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Classics Vol 7: Deltron 3030 – Deltron 3030 (2000)

The year is 3030. The galaxy is controlled by a tyrannical government institution. The New World Order is being fought against by opposing civilian forces. Art, literature and culture are gradually being extinguished and regulated by the powers that be. There’s an interstellar war, and only one person can save the day; our protagonist Deltron Zero arises, promising to topple the intergalactic empire with military grade technology, computer viruses and his skills as an MC…

Dizzying in sound as it is in concept, Deltron 3030 revels in sci-fi atmospheres, imaginatively vivid lyricism, unconventional electronica and flairs of old-school hip hop. Joining Deltron Zero (Del the Funky Homosapien) on his quest are his sidekicks The Cantankerous Captain Aptos (producer Dan the Automator) and Skiznod the Boy Wonder (virtuoso turntablist Kid Koala), whose beats provide the instrumental canvas for Del to topple the tyrannical government by spitting bars of insight to dismantle the doublethink and deter the Thought Police.

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Following Damon Albarn’s ‘State of the Nation’ announcement regarding the return of the corporate omnipresence, Del wastes no time in constructing the themes and temperament of the hip hopera in ‘3030’, introducing the post-apocalyptic universe with diction that rises and falls alongside the cinematic, orchestral instrumental. The concept is proposed in vivid detail, with illuminations of an underclass, the universe’s topography [1], cultural suppression, telepathy, and a police state (run by callous androids) materialising, whilst references to video games, dystopian premise and sci-fi novels are projected vividly in the lyrical landscape.  Released shortly after the Y2K scare, Deltron 3030 transpired to be an incredibly timely project; capturing post-millennium tensions of humankind’s necessity for technology and its shortcomings, such as a worldwide collapse through just one minor error. ‘Virus’ asserts Del’s plan to overthrow the government forces by causing mass technological fallout, reverting humanity to a state of archaic bliss, with the ensuing track ‘Upgrade (A Brymar College Course)’ foretelling that humanity must start exercising their brain functions once more in the wake of the upshot. Deltron 3030 opportunely captured the public’s attention, underlining the uncertainties surrounding new technology at a time when Internet usage was becoming the norm.

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Deltron’s greatest achievement was presenting the dystopian paranoia of 3030 as existential social commentary. Del employs 3030 as a sinister metaphorical narrative of the exacerbation of black struggles, comparing the failures of the American prison system [2] and the whitewashing of history and education [3] to the autocratic tendencies of 3030’s elite. 3030 reflects a climate of turmoil where the arts and hip hop are censored and controlled, not entirely dissimilar from topics witnessed in Orwellian texts [4], the supressed underclass of Metropolis [5], the book burnings featured in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, or the snuffing of individuality in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Deltron 3030 exposed the parallel between the media’s portrayal of black youth movements and the repression tactics witnessed in dystopian literature, a practice which is still exemplified in the present day as major news broadcasters are spouting drivel such as “hip hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism.” [6]

Deltron 3030 was the logical step forward in black music’s curiosity for interplanetary concepts and philosophies. It furthered the Afrofuturistic values of Sun Ra, Afrika Bambaataa, and the work of Parliament/Funkadelic’s George Clinton, and enhanced the lineage of the bizarre astronomical conceptual works of OutKast (ATLiens), MF DOOM (numerous aliases including the time travelling Viktor Vaughn and the Godzilla inspired King Geedorah), and Dr. Octagon [7]. The incredibly forward-thinking trio created an album which outshines all their individual best works by fusing trailblazing hip hop with Philip K. Dick and Orwellian style dystopia and the ambitious sci-fi scope of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Its embracing of both nerd culture and an underground ethos allowed hip hop’s imagination to stretch to boundless accomplishments; 3030 serves as both an audio delight and an incredible achievement of storytelling, and it’s arguably the greatest hip hop concept album ever created.

