I'll be the first to admit that I don't listen to very much hip-hop and rap. Other than some Public Enemy, a bit of Beastie Boys, and a couple other random discs, I don't really own a whole lot that makes a regular spin in my CD player. I don't have a very good knowledge of the genre for the most part, but I will admit that every once in awhile I hear something that strikes me so much that I just have to buy it and Deltron 3030 is one of those releases. It's one of those bizarre, rap concept albums with flawless production and excellent raps that just grabs your ear and wraps you up in the story being told and makes you smile and want to groove at the same time.
In regards to name-value alone, this album should be one of the best released this year. With rapping by Del The Funky Homosapien, beats by Dan the Automater, and turntable work by Kid Koala, it's already a force to be reckoned with. That's not it, though. Damon Albarn of Blur makes a hilarious appearence and guest rappers include Prince Paul, Paul Barnam and Peanut Butter Wolf. Even Money Mark and Sean Lennon show up to round out the big batch of names. I've heard it billed as sort of the unofficial 'sequel' to the Dr. Octogon project with Dan the Automator, DJ QBert, and Kool Keith from a couple years back, but I think it's actually even more enjoyable.
While that album also had a concept that held all the songs together (about a murderous, mad doctor), this one takes a bizarre route as well, but it's also much more fun and light. Instead of the main character being a murderous psycho, this time the main character of the story is Deltron Zero, a futuristic rapper hero from the 31st Century. It's absolutely bizarre, funny, and downright catchy all at the same time. Not only that, but the production and music is absolutely flawless with Dan the Automator and Kid Koala at the controls, and it breathes even more life into the futuristic lyrics.
Like most hip-hop concept albums (or hip-hop albums in general), there are filler/skit tracks that sort of help set the scene that the rest of the album plays out. The album actually starts out with Damon Albarn (of Blur) reading a bit of stately-sounding introspection (albeit a bit goofy) before the album actually takes off with the first bonafide track of "3030" in which Del introduces Deltron Zero over a absolutely smooth beat that somehow manages to combine everything from opera to island music for melody. Yeah, it sounds like it doesn't work, but it absolutely does, and that's just the beginning. After another short skit track (introducing an intergalactic rap battle), "Things You Can Do" starts ripping with a thick beat and background music that sounds like sped up circus music.
The rest of the album is nearly just as solid, whether Deltron Zero is fantasizing about writing up a computer virus that will bring down the government and all large corporations (on "Virus," which includes some of the coolest/funniest rhymes on the whole disc) or taking on all interplanetary adversaries in the funky "Battlesong." They even manage to pull off haunting tracks like "Time Keeps On Slipping" without missing a beat.
A minor quibble is that Kid Koala's turntable work doesn't stand out as much I would have liked it to, but the subtle edge is kind of nice as well. There are never really any moments when he goes absolutely bezerk on the wheels of steel, but there are nearly always some nice atmospheric effects being laid down and he's always adding another layer to the bed of beats that the Automator has constructed. As I said before, I don't listen to a whole lot of music in this genre, but this release is so fresh that I can't help but give it really high marks. Not only fun and engaging, but it even has a positive, unifying message as well and will probably end up on my end of the year list. If you've ever thought about giving hip-hop or rap another chance, start here.