Wednesday, June 26, 2013

If You Like This, Then Try... Deltron 3030 and READY PLAYER ONE

Chris: Stay with me for a moment; I’m about to rant.

[Rant start]

I’ve always loved albums, their wholeness, even if I don’t like every track. I love their organization, when you see the purpose behind a slow song sandwiched by two blazing tracks, when a fantastic first track opens the door to this music hall, when a closing track completes your audio journey and--hopefully--forces you to hit play once again. Much as I’ve grown to embrace the digital world, to me, the biggest loss is that of the complete album. Now, you can simply purchase the track(s) you like and never even listen to the rest. I’ll admit, for most artists, that’s not a big deal. But with less folks purchasing full albums, the less likely an artist will put out a concept album--something already sparse. And I don’t know about you, but I love concept albums, and I’ll be sad to see a rarity become endangered in this digital age.

[Rant end]

Deltron's first album, "3030," released in 2000, is the mutated, hip-hop offspring of Del the Funky Homosapien, Dan the Automater, and Kid Koala, and is one of my favorite concept albums around.

The whole of the album paints a picture of the future, in the year 3030, as it follows the life of a upcoming emcee who wants to participate in an intergalactic rap battle. It tells his story from start to finish, taking an occasional detour for a skit or song that fleshes out this futuristic world. From homeless rantings to public service announcements to ads promoting colleges, these tracks build a bleak world, which shares enough similarities to today, that you can not only relate with, but it also becomes a viable future.

In between the world building, we follow Deltron 0, a former “mech-warrior that didn’t respect orders,” who dreams of winning the "instupicuous," Fantabulous Rap Battle Extravaganza. It’s a battle of “man vs. machine, machine vs. computer, computer vs. woman, woman vs. child.” The songs' story carries us through to the battle itself and the aftermath. It’s a technological rap through the future, with Del referencing Transformers, Strange Brew, MicroMachines, and countless other bits of pop culture. And the beats range from the traditional to the bizarre to the digital noise and quirks of the electronic world.

It’s been 13 years since its release, but it’s still as solid as ever. Even better, this past week, those of us waiting for the next album, “Phase II,” were given the first single, “City Rising from the Ashes.” So now is the perfect time to catch up with the Deltron world before the new album drops. And if you like it, you’ll also like READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline.

Set in a much nearer future, 2044, the novel paints an even grimmer picture of what's to come. The general populous lives in the digital world of OASIS, an MMORPG (think World of Warcraft but not only for fun but how you also go to school, shop, work, etc.). Wade, the protagonist, spends his hours on the OASIS trying to solve the game creator’s puzzle. Years ago, the creator started a contest whose winner would inherit his mass wealth and control over the OASIS. Now, Wade must dodge evil-global corporations trying to win the contest while sifting through massive amounts of 80’s pop culture--from “Family Ties” to Oingo Boingo and Billy Idol to heaps of classic arcade games--to solve the creator's enigma. (The author even created his own soundtrack for the novel that you can find with a quick Google.)

While both READY PLAYER ONE and Deltron are very different in topic and execution, they share many similarities. Both have unlikely heroes trying to accomplish impossible tasks. Both are chock full o’ pop culture references to build their futuristic worlds. Both create their own vernacular for the future. And best of all, both are a shitton of fun and never take themselves too seriously.

If you’re a fan of Deltron, give READY PLAYER ONE a shot. And if you’ve been reading this and wondering what in the hell I’m even talking about, do yourself a favor and take a quick listen, and then go grab this novel from your local bookstore--especially if you’re into sci-fi, videogames, humor, and pop culture.

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