 

Footnotes:

[1]  Del raps “While half the world’s a desert/Cannibals eat human brains for dessert/Buried under deep dirt, mobility inert”, shedding light on the landscape of certain sectors of the universe, which are seemingly comprised of Mad Max-like dwellings of savagery and unruliness. Mobility inert refers to their inability to relocate, possibly a metaphorical referemce to issues surrounding class social mobility and ghettoization.

Deltron also mentions a race of underground people, a common trope of dystopian and post-apocalyptic tales, “Underground chillin’ with the mole man and his whole fam.”

[2] Deltron Zero avows “I’m feeling like a ghost in a shell/I wrote this in jail playing host to a cell/For the pure verbal, they said my sentence was equivalent to murder.” Del wrote the track after being imprisoned for his lyrics which enlighten and educate the public, and thus received a similar prison sentence to a murderer. The modern American prison system is often critiqued for discriminatorily incarcerating disproportionate amounts of African Americans and exploiting them for labour profit, a topic notably explored in the acclaimed 2016 documentary 13th.

[3] On ‘Memory Loss’, Del urges the listener to “Look in the past/You might have to go farther than the book in your class”, condemning the whitewashing of history and its suppression and regulation of historical teachings and culture.

[4] On ‘3030’, Del raps “Living in a post-apocalyptic world morbid and horrid/The secrets of the past they hoarded”, suggesting the regime attempts to eradicate history and culture, a common practise utilised by tyrannical dictators. Those in control direct public perception of history and culture; significant cultural monuments are destroyed, books are burnt and theorist’s judgements are stifled. This alludes to the dystopian themes grasped by George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

[5] Metropolis is a 1927 science-fiction film directed by Fritz Lang. The plot involves an underclass forced to serve the ruling classes by constructing and fuelling their empire. A working-class prophet emerges, promising to topple the tyrannical overlords. The film is regarded as a critique of capitalism.

Deltron criticises wealth inequalities and class systems numerous times in 3030, “It’s an eternal evil concerned with thievery/Medieval prehistoric rhetoric, well we ahead of that.” The Medieval period saw extreme wealth disparities, as the poor worked for Monarchies and lived under appalling conditions whilst the rich indulged in luxury, built empires and exploited slave labour. In ‘Memory Loss’, Del compares the minimum wage to slavery, “Plantations is man-labor for 5 bucks for hourly intervals.” He deliberates on the themes of class inequality which African American’s disproportionately suffer from.

[6] Fox News presenter Geraldo Rivera generated a huge amount of controversy for these out-of-touch comments he made in 2015 regarding a performance of ‘Alright’ by Kendrick Lamar at the BET Awards. Kendrick later sampled the quote on the smash-hit ‘DNA.’ from 2017’s DAMN..

Additionally, in the track ‘New Coke’, an elderly narrator declares that “All that bass is gonna break your ears.” The skit parodies the ill-informed views surrounding hip hop and black music; the cynical narrator longs for his youth, but in reality, he can’t adapt to change. Lampooning the uninformed opinions of hip hop naysayers, the sketch highlights the issues of singling out black culture and restricting the arts in the same manner as the autocrats of 3030.

[7] Themes of Afrofuturism and space travel endure in today’s hip hop and R&B climate. Examples include: Ras G, Clipping. (Splendor & Misery), Flying Lotus, Janelle Monáe (The ArchAndroid), Shabazz Palaces (Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star and Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines), and Death Grips (Niggas on the Moon).

Special thanks to Genius for helping me to get to grips with the concept and lyrical content in more depth.

 

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Now Playing: Mary Anne Hobbs – Dubstep Warz

Dubstep Warz is an essential broadcast which marked the tipping point when dubstep went from an underground phenomenon to one of the most popular subgenres of electronic music of recent memory. Mary Anne Hobbs presents the show which features the talents of dubstep’s pioneers and proponents of its early sound. There are too many highlights to name, but I really enjoyed the sections from Mala CokiLoefah, and Skream. Additionally, I’ve been introduced to Vex’d thanks to this show.

You get a real sense of the excitement and passion from Mary Anne and the featured musicians here, and it’s testament to how thrilling British underground club culture can be.

