The History of Hip Hop And Funk.. Bay Area Style

james_brown_funky_president-2066520-1294602262When all is finally said and done , there will be quite a few things that folks will be able to say about hip hop music. First it was born out of the African-American community and in many ways has managed to serve the role of the modern-day griot. It has managed to be a reflection and statement of who we are and what we were about and like the West African griot who was charged with passing along the village history, customs and mores through songs and narratives [African Oral Tradition], hip hop has also managed to link generations and keep some of customs and mores alive..especially on the music tip.

Folks may recall how rappers brought artists like James Brown and Donald Byrd back into the forefront of Black music during the mid 80s when their music was freely sampled in every which way, shape and form by literally hordes of artists. Back then folks may recall the commonly expressed sentiment that many ascribed too..”

if it wasn’t for the rap artists James Brown would be unknown to the younger generation

“And to a large degree there was a lot of truth in that statement, after all, at that time Black radio wasn’t aggressively promoting a format in which they would highlight “classic” artists like Brown while maintaining their appeal to younger listeners… The result was many young white listeners being able tell you all about pop icons like the Beatles and Elvis while artists like Brown were relatively unknown to the young Black listener, at least until hip hop came along. It”s important to note all this because another facet about hip hop is that it allowed folks and still allows folks to build upon their musical past…

James Brown

James Brown

The Brown sampling phenomenon in the mid-late 80s was the result of younger people reflecting their musical past. Most of the artist putting out records at this time were from New York and James Brown was not only an artist that mom and dad grooved to, but it was an artist that their older brothers and sisters grooved to in the late 70s when block parties were common place and hip hop was still in its embryo stages… The break beats that could be found within the grooves of James Brown records were the sounds that really set off these early hip hop jams.

So what does all this have to do with p-funk and its relationship to hip hop? Well one of the great things about hip hop is that it has always been an easily accessible form of expression with each participant being able to bring into the fold their own experiences and musical background So while brothers back east during the late 80s were building off their musical experiences involving James Brown and hip hop culture dating back to the late 70s, brothers out west who were just starting to release hip hop records were bringing a whole other set of musical experiences to the table. Much of it centered around artists like George Clinton, Bootsy Collins George Duke and Roger & Zapp to name a few. Simply put, brothers out west brought p-funk to the hip hop round table.

Now upon reading this there are a lot of folks who are immediately gonna reach back into time and point to the p-funk style hip hop music of EPMD, especially since they dropped the ’88 classic tune “You Gots To Chill” which looped the now infamous “More Bounce To The Ounce” by Zapp and Kool and the Gang‘s Jungle Boogie.. Many rap fans consider this jam to be the first record to incorporate a p-funk sample.

In addition, these same rap fans may be quick to point out that cuts like “Knee Deep” and “More Bounce To The Ounce” were staple items in a b-boy’s record crates. Back in the days, many a dj cut up these tracks while an emcee flowed. And while it’s safe to say that Erik & Parrish earned their spot in the history books with “You Gots To Chill“, they weren’t the first to use music from the p-funk treasure chests… In addition, EPMD’s usage didn’t reflect the special relation and love the San Francisco / Oakland Bay Area had for funk.

Ricky Vincent better known as the Uhuru Maggot is a Bay Area music historian who earned his stripes during the 80s for his radio work on KALX, UC Berkeley’s college station… and can now be heard every Friday on KPFA 94.1 FM… Vincent has not only chronicled funk music through his History Of Funk radio shows, but he has written his doctorate thesis on the genre..and has now just penned a book for St Martin’s Press with an intro from George Clinton himself.

This work will undoubtedly be a definitive and comprehensive work on this facet of Black music… In a recent interview where Vincent was asked about the Bay Area’s love for funk and its relationship to hip hop, he broke things down and explained that there has always been a deep seeded love affair with -funk ..He noted that George Clinton has always claimed there was something ‘heavy’ about the Bay Area funkateers.. Vincent noted that so involved was that relationship that Clinton recorded part of his live album “P-Funk Earth Tour” right here at the Oakland Coliseum.

This [The Bay Area] was probably the only place that he could capture that strong P-funk vibe

Dr Dre

Dr Dre

If that wasn’t enough, Oakland was city where the mothership first landed. This took place in 1976. For those who don’t know the mothership was brought back into the forefront when Dr Dre landed it in his video ‘Let Me Ride‘. Vincent elaborated by noting that the landing of the mothership was a major turning point. It could be interpreted as the second coming of Christ. And furthermore, Vincent explained that there are many facets of the funk as prescribed by George Clinton that are based upon ancient African religion. It encouraged folks to move in a spiritual direction. In fact many of the songs Clinton performed were nothing more than modern-day spirituals that were ripe with metaphors that held religious connotations. For example the song ‘Flashlight‘ was really a gospel song which called upon the Lord to shine some light on the ‘funk’ [hard times] that Black people here in America were experiencing.

