Review Summary: It's barely 2014 and Hip Hop is already off to a strong start with a very fun, unique, and energetic LP from Del.
As I have stated in my summary, 2014 is barely underway and we find ourselves with a curious and fun new hip-hop album to discuss. On 'Iller than Most', Del's sound evolves to mimic and echo the confusing and chaotic plethora of sonic styles that inundate modern underground hip hop. In more than one track on this LP, it seems apparent that Del is nodding respectfully to the production styles of other prominent up-and-coming hip-hop artists, while coating the finished product with his usual and expected Del quirks.
The production on 'Iller than Most' is purposefully messy, glitchy, noisy, and electronic in nature, contrasting sharply with Del's charismatic and classic style of lyrical delivery. Del still maintains that unique knack for sounding 'wise' and 'old school' in his delivery. This immutable quality of Del's music is attributed primarily to the unique timbre of his voice and his utilization of intelligent and introspective lyrics. Del has always achieved great success as a rapper by poetically maximizing the effect of syllables in polysyllabic words and phrases, such as the line, 'Smooth and sequential, the mental fitness' on the fourth track, 'Mental Fitness'. The jarring contrast of 'Iller than Most' is because of Del's smooth, sleek, and heavily stylized rapping laid across very raw and noisy production.
This should probably be stated sooner than later... Unavoidably, this album is going to be compared to Death Grips, and while I almost feel guilty for even mentioning this phenomenon of comparing everything hip-hop to Death Grips – the comparison can appropriately be made on a number of counts throughout 'Iller than Most'. This is especially apparent on Delta Time, where Del's aggressive rapping succeeds most when paired with the heavy yet minimalistic beats; and if the ode to Death Grips was not obvious enough, the track deteriorates into discordant static as it comes to a close. Other similarities to Death Grips exist on 'Iller than Most' such as the spastic inclusion of heavy bouts of static and distorted noise on 'Bitin Ain't Samplin'. In a comical moment of self-recognition on Del's part, he apologizes to the listener for his 'tirade' on 'Bitin Ain't Samplin'. More so than his tirade, this is perhaps an ironic apology on his part for dabbling so heavy and venturing so far into the realm of the 'noise-rap' trend.
But not everything on this album is so easily comparable to Death Grips. While noise abounds throughout 'Iller than Most', not all of the noise is reminiscent of DG – much of it being far too funky and spacey, such as on 'Wreckin the Upside' or on 'Mental Fitness'. In some instances on this album, the tracks aren't dominated by noise but instead a return to classic Del – the best example being 'Boogieman', which drips with the sound of classic hip-hop and characteristic Del quirks. I found it to be very telling that Del references the Beastie Boys in 'Grand Royal' as a major influence, and the influence can be clearly seen on 'Boogieman'. Even the title of this album, 'Iller than Most', is an ode to Del's roots and a nod to classic, old school hip hop.
There are a few notable minor faults on 'Iller than Most'. Occasionally repetitive lyrics (such as on the track, 'Robust') and odd, out of place vocal samples represented as spoken lyrics that tend to detract rather than add to the quality of the tracks serve as a minor annoyance. One prominent example of this would be the goofy, nasally, spoken rant that closes out 'Wreckin the Upside', or the responsive hype vocals on '10 Paces'. Although the futuristic and catchy production on 10 Paces is infectiously enjoyable and pumped full of raw adrenaline, the spoken hype phrases such as “Tell em D!” and “I hear ya” dampen and emasculate the overall quality of this tune. While these are an annoyance at best, they play such a minor role in the entirety of this album that it is hardly even worth mentioning. 'Iller than Most' closes with Del showcasing the extent of his technical ability as a rapper. Del's flow is flawless on 'Land of Immediate Rap Hits', featuring some raw technical rapping capability with an increased pace and veracity of lyrical flow curtained over top of a very glitchy and disjointed track. In many respects, Del has amalgamated and unified two otherwise polar opposite camps of sonic style within the underground hip-hop community – those being that of the glitchy, distorted, noise rap; and that of the introspective, self-aware, socially conscious old-school classic hip hop. If 'Iller than Most' has accomplished anything, it's made me terribly curious and excited of what to expect from hip-hop for the year 2014.