Blanck Mass’ World Eater Features in Broken Amp’s Staff Favorites of 2017

Read what I had to say about Blanck Mass‘ fantastic third album World Eater here.

Alternative Christmas Songs

Fancy a change from the usual Christmas drivel? Why not check out this playlist of alternative Christmas tracks I created for Pure Grain Audio?

Now Playing: Daniel Avery – DJ-Kicks (2016)

Daniel Avery has had me hooked ever since I listened to his phenomenal debut album Drone Logic. Before I headed off to Beacons Festival all the way back in 2014, I went on a listening spree, acquainting myself with a rich variety of artists who were performing at the event in the tiny Yorkshire town of Skipton. I heard Drone Logic, and it blew me away on first listen. I then witnessed a three hour DJ set by the man himself and out of every artist there, Daniel Avery’s music has stuck with me ever since, demonstrating to me that there is a wealth of dancefloor ready electronic music available out there and it was time to go and get involved. Avery’s brand of techno is unique; it’s catchy, melodic, hard hitting, and carries a weight of tunefulness. It’s informed massively by the dance music scene of the 1990s such as British techno giants Orbital and Underworld, the Big Beat electronica of The Chemical Brothers and acid house enlightened riffing.

Here on DJ-Kicks, Avery combines a wide-range of obscure and era-spanning  tracks into one solid mix of icy, fluent techno. It’s clear to see that Daniel has a huge amount of knowledge and passion for dance music with this selection of hand-picked cuts from all over the globe. There’s also a few original songs and remixes in there too: ‘Sensation (Rrose Remix)’, ‘A Mechanical Sky’ and ‘Space Echo’ all seamlessly fall into place here on the K7 Records curated DJ-Kicks series mix, and the record is a testament to how Avery is both a virtuoso mixer and dancefloor conductor.

 

The Pharcyde’s Bizarre Ride II Celebrates its 25th Anniversary

This week marked the 25th anniversary of the release of Bizarre Ride II, The Pharcyde’s seminal debut album. The Los Angeles hip hop collective challenged the West Coast hip hop sound which dominated the airwaves in 1992 by creating an incredibly playful, energetic, and humorous record which was unlike anything heard on the California coast. The Pharcyde directly challenged the heavy G-funk sound of Dr. Dre, the confrontational political bombast of Ice Cube, and the violent gangster rhetoric of Ice T and the recently separated N.W.A. with jazzy instrumentals, lucid beats and lively lyricism, sounding more akin to the work on offer from East Coast jazz rap groups such as A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul.

Bizarre Ride II is unique and massively entertaining, and their influence on the alternative side of the West Coast hip hop scene is immeasurable. The Pharcyde allowed greater experimentation, humour, and eclectic samples to flourish on their side of the U.S., and thus opened the door for talents such as Souls of Mischief, Blackalicous, Madlib, Jurassic 5 and Del Tha Funky Homosapian. If you haven’t heard any work from these guys, then waste no time in giving this a go. It’s one of my favourite hip hop records, and I feel it’s underrated when compared to the more celebrated works of their contemporaries; even Kanye West named it as his favourite album of all-time.

Live Review: Teebs at Headrow House – 15th November 2017

The time reaches 10pm and Teebs strolls through the sparse audience, takes to the stage, introduces himself, pulls a scrap piece of paper (which transpires to be a set-list) out of a shoebox next to his scarce array of equipment and wastes no time in getting into the music. The audience quickly become transfixed on Teebs, whose stage presence is minimal, yet his fixation on his sampler is enthralling. He twists and turns the controls of his Roland SP-404 manically with every ounce of his concentration; manipulating the beats and soundscapes into arrangements which seemingly reflect his present temperament, giving the impression that no performance from Teebs is alike.

