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Wednesday October 25, 2000

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Deltron 3030 Review

Headline Photo

By Ian Caruth

Deltron 3030

Deltron 3030

(75 Ark)

Grade: B+

With a few cutting-edge concept albums, Bay Area producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura has established himself as one of the most distinctive and interesting of underground hip-hop's many eccentrics. 1996's Dr. Octagonecolegyst was his best work to date, a gloriously twisted grade-Z horror movie of an album rife with gritty atmospherics and aided immeasurably by Kool Keith's other-worldly raps.

For Deltron 3030, the Automator returns to Octagon territory with an aural comic book, once again touching on the hot-button issue of outer space adventures in the future.

Like Dr. Octagon, Deltron 3030 pairs Automator's formidable production skills with an idiosyncratic rapper and a turntablist. This time out, the rapper is Ice Cube's cousin, Del the Funkee Homosapien, an MC as goofy and individualistic as he is talented. For turntable wizardry, Automator recruited DJ Kid Koala in place of Octagon's DJ Q-bert. The album's numerous guest spots include cameos from Blur's Damon Albarn, Prince Paul and hip-hop curiosity and Brown University graduate MC Paul Barman.

Though the core line-up is similar to Octagon's, Del's strong personality distinguishes the album's flavor and prevents any overt slips into repetition. He is a more coherent MC than Kool Keith, though perhaps less skilled - Keith is troubled, challenging and brilliant. Del's work is consistently good and interesting, but never reaches the head-spinning heights of a great Keith rap.

Automator's production is predictably compelling, with his trademark compressed drumtracks, ominous strings and sci-fi movie bleeps and bloops dominating the proceedings. Koala's contributions are surprisingly transparent, but never quite as ear-catching as the superhuman Q-bert's work.

Though Deltron 3030 is more inventive and listenable than the vast majority of music being released today, the long shadow of Dr. Octagon ultimately makes it seem less like an innovation and more like a very good sequel.

-Ian Caruth