NEW YORK (Billboard) - Oakland rap legend Del the Funky Homosapien, like all musicians, is coming to grips with a rapidly changing music industry. Unlike most, though, he's looking to himself for the solution, personally bankrolling his new album, "Funk Man (The Stimulus Package)," and releasing it as a free download.
"I just wanted people to believe in something again," Del told Billboard.com. "I know what's going on. I'm not blind. I didn't think enough people were actually going to buy it to warrant me doing a full-scale release."
Del's first release since 2007's "The Eleventh Hour," "Funk Man" finds the MC rhyming about the perils of pop culture and putting an errant twist on classic West Coast swagger (as popularized by his own cousin, Ice Cube). But it's also a vehicle for Del's clear frustration with the current state of commercial hip-hop.
"I'm waking up every day and thinking, 'Man, I'm Pops,'" he said. "Back when my Pops was like, 'Turn that mess off, all it is is garbage, you don't know nothing about real music' -- I'm doing that now."
To spark interest in "Funk Man," which was made available on April 7 on delthefunkyhomosapien.bandcamp.com and Funnyman Entertainment, the Bay Area, California, rapper released a music video for "Get It Right Now," the album's first single -- though he's quick to question that nomenclature.
"That's the song I decided to put out and let everybody know I got something new. I don't know if you could call it a single, because I'm not really even working in that parameter."
Del is promoting the record with an extensive club tour, which kicked off April 8 and will visit 29 cities before it wraps in Salt Lake City on May 18.
The album was funded in part by sponsorship deals with Skull Candy, Osirus Shoes, and Arnette but primarily by the artist himself, who also wrote and produced the album entirely on his own. "I'm almost fully self-reliant at this point," he said.
Hip-hop mixtape downloads are often available for free, but the same can't be said of full albums. The rapper insists that for him, giving away an album was the only choice that made sense.
"It was just sitting there, and nobody would've heard it ever, like the other 500,000 pieces of music I've got," Del said. "People are like, 'You're giving it away for free? What's the catch?' I'm like, 'There is no catch. You ain't gonna buy it. I know you ain't gonna buy it. But you might listen to it if I give it to you.'"
"I'm just trying to ride the wave, to tell you the truth," Del added, "because I'm out here like everybody else. I don't really know nothing either. But I'm willing to try something."
Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters