Del is in a tricky position artistically. Treading where several before him have fallen off, the Funkee Homosapien has to progress his style without disappointing his old fans. But we all breathed a sigh of relief last year when we heard the superlative 'Phoney Phranchise' 12". Del showed on that single that he still has what it takes: exciting flow, creative lyrics and dope beats to back it up. While the full album isn't as immediately impressive as that release, he still delivers an LP well worth your attention.
Production on 'Both Sides of the Brain' is handled by Del on 13 of the 19 tracks (no skits). The continuity here is very impressive, as they mostly have a trademark synthesized/traditional west coast sound. Best Del beats on here include 'Followers,' 'Skull & Crossbones' and 'Soopa Feen,' plus of course 'Phoney Phranchise.' Guest beats mostly fit into the flow, with the two standouts coming from guest MC El-P on the El-P style 'Offspring' and the always-awesome Prince Paul dropping one for 'Signature Slogans.' While its not really breaking any new ground, there's not a single poor beat on 'Both Sides of the Brain,' and they all accommodate Del's eccentric rhyming style.
And of course, Del comes off well on here as usual. You should know by now how consistent the man is, and not at one point does he fail to use his irresistible flow to perfection. His lyrics are an acquired taste (one that I have acquired, for sure), but its hard to argue with joints like 'If You Must,' (his recent single). Similar to De La's 'A Little Bit of Soap,' Del tells off all hip-hoppers who don't practice sufficient hygiene. Conventional battle rhymes aren't here in abundance; its mostly Del just ridiculing people he doesn't like.
This theme is carried throughout for the most part, through 'FWA (Fair Weather Associates),' 'Shit Talkers,' 'Followers,' 'Style Police,' et al. Del always keeps it fresh though, so the album doesn't get repetitive. He does switch it up at times, noticeably on 'Skull & Crossbones,' probably the best track on 'Both Sides of the Brain.' Del raps about drunken driving, obviously criticizing it but not coming near preachy or overdoing the message. 'Proto Culture,' featuring and produced by Del protégé Khaos Unique, has the two MCs discussing their fave video games and video gaming memories. And 'Stay On Your Toes,' the final track with guesting and producing from Mischievous Soul A-Plus, is also tight, with the two MCs praising hip-hop while criticizing both close-minded underground heads and mainstream fans.
I've heard from some people that this is a disappointment for Del, and isn't up to his previous material. Whether or not this is true is entirely subjective, but it's no 'I Am' by a long shot. In a year that's had a fair few quality releases so far, 'Both Sides of the Brain' manages to stand out and impress despite strong competition. An excellent album from an excellent MC.