All praises due to the legendary Delon Deville, and to The Homie Alex, who conducted the interview and wrote the article. This is history in the making.
Delon Deville (formerly Atom 12/Shamen 12) has spent most of his musical career languishing in obscurity. He started off as an integral member of the Masters of the Universe, alongside heavyweights like Orko Eloheim, Odessa Kane and Genghis Khan. His early work shared the crew's aesthetic, epitomized in songs like "Spaceshit" and "Universe with a Curse," but later shifted to more reality-based tales of struggle in the streets and lost love. His latest album, Parafenelia, was tragically slept on and is the realization of a sound he started developing on 1999’s Hall of Fame, Fortune and Death. He continues to develop and experiment with his sound and has even decided to branch out, beyond music. He kindly took some time out to talk to me about his history, his future projects and his struggles.
You started releasing music with Masters of the Universe. Can you talk a bit about the early days - how you hooked up with MOTU?
I have been a lieutenant and right hand to Orko Elohiem since 1994. The true origin behind us was at first we were all b-boys and housers. The group was called House Klan. We would terrorize all other dance clicks that thought they could beat us. We'd go to school dances and battle crews as well. We battled crews at this Rollerskate Land that used to be out in National City a long time ago. Back in the 90s, there was a lot of b-boy/housing crews in San Diego. You had Funky Matter, you had Stussy Tribe, you had Jive Tribe, you had G-Force, and you had Play School.
In the beginning, I was a solo dancer and just used to show up at events, but I heard of this crew called House Klan and I had seen 'em around and so I thought to myself, "You know what? I wanna get down in their click." My initiation into the click was that I had to battle a member out of the group. One of the group members used to go to my school and me and him were real cool with each other and so he gave me a heads up on the matter. I didn't know Orko nor did I ever see him. I had only known of stories about him, commenting on the ill styles he had as a houser. So I show up at B-Dove’s (Bennie Herron/Eclipse Heru) house and the group decided that I was going to have to battle the leader himself, Orko. I wasn't scared or anything. I was actually hyped about the situation. I had skills too, so I wasn't afraid. We used to bully niggaz. We battled and the battle lasted about 20 minutes. The group collectively agreed that I had gotten the best of him and ever since then, me and the Orko were tight, as well as the other members of the click.
Eventually we started shifting towards the music side of things and decided to try our hand in rapping. Our click was so deep some of the cats started forming groups within the group. We had the Lil Rascals, the Black Bradys, Boot Without a Soul, and my click, D.N.A. (alongside Odessa Kane fka Matrix and Kontroversial Black). We got heavily active in music and started to record albums. We would do shows here and there. The word got out in the underground scene that we were a force to be reckoned with. The same way we went hard on the dance floor, bullying these other dance crews, was the same way we went hard when it came to dealing with music.
Soon after that, the groups as a whole were kind of breaking up. D.N.A. stayed tight the longest. Boot Without a Soul had broken up. Black Bradys did as well and so did Lil Rascals. We didn't fall out or nothing as friends. It was just we didn’t know where we were going with this movement. As time progressed, certain cats grew far apart and started to become AWOL from the click. Orko thought since we were slowly diminishing in manpower, it was probably a good idea that we form a mega group with the rest of the remaining dudes and call the click Masters of the Universe. We met up at Orko's house, in the garage, every day, smoking blunts and drinking beer, and came up with the album Microcrucifiction.
What were some of your influences back then?
When Masters of the Universe was around, we were heavily involved in the rap community and looked at Freestyle Fellowship as being our main competition. We had often took trips up to L.A. to showcase our skills in the freestyle ciphers. We considered them to be a threat. During that time, I was listening to a lot of Digable Planets, De La Soul, Divine Styler, Mystic Journeymen, Souls of Mischief, The Artifacts, Guru, Nirvana, KRS-One, N.W.A.
As for now, I try not to listen to too many artists in fear that I might compromise my own style and start sounding like them. I don’t want any influences by the latest trend. I don’t want to be compared to anybody. I want to stay original as possible. I do listen to a lot of 70s music. I like Marvin Gaye, the Blue Notes, the Emotions, Blue Light Orchestra, Pablo Gad, a lot of reggae. I like the older kind of music, back in the day. That era will be long missed. That is what fueled me to go off the cusp a bit and start singing my own hooks on songs.
