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Mysteries blistering like the gold on Mr. T

Image: Wikimedia Commons

  • Track: Style Police
  • Artist: Del the Funky Homosapien
  • Album: Both Sides of the Brain
  • Year: 2000

Our first simile dissection of the new decade comes from the first year of a seminal decade in my life. Aah, the year 2000. Didn’t everything seem so much more hopeful back then? The threat of a worldwide computer meltdown seemed the worst of our problems.

Del (I’m not typing his entire name all the way through this) came to my attention the following year, through the two best tunes of the first Gorrilaz album.  Del’s persona in Gorrilaz is Del the Ghost Rapper, who occasionally embodies the band’s drummer. He has an interesting backstory.

That sums Del up: he’s left field, creative and loves to collaborate. A big highlight is Deltron 3030, his project with Dan the Automator and Kid Koala. Deltron’s first album also came out in 2000. He was certainly keeping himself busy.

Del revels in the cryptic. He’s also often funny. A wanker might call him a ‘concept rapper’. He raps fast, and the production is often a little lo-fi, so pity the Genius lyrics transcriber. I think they’ve done a grand job here, but I’ve changed a couple of mistakes.

Somewhere in a parallel universe, a nerd is writing a blog about hip-hop tunes that start with the sound of sirens. Style Police would certainly feature. What’s it about? The conceit, loosely, is that Del and his crew are the Special Branch of hip-hop style enforcement. I’d imagine they’re not averse to the odd bit of witness ‘encouragement’ if it results in a conviction.

Del spends two verses slagging off phonies and emphasising in no uncertain terms that he’s more awesome than them. So standard hip-hop stuff, but beautifully executed.

A founding member of Oakland crew Hieroglyphics (also worth your time), Del also goes by Del tha Funkee Homosapien, depending on how attached to his spellchecker he’s feeling. If you like what you hear check out his Bandcamp for some free downloads and pay what you want stuff.

Oh, and he’s Ice Cube’s cousin.

The lyrics

View the annotated lyrics on Genius.com.

[Intro]

Pull over, get out of the car (you’re under arrest)
Slowly put your hands up. Hands behind your head. Legs crossed (you’re under arrest)
(Uh, Bob, Bob we have a couple of style fighters over on 17th avenue, we’re going to need backup. Send in Del and the Hieroglyphics. 10-4.)

[Verse 1]

I think it’s time to get the Zap board
The rap lord has disembarked to restore the missing parts
For all ya’ll, stiffer than starch

A pretty standard comparative simile to get us going. Zap boards are a brand of slim surfboards.

You know the pictorial symbol
Portable nimble brain waves got my grimy chains jiggling
I’m burning at Higher Learning like Singleton
Single out simpletons with static such as intercoms

I don’t think it’s ‘grimy chains’ but I can’t get anything clearer. Higher Learning is a 1995 John Singleton film starring none other than Ice Cube. His character is called Fudge White, so now I have to watch it. Great.

The Genius transcription has that as ‘stylings such as Intercon’ (Intercon being a furniture company). But I hear ‘statics such as intercoms’ and I think it makes a bit more sense. But is it a simile? Like being in a lift with Winston Churchill when he’s got new year’s resolution to give up smoking (bear with me), it’s close but no cigar. As ‘such as’ really means ‘for example’ I can’t allow it. I agonise over decisions like this, trust me.

It’s the bomb, let’s get it on
Mr. Bombay to you
Slay a crew, you never paid your dues
Your testimony’s phoney, baloney
And bony with only a wooden leg to stand on
Like a pregnant panda in the wilderness
and I’m the wildebeest

Dr. Bombay is one of Del’s early tunes (also a cracker) and occasional alias. This lyric must refer to the time before Bombay got his PhD.

There’s a lot to unpack here, as Del paints a surreal picture. What’s the defining characteristic of a pregnant panda? Erm, well I suppose they are a rare sight in the wilderness these days, and vulnerable. Like something shaky with a single wooden leg. It all makes perfect sense now.

And I see you’re still a thief with my style in the grill of your teeth
Diligently appealing with speech with militant beats
Ill enough leaks to let my feet miss the freeze
Mysteries blistering like the gold on Mr. T

Does gold blister? I have no idea. Do mysteries blister? Still no idea. I wonder if this is a dig at Mr. T’s gold. Is Del suggesting it’s cheap, or even fake? Does fake gold blister? I clearly don’t know enough about gold/anything.

I shouldn’t have to explain who Mr. T is. He released a rap album in 1984, and so may very well grace these pages one day.

Handicap your voyeurism
Destroy your vision
Massive with gashes no defended forms step in the swarm of bees leave with hives
Rhymes conceived with knives and flesh
My mind’s possessive, mind fresh
While you’re wild as exile
My text styles spookier than X-Files
You fruity like a paedophile
After the battle cries that’s when I metabolise

Crumbs. You wait for ages then three similes arrive at once, a bit like…erm. Nope, can’t think of a simile for that one.

