There’s a curious inverse trajectory in the careers of cousins Del the Funky Homosapien and Ice Cube, which has seen the irascible AK-toting gangster morph into the genial star of family comedies, while Del, always more Native Tongues than N.W.A., has begun adopting a strangely hostile style of brag-rap. However he’s choosing to spell his name at the moment, Del can generally be distinguished from his rough-talking relative by his relaxed funkiness, so it’s admittedly strange to hear him exchange it here for bluster.
Parallel Thought seem to be at least partially implicated. While their production — horn-heavy, smooth, sinister — is by no means meager, Del’s relinquishment of the bulk of creative control (Attractive Sin was released on Parallel Thought’s own label) has allowed the production crew to dictate the mood of the album by selecting the tracks. The trio must have done something right to gain Del’s approval, promoted from namesakes to co-stars after the 2009 Tame One/Del collab Parallel Uni-Verses, making this the second Del release they’ve entirely produced.
Attractive Sin is supposedly a tribute to Ice Cube’s Amerikkka’s Most Wanted, which explains the inflammatory rhymes and antagonistic atmosphere. “I’ve got what you faggots lack,” snarls the Funky Homosapien over ominous horns in “Charlie Brown,” before concluding the track with a short rant that begins, “Get the fuck out of here. Class dismissed.” Whether grumbling with Tame One about the quality of hip-hop over the last decade on the crotchety “We Taking Over” from Parallel Uni-Verses — a lazy stance for which the A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin was recently maligned by Alex Pappademas — or deriding the new school here on “Charlie Brown” and “1520 Sedgewick,” Del is not only angrier and more aggressive, but also turning into a single-minded grump (both albums with Parallel Thought are preoccupied with the glory days of hip-hop; his last solo release was titled Golden Era).
We needn’t shoehorn Del as a safe, alternative rapper and cry foul when he says a naughty word like ‘fuck;’ it’s just that for the first time Del’s boasts come across more like the insecurity of an old wolf about to be excised from the pack than the taunts of a comfortably throned veteran of the game. No one’s going to raze 1520 Sedgewick anytime soon; likewise, Del — whose joint EP with Busdriver is due soon, along with the long-awaited Deltron Event II (they swear it’s really finished this time) — has a promising 2012 ahead of him. It’s not like he’s approaching irrelevance, so why he spends “Different Guidelines” entreating us to appreciate just how different Del does it remains a mystery.
Del is different, a unique rapper gifted with a versatile flow and expansive imagination, but he shouldn’t have to explicitly say so. He used to show not tell, goofing off as a cartoon ghost with Gorillaz, expounding on the subtleties of retro video games on Both Sides of the Brain, or constructing a comprehensive sci-fi world as the lyricist for Deltron 3030. We get to see that side of him few times on the record, mostly as the songs wind down in tossed-off half-skits that help lighten the mood, but Attractive Sin ultimately suffers from a lack of humor and humility (namely, pride).