Can you talk a bit about your solo projects as Atom 12/Shamen 12?
D.N.A. was breaking up. We could never get ourselves off the showroom floor and produce an album. There was a lot of creative differences there. We didn’t have direction, so we spent a lot of time bickering and in the studio making all sorts of music, none I believed to be worthy or worth the time and effort. I guess you can say some people might have felt like they were more advanced than the other might have been. Orko decided to go solo because he was hurt and disappointed in the fact that he put in a lot of work putting out Microcrucifiction. He felt the other cats weren’t putting in as much effort as he was and was simply waiting on Orko to get us on. No one was doing anything except believing in Orko’s dream and that he was gonna be the person that got us signed and our big break. Some of the cats in the crew were living off of the name without putting in any real work. That was when I decided to go solo as an artist myself too. I had no hard feelings but I wanted to see where I could push it since I had a passion for it already.
I made 12 Kommandments, the album, inside our DJ’s garage - DJ Third Rail aka LOOKS SEK. I had a beat up old 4-track I stole from a pawn shop and I used DJ Third Rail’s Sensonique sampler while I dug in the crates. I didn’t know what direction I was going in when I decided to make my first album. I didn't even name it until I was actually finished with it. I basically got into the studio until I had found a niche. I was head conscious and against the machine and wet behind the ears when it came to knowing about the music business. I never took heed to what the music business was like. I thought it was gonna be easier than what it was. 12 Kommandments was my first kind of style I had developed while I was making the album. I fused knowledge and head conscious lyrics alongside a poverty and struggle stricken message. I kept that as being my main formula. As I began to sell my tapes on the street, I was now getting a feel of what Orko meant when he said you gotta put your feet to the pavement and get it out there. So along the way of chasing my dream, me and Orko were chasing our dreams together, but just slangin’ different albums under the same canopy.
Around this time I felt I didn’t want to run 12 Kommandments into the mud, and I get bored real easy, so I decided to get back in the lab and compose another one. Might I add, I made 95% of all my beats from day one to now, so I really didn’t need an engineer or producer. I was self-sufficient. I was listening to the feedback I was getting from the album and it had split the audience and fan base down the middle. I realized the underground scene loved the abstract tone of the album, but keep in my mind I came up from off the streets and all around me were gangsters and squares. I lived a double life. The homies on the block would tell me that it was alright but they couldn’t understand what I was saying. Basically they weren't relating to it at all. That kind of bothered me. So what I did was, I switched up my approach with the messages I was putting out, so both sides of the scale could get a fix of what I was laying down. Might I add, I was still new to the game so my idea of bringing both worlds together and being a beginner with my feet wet in the game - that act and feat was going to take some time and perfection. I got back into the lab and I cranked out quite a bit of material.
I had made Master Piece Theatre and As the World Burns. Master Piece Threatre didn’t get a lot of play but As the World Burns went all the way up the California coast in mama and papa stores. It had hit overseas - Russia, Brazil and Hawaii. The style I was going for was called "The Curse." The Curse was old, murky, smoky, lunatic type beats. I decided I was going to attempt to cater to a broader spectrum of a crowd, rather than just a handful of underground listeners. It was then I decided to mix it up and come up with many styles of rhyming so I could get more cats feeling my shit. This was the birth of Young Shamen, now coming full circle with himself, as the emcee that had a lot of different styles he came with to the table. Out of all the cats in my crew, Young Shamen was the most eclectic and most unique. Some said 12 Kommandments and As the World Burns was harder than Orko’s first solo release. Go figure…
So, since I had that rude awakening with my talent, I decided to play both sides of the fence but still stay true to myself. I did come from a fucked up neighborhood, riddled with gang violence. I had my feet dipped in on both sides of the cup. I didn’t wanna start taking the gangster rap approach. With my earlier music, I felt that it didn’t have longevity and that it would put you in a smaller box and it wouldn’t be so universal. At least that’s what I thought. I didn’t want to go full abstract neither, so I took the best route for me, and that was to stay in the middle. I released As the World Burns and did numerous shows for that album. On that album you could tell the slight drift away from the earlier releases I had done, but it was just enough to keep ‘em all in line, checkin’ for my shit. So I told myself, “I'm finally established as a solo artist” and saw no reason for turning back. Of course I did features on the homie’s albums, like Orko’s and West Kraven’s, but I was finally finding ambition and desire behind the movement I was making and everyone in the click was on board with it. I was self-sufficient and I didn’t need a producer.