Al Eaton

Al Eaton

The Bay Area’s Al Eaton, a veteran producer established himself by being Too Short‘s early producer. In addition Al had a hand in the production end back in the days for such well-known Bay Area acts like Dangerous Dame, Rappin’ 4 Tay and E-40 & The Click who were than just starting out their careers. Eaton expounded upon Vincent”s assessment by noting that while p-funk had a strong hold in the Bay Area it wasn’t the only funk kicking’ up dirt. “It wasn’t just p-funk, but it was the whole musician scene that put the Bay Area on the map, ” Eaton noted. Groups like Tower Of Power, Cold Blood, Maze going all the way back to Sly Stone in the late 60s all had big names and helped shape the Bay Area music scene.

“There”s always been a funk thing going on in the Bay Area-It’s always been funk base central. There’s always been lots of musicians on the crest, who didn”t make it to the big time but yet had names around town.” , Eaton pointed out. Funk bands like Johnny Talbert and the Thangs, 2 Things In One and Marvin Holmes and The Uptights were some of the funk bands that immediately came to mind.

Eaton pointed to several factors that may influenced the Bay Area to embrace the funk. First off, many of the musicians who played for these bands back in the late 60s now have kids who are now into hip hop. He also made it known that when he was coming up there was at least 2-3 bands on every block. “Each one was trying to get to the next level and hence it made for a very competitive situation.”, he noted

Rappin' 4Tay

Rappin’ 4Tay

Eaton’s last reason for the Bay Area’s embrace of funk focused on a famous movie entitled The Mack. “It seems like all the Bay Area rappers at one point or another were influenced by The Mack. ” , Eaton said. The movie depicted lots of characters real life players and pimps who many Bay Area artist have directly or indirectly tried to emulate try to emulate. Eaton went on to add that phrases like ‘Player’s Club‘ and ‘Pimp Of The Year‘ which were borrowed by SF rapper Rappin’ 4 Tay and Oakland artist Dru Down reflected the raw gritty attitude street vibe often associated with funk. “Funk is here because it’s always been here”, Eaton concluded, “And there’s been a lot of musicians laying down the groundwork for years”.

Eaton made mention of Sly Stone and spoke about how important he was in developing the funk scene here in the Bay Area… Vincent took it a step further by noting that artists like George Clinton were influenced by Stone who once upon a time ruled the city of Vallejo back in the late 60s-home of funky Bay Area artists like E-40, Potna Deuce, Khayree, Young Lay, Mac Dre and Mac Mall to name a few..Vincent gave Sly props for being the first musician to come out and dress in freaked out ostentatious outfits. This of course was later picked up and mimicked by Clinton and his p-funk mob..”Sly managed to package all the energy of James Brown while embracing the hippie vibe which was pervasive because of the summer of love among other things taking place about that time”.

When speaking on the subject of funk and hip hop Bay Area style, no discussion would be complete without talking about the work of Shock G lead rapper and producer for Digital Underground. In late 1987 several months before EPMD hit with their track “You Got’s To Chill” Digital Underground made a lot of noise with a hard hittin’ song entitled ‘Underwater Rimes‘. Here Shock incorporated sampled riffs from the Parliament classic ‘Aquaboogie’ and cleverly weaved all sorts of p-funk like characters and elements into the song, including MC Blowfish. For the most folks it was hard to believe Clinton himself didn’t have a hand in the production. Eventually Clinton did come aboard and lend a helpin hand in Digital’s second lp ‘Sons Of The P’. It was on this lp that Shock felt DU was a head of its time because of their liberal use of the moog synthesizer.. Nowadays artists like Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube have been on hit with songs that utilize this device to provide that buzzin’ bassline…

ShockG-posterShock G pointed that funk was heavy all around the country except New York where he spent a lot of time growing up. He went on to explain that there were two things going on in New York City..”First of all, disco had taken off in a big way and hip hop was starting to become big among the younger people. The result of this activity was that New York missed out on the P-funk”.

