost excessive number of outside contributors. There is little, however, the star-studded cast can do to inspire the album into greatness: at the very core the spark is missing from its production. Timing may not have been good for Dan the Automator, Del the Funky Homosapien and Kid Koala. Though the trio still have the ability to produce great symphonic beats and lay down verbose lyrics, they weren’t able to pull it off this time around.