From his days with Da Lench Mob to the Hieroglyphic Crew, Oakland’s Del the Funky Homosapien or Sir DZL as he is also known as, has been a leader in creative hip-hop – breaking from the molds of industry standards. The West Coast veteran taps in with our own Todd “DG” Davis for an exclusive in our WCS HipHop50 series where we ask artists sometimes similar questions to get their different responses. Read this new interview below?
First things first, this year (August 11th) marked the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop — What exactly does that mean to and for you?
Dzl: Well, August 12th (was) my birthday, I’m a year older than Hip Hop, hahahaha! But seriously, I’m just really proud of the culture. The adults back in the day used to say it was just a fad, but we knew it was much more. Hip Hop gave me a lot of the tools I needed for life. Probably the main things are the self reflection, self improvement and respecting others through the art. And, the practice of the art gives you a sense of accomplishment as well. It’s our Blues, That’s how important I think it is to American musical forms, including Pop music.
To quote the late, great The Notorious B.I.G., “You never thought that Hip Hop would take it this far!” — Was this something that you ever could’ve imagined?
Dzl: I knew it was great, it was so different from anything going on when it started popping. But we really didn’t think too far ahead, it was something we just kinda did culturally. But once the late ‘80’s groups started hitting the scene (speaking of rap), I knew that nah, this is here to stay. It was just too good! Then again in the mid ‘90’s, I got that same feeling again from the groups hitting around then, particularly the new underground movement. But as far as Pop music now? No, I couldn’t imagine where it got to at this point. But then again, I don’t really rule anything out, anything is possible I assume. But I guess the same could be said for video games, skateboarding and comic books. They’re all staples now.
What are some of your fondest, most stand-out moments / memories from your lengthy tenure in this thing called Hip Hop?
Dzl: Damn, it’s been that long? Hahahaha! Don’t seem that long to me. Late ‘80’s and mid ‘90’s eras definitely stand out to me. Gang Starr, too, like every record that dropped was an event. Matter of fact, any real dope Hip Hop group dropping would be an event. Breakdancing, doing graffiti, battling other rappers were experienced that stood out to me, too. Right now, battle rap and how it’s grown into its own thing stands out highly to me, too, because I’m from that.
That said, what are your future plans and / or goals throughout the remainder of 2023, going right into ‘24?
Dzl: I just partnered with “thegoodnews.” which is Po3 and CTZN, they’re a group. We’re working on developing a cartoon kinda based around tour stories. They been on numerous tours with me and Deltron 3030. Right now, we’re just throwing a monthly in Oakland to kinda promote it. Pete Cosmos is the artist. So, it’s music, beats dj’ing, art work from crews out here hanging up in there. It’s at The Golden Bull and Amoeba Records is kinda co-signing it. Also, I got another thing called Manic Mondays that was popping off every week with emcees and producers from the Bay at my house. We got like 50 or so songs, but I had to put it on pause for a moment. We’ll get back to that though. I’m also working on a new Deltron album.
Switching gears here, what exactly do you want people to get from your music?
Dzl: I guess the main aim for me is to make it fun to listen to. But lyrically I’m kinda loose, so you can kinda get whatever you get out of it. It does have substance of some sort, but I’m not trying to smack nobody over the head with nothing too deep. It’s for people who can relate to it, I guess.
On a more serious note, are you happy with the current state of Hip Hop?
Dzl: Generally, yeah, I do have problems with the industry and how they go about business, but that could be said for any industry in the system we live in. At this point, it’s not shocking so I’m not really tripping too hard; It’s more good than bad, I feel.
What do you feel has and will continue to be the key to your longevity?
Dzl: I think the way I interact with people has more to do with me sticking around than my musical talent, to be honest. I think people feel I’m easy to work with and I have a pretty good attitude about things. I feel I’m pretty level headed as well.
Do you have any other outside / additional (future) aspirations, maybe even completely away from entertainment?
Dzl: Not really. I mean, I’m an artist, a visual artist first. So I guess that’s mainly what I focus on. I’ve studied music, also humor. So writing some form of comedy is what I’m kinda moving towards with the cartoon. I just try to take the art further, but still keep it relatable.
What’s an average day like for you?
Dzl: if I’m not on the road I’m usually trying to take it easy at this point. I may write or make some music, I may play some video games. My days are pretty random. I’m usually doing something, friends may pop up, maybe some business might pop up. I’m usually just on notice, out of habit. Music business can be pretty random. I just try to chill, I reflect a lot, I watch a lot of YouTube. May hang out with my lady, you know.
Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans…
Dzl: I’m friendly. But, I’m friendly to people in general. I like talking to fans, seeing how they feel about things or what they may be into. I just try to put out the same energy I want to receive. I feel that’s the best way to live.
What is your favorite part about this line of work? Your least favorite? And, why?
Dzl: My favorite part is the creative process and the feeling of community that Hip Hop offers. My least favorite by far is traveling, I can’t stand traveling. It sucks. But I guess that’s part of why I get paid what I do. It’s definitely not easy. It’s hard to live a normal life when you’re traveling so much.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Dzl: Believe in yourself, but also do the work it takes to get good. Don’t be big headed, it doesn’t do anyone any good. I would say have something else to fall back on, too, because it’s hard to be creative when you worried about food and shelter. And don’t jump for money’s sake, you can be manipulated that way. Above all, you gotta love it. If it’s only for money, I doubt it will last. And, there’s other ways to get money.
Lastly, any new music – solo and / or collaborative – currently in the works?
Dzl: I’m always working on new music, I mentioned Manic Mondays. I’m always trying to be in the mix just for the sport of it. Just keep an eye out. I am working on new Deltron stuff as well.
Looking ahead, say five or maybe even ten years from now, where do you see yourself?
Dzl: Hopefully, with this cartoon we working on out and popping! My homey, the Ghetto Geptepto, has a thing called Hoodfoot that I’m involved in, too. It’s cartoons mixed with puppetry. I would love to help him develop and come out with that in the next 10 years as well.
Is there anything I left out or just plain forgot to mention?
Dzl: Nah, I think you about covered everything. Just stay tuned, I’m cooking up some good stuff for y’all.
Any “parting” words for our readers?
Dzl: Peace out, I love y’all, and y’all be easy!