In the often-confusing world of hip-hop, emcees and producers can float around for an entire career without meeting a suitable counterpart. Will there ever be a beat maker who crafts a perfect album for Ras Kass? Is Jay Dee resigned to making his lush soundscapes for himself and his bland Slum Village compadres? The list of artists who never have their talent fully exploited is a long one, but the group Deltron consists (primarily) of two men who've never had this trouble. The Automator's legendary pairing with Kool Keith on the 'Dr Octagon' album won both of them buckets of praise, and Del, with everyone else in Hieroglyphics, has always made fine all round releases. Still, the two mesh well enough on this Deltron release to almost overshadow their other works. This is a damn good album.
Kicking off with the titular track, which explains most of the thought behind this most eccentric of projects, '3030' never slows down. Our MC/hero Deltron Zero once "used to be a mech soldier/But I didn't respect orders/I had to tell 'em this ain't for us," and the creative sci-fi lyrics Deltron-0 digs from his post-apocalyptic lands will please any nerdy hip-hop listeners. Meanwhile, his good friend Dan Nakamura is threading together rising strings with an awesome bass line and numerous other samples he digs up. Finally, Canada's resident turntablist genius and final third of Deltron Kid Koala is putting the icing on the cake with trademark subtle, melodic cuts. '3030' alone is such an incredible 7 minutes of music that its worth the asking price alone, and sets the tone for the whole outstanding LP.
Despite Del's skill as a rhymer, it's the Automator who takes center-stage on this release and rightly so. Breathtaking diversity is the best way to describe the production of the album, from the almost bouncy 'Positive Contact' through the stunning drums and sax combo on 'Time Keeps On Slipping' right into 'Turbulence (Remix),' which sounds like a classical orchestra being harassed by a band of rabid jellyfish, kinda. Some, such as 'Love Story,' are the type of funky tracks you'd expect to find on your typical Del release whilst others, like the subtle and melodic 'Mastermind,' could've been instrumentals on the Handsome Boy album. Adding tremendously to the overall sound is Kid Koala, whose contributions are often minor in scale but huge in significance. Although we've still got an Outkast record and a Wu-Tang one to go, I'd be very happy to call 'Deltron 3030' the best produced album of the year.
Of course, with Del on the mic you don't need to worry about the rhymes. As previously stated, Del often sticks to the fantastical motifs in his rhymes on here (a good idea next to the surreal music of his partners), but there's certainly a depth beneath the images Del throws up. A loosely knit story of the futuristic chaos the rebellious bounty hunter fights through has many implied connections to Del's thoughts on hip-hop and black people. The metaphorical approach creates many lyrical gems, and when Del does suggest the core themes he never preaches to the listener. So effective is Del's work that the final song, 'Memory Loss' (with Automator's buddy Sean Lennon) comes along with lucid writing and a clear message, it's a veritable revelation.
The alchemy of these three fine artists together makes this record truly superlative. '3030,' 'Virus,' 'Mastermind,' 'Madness' (the only song where Koala really takes center stage with his fellow rebels), 'Turbulence (Remix),' and 'Memory Loss' could all be contenders for song of the year, with excellent performances from some of the best musicians in this turbulent little genre. The dense rhymes of Del are a perfect balance to the complex layers of Automator's beats, and most DJs would never make a contribution as modest and impressive as the work of Kid Koala on here. To put it simply, 'Deltron 3030' is a landmark release that solidifies all involved at the peak of their respective fields.