Del tha Funkee Homosapien had just one solo album to his name when he decided to take the biggest risk of his young career. As Ice Cube's cousin, he got a break most teen rappers could only dream of, joining Cube's backing band, Da Lench Mob, with a short resume.
"For me it wasn't such a risky move," Del tells The BoomBox. "I had already come out with an album, and people kind of knew what I was about. They liked me. So I was like, 'Ok, let me just do more of what I want to do.'" But after that, Del decided to go his separate way.
"I wouldn't say I split up with him," he says. "I just wanted to do more of the production and stuff myself." After getting signed to Elektra/Asylum, at only 18, Del's debut, 'I Wish My Brother George Was Here,' was also produced by Cube. "I didn't just want to be under his wing the whole time," he continues. "Some people, they just like to ride the coattails of whoever they getting in on. I didn't want to do that."
Del's music, often characterized by lighter lyrics, was a stark contrast to Cube's, which epitomized early '90s gangsta rap. His first hit, 'Mistadobalina,' was a humorous song inspired by the '60s TV band, the Monkees. "There's some people in the 'hood that were like, 'Dude is crazy -- but he's tight, though.' They might not have understood how I looked or how I did things, but they liked my music."
Looking back, Del, now in his late thirties, admits he could have handled the going solo thing a little better. "It came out in magazines and stuff -- the interviews," he says. "I was young, so I didn't have no sense. When [Ice Cube] read it, and it didn't come out of my mouth, he was hurt. He was like, 'Man, you didn't like what we did? I thought you liked it.' And I did like it. It was just that I wanted to do something else."
Eventually, Del would work with the Oakland-based Hieroglyphics clique and the sci-fi-inspired Deltron 3030. He also recorded the rap parts for 'Clint Eastwood,' the breakthrough hit for the band Gorillaz. Meanwhile, his cousin would continue to pave the way for hip-hop while forging an acting career that would soften his image.
Today, Del says, there are no hard feelings between him and his cousin. "We done talked about it and all that," he says, noting that he last communicated with him, via e-mail, in the middle of last year. "It's cool now."