It’s been 13 years. Thirteen years since the last sighting of hip hop’s great heroes, Deltron 3030. Hip hop has become a wasteland, and though glimmers of hope appear from time to time, it hasn’t been the same without Deltron Zero (aka Del the Funky Homosapien) and Automator (aka Dan the), the duo that forms Deltron 3030, our greatest weapon against the humourless ignorance that has overtaken the cultural landscape.
Late last fall I talked with the third member of the trio that forms Deltron, Kid Koala, and near the end of that discussion he let loose whispers of a new record from the mighty—and long dormant—Deltron 3030. I immediately began discussing the rumour with my friends, not being able to answer where or when we’d receive word from our heroes. Weeks of waiting became months. No news came. Maybe there was misinformation, sent to me to distract me from the truth. Eventually my whispers of the return of Deltron 3030 became “discounted as drunken hearsay” like those same whispers Joseph Gordon-Levitt describes on the opening track of Event II, the trio’s latest release. Then, mimicking Levitt’s narration, it happened, “A small glimmer of light in the distance. Could it be?” It is. Deltron 3030 is back.
It can be argued that a lot has changed since 2000 when Deltron 3030 released their first, and until now, only, album. The proliferation of the Internet has allowed like-minded individuals to find each other with incredible ease. The exchange of information is endless and seemingly unburdened by corporate restrictions. These should be weapons against the apocalyptic doom that Deltron foretold of on their first record. But on the other side sits the argument that people have only used these new wells of knowledge and communication to scorch the cultural landscape further, devolving into content-consuming machines, never straying from the technology that purports to set us free from the modern condition. The Event II album is proof that our greatest weapon in the face of an apocalyptic nightmare brought on by ignorance and manipulation from corrupt corporations, is honest, genuine real art, full of intelligence and humour, directly from the human soul.
From the opening moments of the appropriately epic “The Return,” it’s clear that the trio of underground musical champions hasn’t missed a step. Automator has split the difference between desolation and fun, creating big, lonely beats (with all kinds of turntable heroics from Koala) to accompany the tale of societal meltdown and the redemption of humanity.
But the real star here is Deltron Zero himself. Del may have lost some of the verbal dexterity that marked his earlier work, but he’s no less crafty, creating intricate, multi-syllabic rhymes that take repeated listens to unwind completely. His ability to twist the narrative through each song on the record, but still create songs that stand on their own, is uncanny.
While that narrative takes place in the deep future, the problems that frame the story are completely of today. When Deltron returns to Earth and finds a solitary man who claims to represent “the link between reality and illusion,” it’s clear that he’s actually confronting one of the very same breed that holds power today, and his own opposition remains unflinchingly strong. “I wanted to talk, more of the people / He said ‘For what? Duh, we all equal’ / Everywhere I smell the place stink / And I told him man, ‘Seems like y’all gotta think big.’ / I said introduce deeper concepts / He told me ‘Hell nah fool, it wouldn’t profit,’” Del raps on “Pay the Price.” It’s here, in his compassion for the people, that Del is at his most powerful.
In fact, while technology propels much of the story (indeed, much of the general direction of humanity), it is the connection with the natural world that gives our heroes their gravitas. When Del looks over the ruined cityscapes of the future past on “City Rising from the Ashes” and ponders, singing, “They said ‘Fuck the environment’ for so long, the environment said ‘Fuck ya’ll / Now we in a cobra clutch / Once the planet fold up and blow up / You know what? Mother Nature must’ve saved us / ’Cause look we still stayed here,” it gives hope in a time of great bleakness. We can soldier on. All is not lost.
Event II is proof that hip hop, like any music, at its best is an art form, mastered by years of dedication to the craft. It is an important record, full of timely bits of wisdom and warning that, if heeded, could help us avoid the perils of a future we’ve seen in all too many works of speculative science fiction. And while all of this sounds a bit heavy, you can rest assured, there is fun to be had during the apocalypse.