"I'm sick of looking at the inside of space stations/Time for Deltron to take a vacation," rhymes Deltron Zero, exasperated and desperate for a breath of fresh blunt. Who can blame him? He, the Cantankerous Captain Aptos and Skiznod the Boy Wonder have been cooped up in a flying saucer for years, buzzing their way back to the Earth -- or what's left of it. Shouldn't Deltron be able to take a break from Aptos and Skiznod?
We hope not, because, trapped in the spaceship, rhyming, scratching and cutting beats into the black-box recorder, the three have dropped one of the best albums of 2000, even if it was made in the future.
Those not up to date on the future-school 3030-style names will better know Deltron Zero as Del tha Funkee Homosapien, the Cantankerous Captain Aptos as Dan the Automator and Skiznod as Kid Koala. Del rhymes, Dan produces and Koala scratches, and though anyone tracking the output of these three players knows that, individually, they can get it done, as a threesome locked in a flying saucer, they buzz.
Propelling funk into outer space has been a time-honored tradition since P-Funk shot their rockets in the '70s (and earlier, if you count Sun Ra); Kool Keith visits outer space on a regular basis, and the Wu Tang occasionally zip up there. But leave it to Del, the Automator and Koala to hit the sci-fi style with the most accuracy and come up with a concept album that's equal parts cheese and adventure.
Del tha Funkee Homosapien's delivery has never sounded fresher: His flow is wonderfully rigid, nailing internal and external beats with precision, and he enunciates words as though each is locked in its own little box, then piles them on top of each other neatly and rhythmically, giving them an ebb and a flow, the combination of which creates momentum. The result is a style that's immediately recognizable and gloriously unique. His lyrics have vitality and spunk; he squeezes dialogue next to narrative asides, omniscient comments next to thrilling alliterative workouts. When Del steps up, he's one of the best, spitting out a style as captivating as a grand Coltrane tenor solo.
Koala is more a navigator than a captain on Deltron. He guides tracks with his scratching, zipping in every once in a while to offer an aural exclamation point. The king of the disc, though, is Dan the Automator, the most innovative rap producer on the scene, an artist whose knowledge and appreciation of music (as opposed to hip-hop) guides his tracks in crazy-great directions. This is illustrated from the get-go on Deltron 3030: "State of the Nation" samples church choirs and a pedal-steel guitar, a Stravinskian string freakout and a simple yet compelling beat, and the end product is both otherworldly and weirdly sensible; his recombinations are as innovative as they are imaginative, as beguiling as they are beautiful.
Toss in a few guests -- including Prince Paul, Blur's Damon Albarn, MC Paul Barman, Sean Lennon, Peanut Butter Wolf and others -- and you've got a weird, great record, one that'll hook you with its lighthearted spirit and sense of adventure.