I thought I had a lead on the exile simile, thinking it might be a reference to this 1990 Disney telemovie, based on Lord of the Flies. But then I realised that’s a stupid idea and decided to tag it is ‘uncategorised’.

The second is much more straightforward. The X-Files was pretty spooky. Enough said.

I’ve got to take umbrage at the third one. ‘Fruity’ is an odd adjective to use to describe paedophiles. I hope Del’s using it in the sense of being a bit bawdy, a bit suggestive. In the US, ‘fruity’ more commonly means ‘gay’, and it’s not meant as a compliment. But there’s a third common US meaning too: ‘eccentric’. So three possible definitions , none of which are synonymous with paedophilia. I’m going to give Del the benefit of the doubt here and hope he didn’t mean the second one.

While you fantasise I antagonise like replacement killers erase your filler

I’ve got nothing. Unless ‘replacement’ is wrong, this is a dud simile for me. But it’s going in because I had to change three US spellings in this line, a personal pedantry best.

Ridiculous, meticulous
Fry you like a chicken breast

And we’re back on solid simile ground. It almost as if Del’s similes can be broken into two distinct categories: confoundingly cryptic or very simple. And that is fine with me.

Fuck your Smith and Wesson
Pull you out of the oven get the dressing
With possession
Question all directions
While you still a suck penitence
Stuck dwelling in the past

And that’s the first verse banged up. It doesn’t get much more coherent in the second half to be honest.

Now leg it, here come the Style Police!

[Hook]

Pull over, get out of the car (you’re under arrest)
Slowly put your hands up. Hands behind your head. Legs crossed (you’re under arrest)
Pull over, get out of the car (you’re under arrest)
Slowly put your hands up. Hands behind your head. Legs crossed (you’re under arrest)

[Verse 2]

I do it till I feel fine
Real rhyme, still time
Stop frame, drop change
Rock brain, stock exchange
Mock my name
There’s not a lot to gain from that
When I’m up to bat it’s like you trying to duck a gat

Del returns after the hook with a verse to emphasise how dope he is. It’s classic battle stuff.

This is only our third gun-related simile in over 200 so far. Given rap’s reputation, you might expect that to be higher. I haven’t featured much gangster stuff so far, but I hope this shows that hip-hop is a broader church than some people might think.

You commonplace
I shift time and space
Leave your mind erased like the year 2000 and data replaces the faces

Technology and futurism are common themes in Del’s music. I’ve categorised this simile as history even though the year 2000 was only about ten minutes ago. To balance that out, it’s also under technology.

Del takes the idea of a worldwide computer meltdown to its logical conclusion in Virus, from the classic Deltron 3030 project with Dan the Automator.

Cause there is no oasis
I wield your locations
A military pack of black tornadoes
Fernando Slam you on an anvil
Scrape you with a breakthrough
Lacerate your plastic face acquired through plastic surgery
Leave your flow burgundy and crimson limbs and arteries
Down in the chart MCs
As I’m sipping margaritas it’s a part of the feature from the particle preacher
Universal ubiquity when you sit with me and chat
You will get to see a fat flow that fried your brain cells like formaldehyde or alkaline

I like this bit because it’s vicious battle stuff, but also deliberately baffling. Del’s not setting out to physically hurt the phonies; he wants to break them by befuddling them.

This has to count as two separate similes. Formaldehyde and alkaline(s) are two different things, both (according to Del) with an ability to fry brains. If they crop up often, I may have to come up with a term for similes like this. I’m going to need a glossary soon, and that genuinely delights me.

Check the words now combined
Leave you with powder burns
Deltron Z has now returned
My dogmatic songs average rap artists
I’m an author who augments my solstice to the tip with my groove essentials
I’m coming on a hydrofoil spreading hydroponics
While you chasing the dragon
Like you’re facing a magnet

Bit of a tough one this. It’s tempting to assume Del’s referencing smoking heroin, but we don’t know that. Especially given that the rest of his imagery is completely out there.

So what does it mean? I suppose magnets are most famous for their ability to attract certain metals…so…nope, I give up. I don’t get it.

Ending on an unsatisfying simile like that makes me grumpy, but there’s not much I can do about that.

My brain is digital playing with analogue controllers
Force movement in increments with instruments

[Hook/outro]

Pull over, get out of the car (you’re under arrest)
Slowly put your hands up. Hands behind your head. Legs crossed (you’re under arrest)
Pull over, get out of the car (you’re under arrest)
Slowly put your hands up. Hands behind your head. Legs crossed (you’re under arrest)
Um I think we got ’em Bob…I think we got ’em. Lock ’em up, throw away the key, Hieroglyphics is in the house. Yesss…yeessss….YEESSSS

After our final brush with the long arm of the Style Police, we’re all done. Another good day on the beat. Time for a doughnut.

Let’s end on something that I find very pleasing indeed: this track has a simile per minute rate of 3.333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333…

Glorious. I’m not grumpy now.

The stats

Similes:13
Words:461
Words per simile:35.46
Length:3m 54s
Similes per minute:3.33
Collars felt in the name of upholding style:Loads

Leave a comment. Bonus points for similes.