There are beautiful washes of piano, rescinding sub-bass sections, and dense beats paired with crisp snares. The nod to Flying Lotus’ ‘Drips / Auntie’s Harp’ is stunning, with the luscious sample elegantly allowing the set to unwind at its midpoint, leaving many audience members awestruck. Teebs keeps the crowd entertained with fluctuating styles, sub-genres, pace and rhythms, causing the audience to cavort in a boundless manner. They dance with glee as he drops tracks from similar musicians including Jonwayne and Prefuse 73 in-between original tracks comprised of lucidly psychedelic beats.

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Teebs announces his time is nearly over and indicates his last few tracks will be a selection of demo cuts. The audience react with glee, and as he’s musician who hasn’t released an album in over four years, it’s easy to comprehend why they desire material with a difference; whether it be new and novel or aged and unreleased. He mentions Sudan Archives is currently performing at the Brudenell Social Club, and he gives her props by playing a track from an unreleased collaboration of theirs. Teebs also thanks the audience for their turnout, and with Leeds being extremely busy with exceptional gigs tonight (Run the Jewels, Mount Eerie and Sudan Archives), his gratitude is logical and appreciated. Teebs gets a Q&A session going at the end of the set which is one of the most charmingly down-to-earth displays from a musician I’ve witnessed.

The Brainfeeder-signed musician is incomparable to many of his contemporaries, and tonight’s performance is a tranquil reflection of his unique style. Teebs is evidently a musician who gets spellbound in his own music, plunging into the depths of his mood to deliver a truly special performance. His humble manner and courteous demeanour only furthers the memorability of a show in which Teebs perfectly exhibits off-kilter rhythms, beat-making virtuosity, and spirited atmosphere.

Gully Rhythms

2017 has seen a drastic change in my music taste. The genres I listen to, the formats I pick, the gigs I attend, and the way I consume music have all changed dramatically. I’ve gradually become obsessed with various forms of genres I never thought I’d be listening which include jungle, grime, dubstep, drum and bass, and other forms of bass-heavy electronic dance music. I’ve also reaffirmed a love for reggae, dub and dancehall. I owe it mainly to experiencing this in clubs which offer a unique take on sound system culture and a shared love of this music with friends. Seeing artists perform in a live setting at clubs with huge sound systems is tremendously different from witnessing guitar bands at a gig or festival; the volume and the bass is so loud and heavy that it’s impossible not to dance to and get involved. The audience is looser; they don’t necessarily face the performer and they may not have heard the music before, but they dance and enjoy themselves regardless. Esoteric cuts of jungle and dancehall may be played, for example nights such as Leeds’ SubDub feature the Iration Steppas, a DJ collective who play obscure dancehall cuts until the early hours of the morning.

These genres are built for the club setting, so singles are the most popular release; short, often urgent snippets of music where the goal is to get people moving. The main thing I’ve experienced with exploring these genres is that stepping outside of the confines of the album format is the key; singles, DJ mixes, EPs, compilations and watching live sets (such as those featured on Boiler Room) are the ways to go, but seeing live music is the best way to get involved.

This post will explore a few cuts from a variety of genres, many of which are classics, set staples for DJs, or just my personal favourites. These need turning up, preferably on a decent system with good bass; if you’re listening on cheap headphones or through a laptop and you aren’t enjoying these tunes, then that’s part of the problem.

The Bug – Skeng

I’ve been listening to The Bug for a few years now and his unique take on music is something I appreciate massively. From a musical background of industrial and heavy metal, Kevin Martin has appeared in countless projects such as Techno Animal, God, Ice and King Midas Sound who have been incredibly influential to the underground. His goal in The Bug is to intimidate the listener and the audience with sub-bass, layers of noise and a barrage of vocals. The sound includes grime, dancehall, industrial, hip hop and dubstep all mixed up into an experimental concoction. The album London Zoo is incredibly consistent and includes numerous highlights such as ‘Murder We’, ‘Jah War’, ‘Poison Dart’ and the classic ‘Skeng’. ‘Skeng’ features a repetitive dubstep bassline and appearances from grime MCs Flowdan and Killa P who both deliver an incredible performance in a West Indian accent. I’ve been lucky enough to see this performed live three times and Martin always steps up his A-game when performing live and constantly adapts his set to offer something different.

