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Delta - May The Force Be With You

Author: Matt Unicomb
Monday, May 11, 2009

Adelaide MC/producer Delta has become one of Australian hip hop’s most revered performers. He’s back with his long-awaited second album, The Second Story. 3D’s Matt Unicomb gets the rundown.

South Australia, arguably the heartland of Australian hip hop, has produced some of our country’s most commended musical talent. Amongst the steadily growing list of nationally renowned broken beat flare, is Delta: fearsome freestyle MC, beat maker and world traveller. Unveiled last Saturday, Delta’s fittingly titled sophomore full-length, The Second Story, has made waves amongst heads nationwide like few have, and few will.

Debuting in 2006 with The Lostralian on Melbourne imprint Nuffsaid – the Victorian label famously chaired by Prowla and Menace – Delta established himself as not only an esteemed battle MC, but as a consistent and gifted songwriter and producer. Notoriously hosting US and English underground heavies MURS, Mojo The Cinamatic, Mark B and Skinnyman on this debut, the MC, along with the rest of the Nuffsaid extended family, became part of a movement in bringing the US to Australia, rather than the opposite.  “I always ask people what their favourite song is, because I like to know what to do next time,” the Adelaide-born MC states jovially. “When I make a record, I definitely have myself in mind, but I like to target the hip hop fanatics. All the stuff on the record, I’d like to translate to the live shows. I’ve put so much blood, sweat and tears into this one, man. In July 2006, I had already started working on this new album. It’s been a very long journey – a very international one. It has been a labour of love for all people involved.”

The ‘people’ involved are many. Boasting collaborations with Milano (of D.I.T.C.), Psycho Les (of The Beatnuts), The Dapkings and, to name a few, The Second Story is, in many ways, an international ode to Australian hip hop. Two of the featured artists, Milano and Psycho Les, are of an era, and are part of groups, that have defined the Australian hip hop sound of today. “I’m not nervous about putting it out, I was nervous about putting it out in a timely fashion. Everybody was working out of love for me.”

Though The Second Story does feature a strong international contingent, it is not strictly an international affair. South Australian DJ Staen 1 lends his apt hands for turntable duties, Prowla produces the politically charged Prime Minister, and M-Phazes chips in with production on Damnation. In many ways, this album is a representation of where the highest standard of Australian hip hop lies.

Remaining conceptual in every aspect, the album is graced with placid, yet evocative cover art, and, along with Delta’s raps, becomes more abstract as time goes by, with double meanings twisted neatly around lyrical elegance, while often being disguised by fiery, socially charged 16 bar eruptions. “It’s an underground photo, but I’ll think I’ll have to leave that up to chance,” the 32-year-old MC says of revealing the location of the elevator doors featured on The Second Story’s cover. “I want people to get out and research, so they can see where this [train of thought] is coming from. I want it to be a mystery. When you find out where the building is, you’ll find out where I’m coming from. It’s my homage to the clandestine things that are going on this world at the moment.”

Thankfully, The Second Story will be released on vinyl, due out later this month. “It’s gonna be a 2xLP gatefold. A lot of people are going for iTunes, and JB – I just want hip hop to be the way it always has been. I’m sure the vinyl will sell quickly, it always does. The Lostralian just went for $112, or something like that, on eBay.”

This dedication to vinyl – in his spare time, Delta spins funk 45s for cash – is a contributing factor to his overseas success. His love of wax obscurities is said to have earned respect from some of hip hop’s finest, influential and most innovative producers.

In 1999, on the advice of Brooklyn-based underground freestyle MC Pumpkinhead, the then 21-year-old Delta took a break from his BA, and hopped on a plane to New York, settling in the Bronx with the Cannibal Ox duo. “Pumpkinhead judged an [Adelaide] MC battle in 1998, which I won,” Delta reflects. “He told me that I had to take what I was doing to New York, so that’s what I did. When I got there, within a week, I met him at the Rocksteady anniversary party, and he was like, ‘Man, we got a cypher poppin’ in the corner. Come and bust a rap’. The people that I was rapping with were Vast Aire and Vordal Mega of Cannibal Ox.” After departing New York, Delta eventually hooked up with famed UK producer Mark B in London, who would go on to produce the majority of his The Lostralian, including the now legendary cut, Mayday.

Interestingly, along with his MPC, rhyme book and quick wits, Delta also carried a copy of Culture of Kings on his first visit to the Big Apple. This sparked a reaction, however subdued, that eventually shaped Delta’s approach to production today; give the people what they want. “People don’t really know any Aussie hip hop at all,” he says slowly. “I went over there with Culture of Kings Volume 2 in my hand – I wanted to showcase Australian hip hop from the moment I arrived. They [the Americans] were feeling Bob Balans, Trem, Lazy Grey; they can tell [the talented] dudes a lot of the time. They don’t really understand the whole festival hip hop thing; the sort of happy, party hip hop. However, they can see we’re in a country that’s very white dominated, of course, so they can see that we’d be a very rock orientated country – we need to cater to that. They told me, ‘Screw that, dude, if the majority of heads in Australia are listening to ’90s style hip hop, make ’90s style hip hop. We can’t do that in America right now, so you should try to do it in Australia’. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”

WHO: Delta
WHAT: The Second Story through Nuffsaid / Shogun
WHEN: Out now [2xLP out mid-May]