AUSTIN, Texas — For a guy who got his start in 1990s British rock 'n' roll, Damon Albarn sure knows how to throw a hip-hop party.
Albarn invited De La Soul and Del the Funky Homosapien to join him during his performance last Friday night at South by Southwest, pulling off one of the bigger surprises at the annual music conference and festival. De La Soul joined Albarn for their Gorillaz collaboration Feed Good Inc., before Del came on stage to perform the initial Gorillaz single Clint Eastwood for the first time since its release 13 years ago.
"What can I say about them? They're very dear friends of mine," Albarn said of De La Soul before the performance. "But it's Del the Funky Homosapien I'm most excited about. It is literally the first time that not only have I met him, but he's going to sing Clint Eastwood." He called it "quite a momentous moment."
And not just for Albarn, who also debuted songs from his new solo album, Everyday Robots, out April 29. Those who bothered to stick around after De La Soul's high-spirited appearance got a double surprise. Snoop Dogg took the stage at the Fader Fort, where Fader magazine celebrated its 15th anniversary with performances by artists who have appeared on its cover, contributing a surprise verse as well. Albarn said Snoop's appearance was meant to add "a little cayenne" to the set.
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Albarn's music has increasingly featured hip-hop and bass-inflected electronic music, and he says he finds inspiration in working with diverse artists from various musical worlds.
"I'm more of a fan of making it than listening to it," Albarn said of hip-hop. "I've got my favorites, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, and I suppose that first wave really. Mind you, I love Kendrick Lamar. That sort of excited me again. Of course, I love hip-hop but I'm not hip-hop. It's another aspect of the spectrum that I kind of can hear the spirit of music in."
Dave Jolicoeur of De La Soul said Albarn's open-mindedness has led to a great friendship.
"He's a cool dude who just likes to have fun and create music," Jolicoeur said of the Blur frontman. "For us, that's been our MO ever since Day 1, goofing around, having a good time. There's no real rules at all, but hopefully we get something out of this. That's been the person that I've known, a guy who just likes to create. There are no embarrassing moments where you say, 'You can't do that, you can't say that.' Just do what you're doing, and be free."