Dälek still wrestling with being underground, but dropped one of 2007’s best hip-hop albums

:: Dälek :: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom ::
:: w/ Mike Relm and RJD2 :: April 15 ::


By Andrew Clayman

Sometimes, the right music arrives at just the right point in history — and helps to ignite a revolution. Other times, the right music arrives at just the right time as well, but people are too distracted by YouTube and Soulja Boy to take any notice.

“I don’t know what happened exactly,” said Dälek (pronounced “die-a-lek”), the MC behind one of 2007’s most criminally overlooked albums, Abandoned Language, in a recent interview with The Marquee. “I don’t know if people were hating on [the album]or if they just didn’t hear it. But I definitely don’t think it got the recognition it should have gotten overall. But that’s just the story of our careers.”
Unbeknownst to most, the Dälek story actually dates back more than a decade, to a musical partnership hatched at New Jersey’s William Paterson University. Here, vinyl junkie and aspiring MC Will Brooks (Dälek) found a kindred musical spirit in fellow student and budding producer Alap Momin (The Oktopus). Working in Oktopus’ studio, the duo began infusing their passions for old-school rap, atmospheric rock, bee-bop jazz, and electronic music into a completely unique brand of hip-hop — one that would earn them steady critical adulation for years to come, but simultaneously seal their fate as an “underground” rap group.

“Whatever people label us as, I just let them run with it,” Dälek said. “It’s not really my concern. We concern ourselves with trying to write the best songs we can possibly write. As far as the underground and mainstream, I don’t know. There are some people that think we’re not underground now. There are kids mad that I don’t sleep on people’s floors anymore! They’re like, ‘What happened, you sold out!’ And I’m like, ‘Nah, man, I’m just fuckin’ old, and I don’t want to sleep on the floor no more.’ That’s not selling out, that’s just fuckin’ having a bad back!”

Standing in stark contrast to the intense, socio-political rants he spits on Abandoned Language, Dälek can only laugh as he talks about the novelty people seem to find in a hip-hop group that digs My Bloody Valentine and shares stages with the likes of ISIS, Faust, and Russian Circles.

“It’s funny,” he said. “Motherfuckers think, just because I grew up in Newark and I look the way I do, that I never listened to other types of music. If you go back to the beginnings of hip-hop and speak to any great producer you can think of, they’ll tell you they were listening to all types of music. That’s just the sign of a good producer and a good musician. You can’t be limited by a genre. It doesn’t make sense. For us, My Bloody Valentine happened to be a band that moved us and was something we could relate with. I mean, that’s the beauty of music. It goes beyond language, beyond where you’re from. It allows people to connect.”

For that very reason, Abandoned Language had all the makings of a culturally significant record: an inspired, personal commentary on the state of America, backed by a relentless attack of swirling drone and apocalyptic beats — almost like a custom-made protest march for fans of Public Enemy, Aphex Twin, and Sonic Youth alike.

In the end, the album’s frustrating lack of exposure could easily be blamed on mainstream hip-hop’s continuing preference for party anthems and style over substance. But Dälek sees political apathy as much more than just a hip-hop problem.

“What was the last political rock record you heard?” he said. “I just think music in general is  not in that great of a state. When you get big companies involved and a movement leaves the hands of the people who created it, it changes everything. That’s pretty much where we are right now.”

:: Dälek ::
:: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom ::
:: w/ Mike Relm and RJD2 :: April 15 ::

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