So, As the World Burns broke ground and pushed me a little bit further into the gray area. It was then I realized that I was getting better with each song that I had recorded. It wasn’t the fact that I was trying to change my style. It was just that each song I made, I had attacked it a whole different way, which painted the picture that I was changing my style. In fact, I was just getting better and more seasoned and skillful with every new track I was doing and as well as the beats I was producing. I got back into the lab and made another album called Hall of Fame, Fortune and Death. I had intertwined some cuts from Master Piece Theatre since it didn’t get any light and comprised it with songs I was currently making. Hall of Fame, Fortune & Death was one of my finest records. I got to showcase different lyrical approaches and I played around a lot when I came up with plots behind these songs.
Hall of Fame was released, but once again the money was an issue. I was only pressin’ up a few at a time and eventually I got tired of the hustle and bustle and fell back into the lab to create another album. The business side of things was always the hardest part for me. So, I hit the lab again and came up with a gem. The album was entitled Welcome to Gangland. The album sold in the streets as a limited edition, due to the lack of funds, but it had received quite a bit of praise, as they dug the production. I started getting more comfortable with myself musically, so I began to try new things. I started to sing and croon on my tracks to give it soulful feel. Welcome to Gangland was that and more. Throughout the years of moving and getting my life together, I lost the main hard copy of that album, so it remains lost in the world somewhere. Someone might have it, but no one has come to me about it yet and I’m still looking for it. I lost As the World Burns as well. My life hasn’t been easy.
So, eventually as the years progressed I saw that the underground scene was kind of stagnant. At least that’s what I thought. I thought San Diego talent, out here, wasn’t pushing the envelope. So, I decided to shock myself and start pushing the envelope myself. I started experimenting with new sounds and new styles of rap and that’s when I came to the decision that I wanted to be an artist that was a rare gem - a sought after artist, due to his music, and every time you would hear it, you wouldn’t know what to expect next. I wanted to remain raw, uncut, no chaser, in your face about hustling, poverty, enlightenment, women, and abstract choruses with profound lyrical content. I never saw myself as reaching for the stars to become the very best in this rap game. I didn’t get into it for that reason. I fell in love with it and still to this day I am very passionate about it.
From the outside looking in, it seemed like you disappeared for a bit, then reemerged as Delon Deville. Can you talk about that transition?
I felt as an artist, along with my music, I needed some room and space to grow outward. My head was in a different place, but my heart was still in it 100%. I decided to change my moniker from Shamen 12 aka Atom 12 to Delon Deville, which is my real first name. I had decided to get more in depth and up close with my art form and medium of being a real emcee/rapper and take it more seriously. At one point in time, I felt that I was too head conscious with an abstract approach to the game. Here I was talking about, "Do unto God, everything is worldly" on 12 Kommandments, under the moniker Atom 12, then I released Hall of Fame, Fortune and Death and the message there was completely the opposite. I felt a need for change and artistic direction. I found myself not being accountable for the things I was saying on these albums.
So, when Shamen 12 left the underground scene, a lot of fans and die hard Masters of the Universe fans were left behind as well. I had formulated a nice buzz in San Diego, L.A. and the Bay area with this abstract, but on the level style I was bustin’. I was actually going through a phase in my life at the time too. I wanted to grow, along with my music. At a point in time, I didn't want to hit the mainstream and get on the radio. I didn’t know a thing about making a hit record nor did I know the politics behind it all. As far as I was concerned, I just wanted to make some good music. My goal was heading towards something that everyone could feel and listen too. So, I started perfecting and cultivating a new style and approach to my music. At this time, when Shamen 12 left the scene for about two years, the fans were seeking more music and had known me for being Shamen 12. Along with the new transformation, I had to win them over with the new moniker and style of Delon Deville.
