Tag Archives: Deltron 3030

Music That Made Me

This week, I’m taking a leaf out of the book of one of my favorite podcasts, Wham Bam Pow. They have this occasional segment called “Movies That Made Me,” where they have a guest come on and talk about a movie that influenced them or otherwise had some affect on them at some point in their life. I don’t know that I could do that with any movies or even TV shows, but I can definitely do that with music.

The following is a list of the top 5 albums that influenced or otherwise had some effect on me at some point in my life. They aren’t necessarily my top 5 favorite albums (though some of them are). Rather than present them in the order of least to most influential (or the other way around), I’m presenting them in the order that I discovered them (not the order they were released). This is the music that made me.

1) Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill

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This album came out when I was 9, though I don’t think I started listening to it until I was around 10 or 11. It was the first album I remember listening to over and over again that wasn’t a Disney soundtrack, or otherwise an album meant for kids. It’s funny looking back on it because this album is all about being an adult. Re-listening to it in my 20’s, I feel such a connection to a lot of its themes. I don’t know what drew me to it as a kid. It might have been her unique voice. I certainly hadn’t heard anything like it before. It was harsh but powerful. It was so the opposite of my Disney soundtracks. The production on this album is flawless–I think somehow I recognized that even as a kid. It was (and still is) such a pleasure to listen to from start to finish.

2) Nelly Furtado, Whoa, Nelly!

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I was really beginning to discover my musical independence in high school and, like most kids in my generation, found a lot of my music at that time on MTV. It’s where I first heard Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like a Bird,” and it’s had a special place in my heart ever since. I related to a lot of that album when I was in high school. It was something about the persistent theme of a wandering soul, of someone who was still figuring out who they were and where they belonged. It helped that she, too, had a unique and intriguing voice. I loved the way it never seemed content to stay still or predictable, making it consistent with the themes of the album. It was very different from what was dominant in pop music at the time, which, according to this Slant magazine review, was “‘pop princesses’ and rap-metal bands.” (That is totally what pop music was at that time. They’re not even slightly exaggerating.)

3) Gorillaz, Gorillaz

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The first time I saw and heard “Clint Eastwood,” it blew my mind. It was unlike ANYTHING I’d seen on MTV at that time. I didn’t even know something like that could exist. I’d never even contemplated it. It wasn’t even the pinnacle of what they would accomplish, but my brain and ears were hooked. When I got the album, I was delighted at how this music was (again) so different from anything else I’d heard. It really set the bar for what music could be for me at that time. I also loved the shroud of secrecy that the band kept around them. It was like believing in Santa Claus all over again. I wanted to know so much more about them, but the not knowing was a thrill too. I still remember that sense of wonder when I re-watch Clint Eastwood, even though I now know the physical faces behind the cartoon facades.

4) Deltron 3030, Deltron 3030

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Well, what can I say about this album that I haven’t said before? Deltron 3030 changed everything I thought I knew about rap, and even what I thought I knew about music. It really raised the bar for me.There was no going back after hearing the track “3030.” It’s no wonder, considering there was a lot of creative exchanging of musical ideas going on between Del tha Funkee Homosapien and Damon Albarn at that time, and you can totally hear it. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it had the biggest influence on me since I’d first heard/seen “Clint Eastwood.” It’s just a surprise how long it took me to discover it! (It was around the end of 2010, I think.)

5) iamamiwhoami, kin

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So I think I’ve made it pretty clear how much I love iamamiwhoami. But I don’t think I’ve given a definite reason. kin is that reason. I’d already heard of them by the time they’d started the slow-release of this project/album. And I’d been intrigued before, but bounty didn’t have the same sense of continuity that kin did. kin was not as busy as bounty. It seemed to have a clearer sense of direction, even if it wasn’t clear to the viewer/listener what that was. It was better than following a TV drama from week-to-week (kin was released biweekly). I eagerly awaited every single release up to the very end, when I snatched up the CD/DVD release and watched it in its entirety. It was only after a few watches that it finally became clear to me what it was about. I won’t say because I think it means something different to everyone, and everyone is meant to discover what that is on their own. But it’s so deeply personal to me. I feel it in my bones every time.

Honorable mentions:

Björk, Vespertine – This album had a pretty good influence on me when I was in college (a lot of Björk’s work did) but it falls just shy of the top 5 most influential list. Sorry, B!

Madonna, Ray of Light – I never listened to a lot of Madonna growing up, but I remember getting interested in her around this time. This was when she was going through her Kabbalah thing. It made for a magical album.

Moby, Play – I played the hell out of this album in high school. Moby’s music was such a curiosity to me, mainly because it seemed to defy genre. It took my mind to totally new places.

Sheryl Crow, The Globe Sessions – Another album I played the hell out of in high school. It was so soulful, and I’d never really experienced anything like that. It reminded me of my experiences with Alanis Morissette, but softer.