Kahn – Abattoir

The most ridiculous track on the list, ‘Abattoir’ features sub-bass so over-the-top it could cause earthquakes. This menacing number is from Bristol based dubstep producer Kahn, who’s signed to one of my favourite labels in the genre: Deep Medi Musik. The brass at the start signals the approaching peril: bouncing sub-bass paired with off-kilter rhythms of snare clicks and trap influenced hi-hats. ‘Abattoir’ is often heard dropped in DJ sets and gets the crowd going wild every single time. Kahn has also produced other favourites such as ‘Dread’ and ‘Badman City’ which features Flowdan, whilst his work with Commodo, Gantz and Neek similarly offers distinctive interpretations of the 140bpm sound.

Shy FX – Original Nuttah

A jungle classic, Shy FX’s ‘Original Nuttah’ is a track which gets dropped at near enough every drum and bass related club night. It provides an iconic sing-a-long-able introduction followed by intimidatingly rapid breakbeats

Benga & Coki – Night

A crossover hit, ‘Night’ brought dubstep to mainstream attention all the way back in 2007. It was played regularly on Radio 1 and was named Track of the Year by influential DJ Gilles Peterson. Coki is a member of Digital Mystikz with Mala, an incredibly influential duo who run the DMZ label where dark and minimal sounds thrived. He’s also known for his aggressive take on dubstep which pre-empted the American phenomena which came to be known as ‘brostep’, an often frowned upon offshoot where catchy melody and exaggerated drops replaced sub-bass and reggae influence. Similarly, Benga is one of the most recognised figures in the genre, even producing the successful track ‘Katy On a Mission’ by Katy B. Combined, Benga and Coki released the best track of their careers. Featuring shuffling percussion and irresistible UK garage basslines, this immediately catchy number remains one of the genres greatest moments.

Sir Spyro – Topper Top

Probably the biggest grime song of 2016, you can’t go to a rave and not hear ‘Topper Top’ dropped a few times, usually with several pull ups each time. Penned by celebrated producer Sir Spyro, the track was finally released on the Deep Medi label last year after being a sought after dubplate for months. Its intimidating spoken intro from Teddy Buckshot leads into a verse from the man himself, then an unforgettable rapid fire chorus. Also, Lady Chann and Killa P smash their verses.

Dizzee Rascal – Stop Dat and I Luv U

It goes without saying that Dizzee Rascal is one of the most influential grime musicians of all time; Wiley invented it, but Dizzee changed the game with the huge success and acclaim that came along with his debut Boy In Da Corner. I couldn’t decide which of these tracks I enjoy more so both get a feature. ‘Stop Dat’ includes incredible bassline instrumentals whilst ‘I Luv U’ is instantaneous and is one of grimes’ best known singles.

Mosca – Bax

The biggest UK garage song going, Mosca’s ‘Bax’ mixes the sounds of old school garage with his own take on the genre to an astounding effect. It’s massively danceable and catchy all the way through, and the basslines and drum fills are simply brilliant.

The A-side ‘Done Me Wrong’ is also incredible, it even features an in-song midpoint reload, a feat MC Grindah would be proud of.

Zinc/The Ganja Kru – Super Sharp Shooter

‘Super Sharp Shooter’ is perhaps my favourite jungle track of all time and there’s good reason for that. The way which Zinc and The Ganju Kru mix samples of the Wu-Tang Clan into dirty, homegrown drum and bass rhythms is incredible. It adds a sense of catchiness and familiarity, whilst crossing over to the other side of the ocean for influence. The 1990s was the era for both drum and bass, giving it a nostalgic feel when Sharp Shooter is listened to in the present day. The repeating bassline is hard hitting and memorable, and there’s a gradual build-up until the amens hit, allowing the crowds to go wild after chanting the first half of the track.

There are hundreds of tracks I could have put here, and the extensive playlists keep growing all the time. These are the classics that helped me get into the respective genres, and are excellent starting points for any curious readers.

 

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