All my fans knew me as Shamen 12 from Masters of the Universe. They were tripped out to see me reemerge as Delon Deville with this whole new swagger and melancholy vibe, rapping about pimping, money, women, smoking, and keepin’ it all in perspective. The fans I had left behind wondered what happened to Shamen 12 and why did I change up my style and name. Still, to this day, I get cats emailing me like, “I wanna hear that old Shamen 12 shit you used to do, G.” To be honest, that style I was doing was me in my beginner years. That was me just barely finding myself in music. I didn’t have a clear direction and path. All I knew was I had this burnin’ desire to be great and amaze myself. So I started doing more tracks on the level that endorsed and gave the impression that stackin’ chips and hustlin’ was a true and clear story for me. I never had anything handed down to me and had to work and earn everything I had, and it wasn’t much…
So, I stuck with the hustlin’ approach and poverty stricken message I was preachin’ on Hall of Fame, Fortune and Death and used that podium along with some new schemes and composed Welcome to Gangland. Now, Welcome to Gangland was a very nice and rare album. I had composed melodies that would entice and sooth the savage beast on there, no matter who you were. I was just having fun with it. I was living life through my music, so I started to write songs that were a soundtrack to my life, so to speak. I was trying to amaze and amuse myself. The more I would let cats hear the shit I was on, they were completely blown away and respected it right off the bat. They gave me props for being an emcee and producer that had a lot of talent, styles, and longevity, perhaps.
In the back of my mind, I did want a record deal. I was tired of slangin’ tapes out of my backpack and showing up at shows slangin’ tapes and CD's, one by one. I wanted all my hard work to pay off and the fruits of my labor to sell themselves. Switchin’ from artist to business man was a hard feat for me. I didn’t know the avenues I was supposed to be takin’ and for that my music career suffered. Now, with Shamen 12 taking a back seat, the gimmick, per se, behind Young Shamen had faded away and Delon Deville, in his truest form, had emerged.
So, as Delon Deville emerged on the scene, it was like a whole new animal and a whole new world for me because my fans and the ones who liked Masters of the Universe were still waiting for Shamen 12 to come back. At underground shows, these cats were rockin’ straight underground shit - abstract shit - and my music was a straight shot to the left and different. It didn’t match up with the scene, so I found myself on the outside, looking in. The ones who had caught a taste of Delon Deville on Gangland thought immediately that I had crossed over from backpacks and Converse to gangster rap music. They pegged me dead wrong, and for some time I caught that rap of being a gangster rapper. Not in any of my albums have I endorsed gang activity.
Along with losing my fan base, I had to kind of start from scratch and hit the pavement, beatin’ up the underground circuit on both ends, the gangster crowd and the underground crowd. I was caught in between a rock and a hard place. Both sides of the gamut weren’t receiving me with open arms at first. It sort of had to wear on them because, truth be told, I was on the edge of some real profound shit with my music. I would say I was one of the most underrated artists in San Diego who was known for his own style and 100% originality.
So, the switch in mediums, gaining new respect from my underground peers again, I had to go up the ladder once again, proving my style and finesse and talent was a force to be reckoned with. So I was in a class all by myself, so to speak. Winning back over my core fans was not a necessity, but became something I wanted to show them, that I was more than just an abstract, backpack rapper. I was a real composer. I just wanted to leave the moniker of Shamen 12 behind and grow into a more sophisticated moniker, like Delon Deville.
During my years as an artist, my home life wasn’t too stable. I liked to party all the time and take barbiturates to self-medicate. I wasn’t working a full time job. I depended on bitches to take care of me. While they went to work, I would just hit the lab and create.
I thought Parafenelia was a fantastic album and deserved more attention. Can you talk about creating that record?
