The scientific meditations of a funky Homo sapien

Del drops masterful lyrics over stunning beats throughout Deltron 3030, his y2K collaboration with Dan the Automator and Kid Koala. It’s a futuristic dystopian hip hopera. It’s one of my favorite albums. And it’s dripping with science.

Del the Funky Homosapien has always traded on his impressive vocab and wordplay. Just look at his name. But on 3030, with the help of Automator’s production, he goes beyond his trademark jaw gymnastics to achieve emotional depth and social commentary amidst a treasure trove of references to biology, physics, technology, and education.

One of my favorite songs (and not just because I love trumpets) is the closer – “Memory Loss.” Watch it in youtube and go into “show more” to read the lyrics (though not all of them are correct). Don’t let some shocking language throw you off – make sure to examine those words in context.

Del starts off with a doozy (0:07). “You try to get over, you’re gonna go under.” Given the title, I take this as a warning about denial and repression (i.e. try too hard to get over it and suffer the consequences). Tons of inspiring science has been done on this topic (See: Richie Davidson at Wisconsin & James Gross at Stanford). The line is also a reminder about that great unheeded cliche – those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

After opening with a request for an open mind (0:19 “get open like the ocean”), he gets into heavy exploration of racism, inner-city violence, Black Panthers out of Oakland, and the power of generalizations and stereotypes to blind people to reality.

Then … how about a five-word summary of one of the most fundamental problems facing our planet? (0:41)

Industry’s rising, while energy’s declining.

And a quick plug for the scientific thinking in a world full of misinformation? (1:35)

 I’m my own individual. So I know it isn’t true just cuz you say it is. Cuz anything that’s truth got proof. That ain’t you, that’s simply just the way it is.

And finally a swift reminder that education ought to go beyond the textbook. Or, to put it nicely, that some history textbooks might not provide a completely fair or comprehensive retelling of the past. (2:30)

We know reality is crazy. That’s why nothin’ amaze me. Look in the past. You might have to go farther than the book in your class.

I’m not saying I agree with everything in the song (he seems pretty nonchalant about moms using crack). But I think the general call for rational thinking, skepticism, and independent thought provides a good starting point for our scientific expeditions into the world of hip hop.

I leave you with this.

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3 Responses to The scientific meditations of a funky Homo sapien

  1. Matt says:

    I’ve never been a hip hop fiend, but it’s hard not to be fiendish of this album. Takes me back to some good old College Day’s as a roommate was pretty clued into the hip hop scene. Still waiting on album number two.

    And yes, I totally agree, it’s a great album to begin exploring science through hip hop.

    “Upgrade your gray matter, cause one day it may matter!”

  2. Hey Matt. Glad to see you’re reading the blog. Hopefully I can continue to stir your inner hip hop fiend.

    Definitely a post on “Upgrade” coming at some point. Love that track.

  3. Fitz says:

    Not to mention that Del is one self-aware homo sapien. The lines “people having memory loss” and “You try to get over, you’re gonna go under” are actually sampled from one of his own previous tracks. Does he sample them to remind the people who have, in fact, experienced Memory Loss of Del’s previous work?

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