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Event II

Few fans have suffered as long as the followers of Deltron 3030. Sure, Fiona Apple fans have been left waiting 6 or 7 years between albums. But it’s been 13 years since the original Deltron 3030 was released/unleashed upon the world. So was it worth the wait? Is the sequel as good as the original? Well…

I hate to start it like that, but the answer is just no, not quite. It’s still a good album, but I think the bar was set impossibly high by the original. And, considering all the rumors and tidbits from interviews over the years that promised the album was coming “soon,” I think the concept just kind of fell apart over those 13 years. It got put back together again, but the original vision was lost somewhere along the way.

Event II picks up 10 years (in story time) after its predecessor. Joseph Gordon Levitt narrates the intro, describing a world that has fallen into disarray and despair during our heroic duo’s absence. (The heroic duo being Deltron Zero and Dan the Automator, of course.) Then one day, they return. In the cinematic first track, Del describes the state of the planet, a strange new world to him now. Anarchy has overthrown the government, but not in the way he originally envisioned. Criminals rule the land, which has been utterly destroyed by nuclear war. Technology, which was once supposed to create a bright future, has now sent the people back to a more primitive and lawless era. Imagine the Wild West set in a post-nuclear fallout landscape. Music has now been banned completely, and nobody seems to care. Del steps forward now, no longer the rebel he once was but a messiah of sorts.

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It all paints a wonderful picture, and as the album progresses, the tracks get even better. But overall, the story just isn’t as strong. I haven’t been able to figure it out yet. I get that Del is dismayed by the audacity of the criminals he encounters and shocked by the complacency of the people who just accept the world the way it is. But it doesn’t have that same structure as the first album. There’s no final showdown/conflict and resolution that I can make out.

Still, the album is very ambitious, and littered with guest appearances by celebrities and fellow musicians. My favorite tracks have been “My Only Love” (featuring Emily Wells), “What Is This Loneliness” (with Damon Albarn), and “Do You Remember” (with Jamie Cullum).The spoken interludes featuring Amber Tamblyn and David Cross are delightfully hilarious. Chef David Chang’s bit may be my favorite though. He goes on and on about how great technology is and how it’s created the most amazing culinary concoctions…and yet his customers only want beet salads and pork buns. It really solidifies that picture of a future where people are satisfied with mediocrity. They’re comfortable with mediocrity, and who knows what will happen if they step out of that comfort zone? Maybe something good, but maybe something bad too. Better to stick with what they know.

All things considered, the thematic contrast between Deltron 3030 and Event II reminds me a bit of this infographic comparing the different futures predicted by George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. To me, they match up respectively. For that reason, I think that Event II is worth a listen.

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Deltron 3030

Deltron 3030 (by the hip hop supergroup of the same name) is one of my favorite albums of all time. Easily in the top five. It changed everything I thought I knew about rap (and maybe even music itself). Yes, to me, it is that good, that influential.

After the spoken intro (“State of the Nation”), the first track (“3030”) had me immersed in a totally strange and new world within the first minute. Within the second minute, my mind was blown. Obliterated. And I still had five and a half minutes to go! I listen to it now and can’t even imagine how I handled it. I’m sorry for all the hyperbole, but I really can’t help it. This album had that much of an effect on me, and still does.

Deltron 3030 is a concept album set in the dystopian future of the year 3030, where the world is ruled by a corrupt government and music is controlled and mass-produced by corporations who care more about the money than the meaning. Enter our hero, Deltron Zero, a former mech soldier turned outlaw, who wants to bring the true meaning back to the music and thus, bring real freedom back to the people. In this world, music has power, if one knows how to wield it, and being a technological and psionic prodigy, Deltron is determined to do so. The opportunity presents itself in the form of the Intergalactic Rap Battle, and the stage for our story is set…

That’s about the best summary I can give for this album, because it’s so much more than just a story. It’s not just a concept album, you see. It’s kind of a meta-album. Though it was produced in the year 2000, the concepts of Delton 3030 still hold up pretty well overall. It’s very much a commentary on the music industry and how the captivity of creativity can lead to the captivity of freedom.

It’s even got a bit of anti-capitalist sentiment, which is not what you might expect, generally, when you think of mainstream rap. Think of the stereotypical music videos featuring rappers in fur coats with their diamond-studded necklaces, lounging in jacuzzis with gorgeous women, rolling down the street in expensive cars. That’s not Deltron 3030 at all, and it certainly isn’t Deltron Zero, who lives in a future where those people are fake, the enemies of freedom and creativity. Those are the people he wants to destroy, and so he does.

Aurally, the album is a real treat. Producer Dan the Automator paints a vivid world with sound (with some fun, well-timed scratches by DJ Kid Koala) in which the rhymes penned by Del the Funky Homosapien have room to thrive. It’s thanks to Del that all my preconceptions about rap were destroyed. Layers of wordplay, double meanings, and sci-fi references abound, rolling off his tongue effortlessly; it’s impossible to take them all in in just one listen.

If you’re the kind of person who grimaces at the suggestion of rap, I challenge you to listen to this album. And really listen to it. It’s not something that’s just meant to be played in the background–certainly not the first time you hear it.

If you’re the kind of person who says rap isn’t really music, I say that that’s like saying poetry isn’t really writing. Can you do it? And can you do it well? It takes skill. It’s an art form. And Deltron 3030 proves that it’s not something to be easily dismissed.

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