That album was conceived in my mind to be a soundtrack to New Jack City, if they ever made a part two. The ingredients for that album was like a Picasso painting. I strictly did that album to amuse and entertain myself with its content and structure. I composed all the beats myself. I used all forms of mediums behind its production. I was workin’ with the MPC2000. I was on Cubase and I really dug the Reason program too. I cut out the middle man and decided to mix and master it myself.
On the album I had my cousin, Jihad, sing on two tracks. One was "Starrz and Strappz" and the other was "Hey Yung World". I also featured my homie, Jose Cuervo, on two tracks. One was "Go Hard Go Heavy" and the other one was "LabCoat Chemist". I had featured my lil’ brother (Nelly Nel) on two tracks as well. He did "Hittem Up" and he was also on "A to Z". Then I had got my homie, West Kraven, on one as well. The direction and production that album took was a concocted dream of mine, to implement an album that sounded like a soundtrack to a film. That was my whole take on that.
During that time, I was stayin’ with this girl who basically took care of me for four years, while she worked and I stayed at home, in the lab, making music, drinking, smoking, poppin’ X pills, and takin’ mushrooms, quite often. I was a drug infested mess. My life and priorities took a back seat as I basically just partied every day, not givin’ a fuck about my future and having some steady income in my life. Shamen 12 was the same way, but Delon Deville went way harder. In fact, while Shamen 12 went MIA on the scene for two or three years, it was in that time frame where I had sought out to record and find my new niche and approach for this album. I locked myself in the studio for months, just creating music, trying to knock shit out.
In between that time, me and West Kraven had formed a lil’ crew of our own and had recorded an album that never made the streets. Only an EP, called Untouchables, had emerged and sold a few copies in the streets. At that time, I was hanging out with Mitchy Slick for a while, recording in his dad’s studio, and Mitchy Slick came to me with an offer to sign me and West Kraven for $10,000 as a signing bonus. Sir Jinx, from Da Lynch Mob, was going to back us on the deal and push our album into the right direction and get it into the right hands. I would have been the first artist signed to Wrongkind Records at that time. Unfortunately, I turned down the deal. I didn’t see it as a real good career move. I didn’t want to be in someone’s shadows and take on the extra liabilities it had when hanging with that dude. So then, me and West Kraven signed with this label called Shellshock Entertainment. It was a homie’s label of ours and it had features on the label, Mr. Shadow, myself and Damu. Unfortunately, that deal didn’t work out either because they chose to push Young Sicc’s album first and have us wait in the wings until his advertisement and marketing campaign had ended. I said, “Fuck it. I’m gonna get back into the lab and create my own shit.”
Before I was sittin’ in the lab with Parafenelia, focused, there was a dry period in my life, where I wasn’t making music at all. I had caught a case selling and distributing marijuana and uncontrolled substances and had been charged with the crime and spent six months in jail. When I got out, it was then I put all my time into creating Parafenelia. Through those years I had lost a lot of material due to my stint in jail and moving around from place to place, shackin’ up with bitches that were paying my way through life. Parafenelia took six months, roughly, to compose, and another three as it sat on my computer, collecting dust, before I decided to take it seriously and arrange the album to be ready to be put out onto the streets. I had my girl fork over the starting funds to manufacture the album but with low overhead, I was only able to produce and distribute roughly about five hundred copies and went on to sell it as a rare collector’s cut and gem on the streets.
Barely making ends meet with sales, by slangin’ them once again, hand-to-hand, my business mind wasn’t all the way there. The transition was hella hard for me. I wanted to really package it up in a marketing bundle and shop it to record labels, but I didn’t have the intel nor the avenues open to me at the time. I had spent so much time away from the scene, I had lost a lot of connections. I was out of the loop for a while, so when I released it, the avenues to slang it was uncharted territory for me.
I plan to re-release it when the time is right. For those who had purchased it and for some who have listened to the album online showed nothing but support and showed me love on the matter. I won’t lie, I was a little heart-broken, as I thought I would have been well received in the hip-hop community, but the dramatic change from Shamen 12 to Delon Deville was a hard act to follow, to gain a new fan base and listeners. I took a massive blow to my self-esteem and ego. Delon Deville is still a work in progress. I have much to offer to the rap game...
