13 years after the self-titled left-field conceptual classic, Deltron 3030, Deltron returns with the long-awaited sequel, Event II, which takes place in the year 4010. Although only a fraction in space-time, 13 years is a long time to wait for a follow-up, and I can say it’s mostly worth the wait. Back are Dan “The Automater” Nakamura, turntablist extraordinaire Kid Koala, and funky lyricist, Del the Funky Homosapien. All three continue to make music and release albums, which is why it is surprising that it took so long for this album to come to fruition. Largely this was a result of Del’s writing process, which was in top form, even if his vocal delivery doesn’t always quite live up to what he pens. Last summer (2012) I had the pleasure of seeing Deltron 3030 perform with an orchestra in a free outdoor concert at the Hub in Toronto (part of the Luminato festival). Despite the rain, appropriate as nuclear fallout, the concert was fantastic, and although it was an album preview of sorts (without an album) for Event II, we had to wait over another year for the physical product.
It’s hard to please everyone, and another watershed album with the impact of the first is as unlikely as Dan “The Automater” making dubstep beats, Kid Koala using a computer to scratch on digital vinyl, and Del using autotune. Fortunately none of those things happen on Event II, as the supergroup mostly stays within their comfort zone, working with much of the format that made Deltron 3030 so appealing. Event II opens with a straightforward monologue by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt who provides the backstory like the opening of a sci-fi flick. Back is the imaginative sci-fi universe painted with Dan “The Automator’s” operatic space oddity of hip-hop beats, punctuated by futurist cuts by Kid Koala, with rapid-fire madcap lyricism from Del overtop the production. Del’s lyricism is still incredibly verbose, although his voice has mellowed and lacks some of the alacrity of the previous Deltron Zero character. Given Del is now in his 40s and has been rapping since his 1991 debut, I Wish My Brother George Was Here, shortly after forming the Hieroglyphics collective, it is understandable that some of his vigor is gone, although the storytelling is as first-class as ever. In fact, Event II will benefit from multiple listens given that there is so much happening in Del’s labyrinthine and dystopian lyrical supernovas. Further, on tracks such as “Talent Supercedes” and “Citing Rising from the Ashes” (with the gifted and inventive Mike Patton on the chorus) Del hardly misses a beat, delivering his poetic words with as much gusto as any Del track.
I know you need a little background clear though
About your boy Deltron Zero, your hero
In three thousand thirty
We ain’t in the clear though
We was near toast, doing too much, who to trust
In a land so scandalous and grand?
Even the President got his hand in the contraband
They done control the band of information
Leading to education to a brainwaves pulsatin’
Event II is a largely self-reflexive and fun album, full of humourous skits that provide reprieve from the heavy subject matter of Del’s lyrics. There are a few too many skits, which slow down the momentum of the narrative a little, but the oddball cast of characters (with appearances from Lonely Island, David Cross, and others) adds to the comic sci-fi pastiche of Event II. There is also an excellent cast of artists, including Damon Albarn, Emily Wells, Zach de la Rocha, Jamie Cullum, and Mike Patton, who appear on choruses and add a theatrical layer of the grandiose that reminds me of the Gorillaz, a group Del was involved with, being featured on tracks such as on the eclectic “Clint Eastwood.” While the first Deltron album encompassed concept-driven tracks like “Mastermind,” “Things You Can Do,” and “Virus,” and mind-altering tracks like “Positive Contact” and “Memory Loss,” (and the whole album really), Event II does have some highly enjoyable standout tracks, including: “The Return,” “Pay the Price,” “Talent Supercedes,” and “City Rising From the Ashes.” While Event II will unlikely reach the audience spectrum the first did, which managed to move out of the milieu of underground hip-hop, it will indeed satisfy most of the original fans, and perhaps win over a few new ones.
I still can’t get over the fact that this album actually came out, gifting us with a new rap opera from Deltron 3030. Even though the album relies heavily on the concepts of the first, sometimes you need to look to the past to understand the future. And given how boring much of the present state of hip-hop music is, Deltron 3030’s Event II is a welcome reminder of where we’ve been and where we can still go.
(4 spins out of 5)