For hip-hop to evolve, energy, experimentation, and balls are essential. Some hip-hop artists or group cross the boundaries by utilizing new sounds and having the courage to experiment. The Bomb Squad (producers of Public Enemy) were innovators in using noise and distorting the drums in their beats.
Dälek (pronounced Dialect), may be considered the hip-hop version of Rage Against The Machine. Like Immortal Technique, Dälek is very political and aggressive with both his rhymes and delivery. The music of Dälek is taken a step further with thick noise embedded deep within the juggernaut style rhythms. Their sound is a mixture of My Bloody Valentine and Public Enemy. Straight from Newark, N.J., Dälek is not just an emcee, but a producer too. Dälek’s music has been created with the help of Oktopus on production on Still on the turntables. The result is unlike anything hip-hop has experienced before. For years, Dälek has been releasing albums but it was their “From Filthy Tongue Of Gods And Griots” LP that earned them critical acclaim.
In 2005, Dälek released their most focused work to date, “Absence” on Ipecac Records. With intense tracks like “A Beast Caged”, addressing the prison system and “Asylum (Permanent Underclass)” addressing poverty, “Absence” is truly a revolutionary hip-hop album. On a cold weekend in March 2005, I had a chance to talk to Dälek. While “Absence” is the name of Dälek’s new LP, the hip-hop nation needs his kind of energy, experimentation, and balls. Hip-hop cannot afford the absence of artists like Dälek.
MVRemix: What goes on?
Dälek: Chilling. I’m just driving through Detroit right now. I’m finishing this U.S. tour.
MVRemix: The new album is titled ‘Absence’. What is the meaning behind the title?
Dälek: It is definitely our most focused work. Overall, we tried to concentrate on one sound for the album and we tried to develop that sound, instead of it being all over the place. There are definitely walls of noise and walls of sound but beneath all of that, you can hear old school hip-hop. There are heavy beats and there is heavy bass and hopefully, intelligent lyrics.
MVRemix: How is ‘Absence’ different from your previous releases?
Dälek: There are definitely similarities between them. There is a heavier vibe on this one but it is more refined. Our recording has gotten better. You can hear more of the sounds.
MVRemix: What is your favorite song on ‘Absence’?
Dälek: I don’t know, maybe ‘Asylum’.
MVRemix: How did you hook up with Oktopus and Still?
Dälek: Oktopus and I formed the band in 1996 or 1997. We met in college. He has a recording studio so, I started recording my solo work. It developed to a band coming together. Still came into the group after 2000, right before ‘From Filthy Tongue of Gods & Griots’ came out.
MVRemix: Do you have your rhymes pre-written when you go into the studio or do you write then and there, when you hear the beat?
Dälek: It depends. I don’t have a general set way to write a song. It varies on the song. I do most of the production on the album so, I usually write the lyrics while I am working on the beats. Oktopus fleshes it out and brings new sounds or whatever. It is kind of a back and forth process.
MVRemix: What LPs or CDs have you been listening to often in the last couple of days?
Dälek: Probably, the new Jay-Z and Linkin Park record. The new Sonic Youth album ‘Sonic Nurse’. That is amazing. I haven’t heard them in a while. Also, I have been listening to Immortal Technique’s ‘Revolutionary Vol. 1’ and ‘Revolutionary Vol. 2’. It feels good to know that there are ill emcees out there.
MVRemix: What are some emcees you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Dälek: Actually, Immortal is someone I would like to collaborate with, doing something back and forth. I am trying to get something together with MF Doom. Doing something with Chuck D or Rakim would obviously be a dream. I don’t know how realistic that would be at this point. You can only hope. You know what I mean?
MVRemix: Some journalists label your music ‘Distorted prose’, which is a title of one of your songs. How do you feel about that?
Dälek: I think I should get some royalties for that because it is one of my titles. I don’t know. I guess it is somewhat of an okay description. It is weird because parameters have been set in hip-hop now. When I’m writing or when I’m saying it, it feels like it is a direct lineage from Krs-One and Chuck D. I don’t think what I’m doing out there is so crazy. There are a slew of emcees like that before me and there will be a slew of emcees like that after me. That is what hip-hop is really about, you know.
MVRemix: Do you think sometimes the sound of the music catches people off guard? Or, do you think the sound may have some people not pay attention to the lyrics as much?
Dälek: Yea, but if you listen to The Bomb Squad production and mix it a little more aggressively, you would have us. I just think it is a matter of perception. To me, the pure essence of hip-hop has been experimentation. If you didn’t have experimentation and people like Afrika Bambaataa listening to Kraftwerk, you would not have hip-hop. The open ear of the DJ has always been the thing that created hip-hop. That opens my ears to something that has been lost.
MVRemix: What is hip-hop lacking these days?
Dälek: Balls. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still out there. You have people like Immortal Technique and many underground artists doing relevant things. Unfortunately, hip-hop has become pop music. We lost a lot of its teeth and its edge.
MVRemix: How did you get involved with Ipecac Recordings?
Dälek: Mike Patton of Faith No More. We played some shows and they invited us to open up for Tomahawk in Europe. He liked what he heard. It has been a perfect fit for us. It is a good label with so many eclectic artists, who love music and love what they do. Being on a label with Isis and Melvins, has been perfect for us.
MVRemix: Do you have a favorite part of your live show?
Dälek: I don’t know. I enjoy playing live overall. I like that fact that the audience is right there and you can get that feedback right away.
MVRemix: You are labeled as a political or conscious emcee. What are some of the main political issues you feel strongly about?
Dälek: There aren’t really just one or two. I’m a political emcee who knows what’s going on in the world. I don’t have an agenda that I want to shove down people’s throats. I just want people to open their eyes more. Even if people had opinions that were opposite from mine, I would respect that more than people walking around blind.
MVRemix: What was the last incident of racism you experienced?
Dälek: Wow! Good questions. Sh*t like that happens on such a daily occurrence. I don’t even pay attention to it. If you keep paying attention to that too much, that sh*t can get under your skin. I try not to dwell on it. Ignorance is all around us. You have to let that sh*t be sometimes.
MVRemix: Pro-choice or pro-life?
MVRemix: Are you for or against the death penalty?