Shock explained that he made a deliberate attempt to bridge the gap between hip hop and p-funk. He noted that while a lot of his buddies in New York were true to the game with respect to hip hop however, they constantly fronted on George Clinton. Shock’s exposure to funk came when he moved down to Florida to stay with his dad. Folks in his house and school were fanatical about p-funk. He began fusing hip hop with George’s music out of necessity. “We would try and play some NY based underground break beats like ‘Love Is The Message‘ or ‘Dance To The Drummer’s Beat‘ and it they would scare folks off the dance floor.” He eventually won them over when he started cutting up p-funk songs…

As Shock became engrossed with p-funk he found himself heading out west to the Bay Area because he had heard the vibe for p-funk was not only strong but supportive of the style of music he was trying to create. “One of the reasons I decided to move I to Oakland was because Oakland was putting p-funk on way back…and the vibe was strong..plus it was the only place in the country where they had a radio show dedicated to the funk”. Shock of course was referring to the Uhuru Maggot’sHistory Of Funk Show‘.. Eventually Digital’s first singles were dropped on the Uhuru Maggots Show. The first hip hop based show in which Shock dropped DU material was mine on the same station… KALX.

An interesting aspect that Shock brought to light was the fact that he felt that George Clinton was heavy on the Black side with both his concepts and lyrics… “George’s music was unselfish and promoted brotherhood… It reminded people of Black festivities and celebrations”. Shock also noted that George was very conscious and all about the upliftment of Black people. Originally Digital started off the same way.. In fact their original name was Spice Regime and they were attempting to experiment and become the Black Panthers of hip hop complete with barets and all that. Two things happened that forced DU to switch..One was the emergence of Public Enemy and their baret wearing S1Ws. The second was the overwhelming popularity of Humpty Dance and the character ‘Humpty Hump‘ which force the group to momentarily move away from the conceptual p-funk style vibe that eventually emerged on their second lp ‘Sons Of The P’.

Another longtime player in the Bay Area p-funk hip hop scene is actually Flava Flav‘s cousin, the SupergroovalisticalfunkuponablackC-Funk. OGs of the Bay Area hip hop scene will recall that C-Funk an East Palo Alto native started out with the name Captain Crunch, but a certain cereal company came forth with some court orders forcing him to change. However, C-Funk along with his partner Mozilla the Funk Dragon have definitely made some noise around town.

In 1989 under the group name Rated X, they released a funky track entitled ‘Law Of Groovity‘. Two years later under the name Funk Lab Allstars, C-Funk came with it a p-funk style lp entitled ‘Music From A Motion Picture Rap Funk Track‘ Included on that was a slamming track entitled ‘La Da Da‘. His big hits came in ’92 with the release of the lp ‘Two Stoags’ in which C-Funk did as so many other Bay Area hip hop producers have started to do..abandon sampling and start playing the music.

C-Funk spoke candidly about the funk, “Funk is not a fad..I’ve been with the funk before rap kicked in ..I’ve been with the funk when it died down, I’ve been with when its in hip hop and when people decide to go away, I’ll still be with the funk”. C-Funk pointed out that he feels there are a lot of players who ain’t true to the game when it comes to funk. He noted then when its time to go the next step, musically, a whole lots of folks are not gonna bring the funk with them. “I won”t abuse the funk like brothers did James Brown..When its time to go to the step, I’ll go but with the funk”, he asserted.

Like so many other Bay Area folks C-Funk noted that his history for the music goes back to when he was 8 years old and his Uncle Chief who was a die hard funkateer would take him to Parliament concerts. For C-funk its more than just a music but a lifestyle that’ll keep on evolving. C-Funk’s most recent lp was released on the independent label Scarface records which was owned by Paris. Entitled “3 Dimensional Ear Pleasure”, the underlying message to this lp was to ‘Tune In now because you won’t know funk until you C-funk’… He also collborated with Shock G on a few projects…

Paris the Black Panther of hip hop, CEO of Scarface Records and producers for the hit group Conscious Daughters , is himself no stranger to the funk. On his last album… ‘Gorilla Funk‘ is just that a reworking of the Funkadelic classic ‘Knee Deep‘ and a derivation of George Duke‘s ‘Dukey Stick‘. Paris assessed the Bay Area”s music scene this way, “Funk for the most part has always been a west coast thing..