Parafenelia has the type of sound and subject matter I’d like to hear on the radio. It'd be a refreshing change from what's popular now.
I don't know if I had any marketable hits that would have hit the radio hard and sell a million copies, but I think given the chance to debut and breakthrough as a new artist, bringing a different sound to the forefront, I could see that as a possibility. But then again, with radio play, I have heard some complete garbage that stayed in rotation for quite a while. I think it has something to do with the record execs. They decide - not the artist - what songs are marketable and advertisement-worthy for playin' on the radio. They specialize in producing hits. I think, maybe, with the right people behind me, supporting me on that level, I could perhaps be one of those cats that could be a mainstream artist.
What projects are you working on right now?
I got this EP that has like 5 to 7 songs (Nightmares) and have been thinking about releasing it just to put it out there and let it be heard. I've been thinking about releasing it while I still work on [my new LP] Internet Suicide. The EP is laid back and features some of my earlier work, right after I had finished Parafenelia. I was thinking about releasing it as an online purchase to get a digital download pack. My money is funny right now and I don't have the bread to invest right now, as far as Internet Suicide goes. I got this new style I was going to bring to the table as well, where I grab old 60s-like psychedelic rock and progressive music, kind of Kurt Cobain meets Jimi Hendrix with the lyrics, like some Vietnam war soup styles, crooning and singing my way all over the tracks, sounding like some post war folk music with a twist. So with this album, I want to take my time.
You're currently writing a movie script. Could you talk about that a bit?
The movie is entitled The California King. The story is about a young rapper slash low level drug dealer who lets his priorities fall secondary in search of a dream but doesn’t know exactly which way is up. His life is surrounded by drug addicts. He, himself, has an underlying problem of being an avid user of drugs. He is complacent with his drug use and sees no harm but his luxury is his poison and because of that he falls short of his dreams and aspirations and has to come to the reality that he is not a California king. The story is a cross between Hustle & Flow and 8 Mile.
And were you planning to handle the soundtrack?
Yeah, I was going to incorporate some of my music – instrumentals - into the movie, perhaps.
Lately you've been dealing with some issues involving what you described as "remote neuro monitoring." Can you explain what you've been going through?
They are using innocent people as guinea pigs for test studies. All you have to do is go to a mental health clinic and tell them you are hearing voices. They take your word for it without even conducting any machine test observations. All they do is listen to your complaints and prescribe you medicine they say will help with voices. The pharmaceutical companies, scientists, researchers, doctors and the U.S government are all in it together, keeping this clandestine act on the hush and out of the courtrooms. Congress hasn't passed a law stating these complaints deserve plausible investigation in the matter. Some take these pills and become complete zombies. They still hear the voices but, what they hear, they are now unemotionally attached to the incidents. Doctors are labeling and diagnosing individuals with fraudulent mental illnesses. You would think doctors would like to run some neurological tests on these people, but they are disregarding the facts and truth of the matter that mind control and brainwashing exist and this is the case. Doctors are not going to go above and beyond to help aid and support individual's complaints on the fact that he or she is hearing external voices in the head by non-ionizing weapons.
Obama said in the news he believes by 2017 the American people will all have a biological micro-processing chip implanted inside of all of us. It would lead you to think, what is the ultimate goal besides monitoring and surveilling the American people? I believe if the government decides to go through with this the American people will stand against it and possibly opt out in voting on laws all together. The American people will stop getting involved in political matters if this act of mind control and brainwashing hits the fan.
You take away our human rights and our Privacy Act laws and expect us to be cool and nonchalant about it? The crazy thing is the U.S government is trying so hard to keep this on the hush that they are willing to sacrifice innocent citizens in trade for a fraudulent mental illness. The U.S turns their back on these cases. They feel perfectly okay that these innocent citizens have to deal with harassment and mind control twenty four hours a day and seven days week. On top of that, these individuals' rights have already been took from them and they can’t even file a law suit on the matter.
From what I have read these kinds of psychological weapons have been around since the late 60s and was practiced on military personnel as well as law abiding citizens. I say if you calculate from back then to now you could probably say the number could be in the hundreds of thousands…