Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Apr 19th 2010 4:00PM by Pat Pemberton
"I had just read a book called 'How to Write a Hit Song,' and it gives you the steps on basically what you should be thinking about when you're writing a song that you would like over a million people to listen to," he tells Spinner.
At the time, Del was working in the studio with producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura on a Deltron 3030 project. Simultaneously, Nakamura was working with Blur's Damon Albarn on the first Gorillaz album. While another rapper had recorded parts for the debut single, Nakamura wanted to hear Del's take.
"He was like, 'Since I've got you here, Del, I know you're talented, and I know you can whip a rap real quick, in like 10 or 15 minutes. Can you do that for me?'" Del recalls. "I didn't want to do it. I wanted to go home. We had already been up all night working on Deltron. We had finally finished. I'm ready for him to take me home. But he was like, 'Come on, man. You know you can do it in, like, 15 or 30 minutes.' So I'm like, 'OK.' I whipped it up."
While Gorillaz, which just released its third album, is now a well-known, Grammy-winning act, at the time, Albarn's virtual band was a mystery. As Nakamura explained, the rapper in the video was a blue ghost that comes out of the fictional Russel Hobbs' drum set.
"When Dan asked me to do the song, I asked him, 'OK, this ghost lives inside the drum or whatever -- what is he about?'" remembers the Oakland-based rapper, who got his start as a teen working with cousin Ice Cube. "'Well, whatever you come up with, Del, that will be fine.' I was like, 'Whatever I come up with, that will be fine. OK, let's see -- lemme start writing now.' Basically, I made it up."
Making the ghost a spiritual inspiration for Hobbs, Del went to work on the rap, remembering what he had read in the book.
"For one thing, it's got to be universal," he says. "Most people lean on love because everybody loves -- that's the most universal thing you can think about. Sex is another. The first thing the book said, though, is that you have to be original above everything else."
Del's raps were recorded and inserted into the song, which became the first Gorillaz hit. He also contributed to the song 'Rock the House' from the same album.
Later, the second Gorillaz album would include the song 'Feel Good, Inc.,' featuring raps from De La Soul. Del -- who never met Albarn -- wasn't disappointed that he wasn't asked to work on the second album.
"I wouldn't expect to be called back on the second Gorillaz," he says. "But I'm appreciative of that chance they gave me because it ended up selling millions of records, and I had that break-out song, which really put me back on the radio. And I got my first platinum plaque from that, too. So I can sit back and be like, 'I kind of went platinum. Sort of.'"