In other parts of the country people have been more in tuned with other types of music..jazz and dance hall seem more prominent back east, but here in the Bay Area it’s all about the funk”. Paris went on to explain from a producer’s stand point that funk has found an increased resurgence in popularity due to the fact that many folks are into hearing jams that have fuller and more complete production.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-hYc_Lf_j0

Funk music allows one to dig deep and present a high gloss more complex type of sound. Back east the high gloss end of production is personified by the works of artist like US3 or Justice System while here its all the funk players. ‘Gorilla Funk’ certainly stood out on the high gloss end. Here Paris went out of his way to hire studio singers for the harmonies and session players for some of the instruments. Paris explained that for a while people moved out of the era of song writing and into the era of track making.. When trying to recreate funk via live instruments one learns to pay close attention to the song and consequently incorporate those elements of music that you really love.

Khayree

Khayree

Khayree, producer of two of the Bay Area”s hottest artists Young Lay, Mac Mall and Ray Luv has been in the game dating back to the time when there was a female group called New Choice who dropped a record back in the mid 80s called ‘Cold Stupid‘. Khayree of course produced them.. He summed up the funk situation this way, “My involvement with music goes beyond George Clinton, I grew up on the musicians that taught George, like Sly Stone, Donny Hathaway and Jimi Hendrix“.

Khayree went on to say that he tries not follow trends and hence if his music sounds like something that could classified as funk, it’s not because he attempted to be a part of the band wagon, but because he did things from the heart. Khayree like everyone mentioned in this article is an accomplished musician who has long learned the value from not sampling. When you play you can come from the heart” he noted. In addition he doesn”t have to pay for use of samples. The funk elements found in songs like Ray Luv’s ‘Get My Money On’ and ‘Mac Mall’s ‘Sick With This’ Perhaps the most important feature about funk was that much of the music when initially introduced appealed to folks in the hood. This was crucial because funk landed at a time when so much of Black music was either being diluted or in some cases avoided altogether by Black music radio stations.

Afrika Bambaataa

Afrika Bambaataa

Afrika Bambaataa once noted that hip hop was the result of Black music radio not keeping funk alive in New York City… Author Nelson George confirmed that statement in his book the ‘Death Of Rhythm & Blues‘ in which he spoke about Black radio stations diluting the music from the hood with some other stuff that was ultimately designed to appeal to a downtown, hipper, more affluent, [whiter audience] and not the young black and Puerto Rican audience that listened to a radio more than any other ethnic group.

By the mid 70s Black music radio in New York wasn’t kicking a lot of music across the airwaves that was hitting on point in other parts of the country.. In the late 70s I recall a whole lot of disco songs being played… Brothers from around the way were doing block parties and playing old James Brown, Sly Stone and break beats…while outside New York in places as close as New Haven Connecticut, brothers were jamming to groups like Fat Larry’s Band, The Barkays and Mass Production

For example, I recall hearing jams like ‘Fire Cracker‘ by Mass Production outside the Big Apple, but never really hearing too much if at all within the city’s five boroughs… Mean while in places like the Bay Area where hip hop had not really surfaced the grooves put out by these types of groups were the ‘ phat buttahs ‘ of the day.

Khayree, Al Eaton, Paris, Shock G and C-Funk are just a few of a long line of artist/producers who have helped keep the funk a strong force in the Bay Area and begin to influence the rest of the hip hop nation. There are still lots of others in these here parts that are making lots of noise with their new brand of funk including E-40 and The Click“s producer Studio Tone, Oakland rap duo/producers, Easki and CMT, En Vogue producers Foster & McElroy, George Clinton collaborator and long time funkateer Dave Kaos and SF rap start JT The Bigga Figga. All have come to the hip hop roundtable with funk in their back pocket.

Funk is a Bay Area tradition, loved and embraced amongst a population which is only one or two generations removed from their southern roots. The Bay Area is also a music market place that has long encouraged folks to let themselves go and explore… It has encouraged folks to buck the trends and follow their own musical path. It is no coincidence that the first funk hip hop records have come from the Bay Area.

Props out to DJ Slice and Kool Rock J for sampling” Knee Deep in their 1986/87 classic “Slice It Up“.

Props to Hammer for incorporating the p-funk in his original version of his 1987 hit “They Put Me In The Mix“.

Props to Digital Underground for bringing the funk fully back on the scene with “Underwater Rimes“.

Also props to Dave Kaos cause back in the days.. he did a little cutting and scratchin on some of George Clinton”s records. Props to the die-hard funkateers of the Bay Area like Rickey ‘The Uhuru Maggot Vincent for documenting the funk and keeping the spirit alive . Keep in mind , while there are lots of acts that use funk in their music, in the Bay Area folks live and breath p-funk… from now until the end of time.

written by Davey D c 1996Go Back To Davey D Corner Home Page

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Our Interview w/ George Clinton Battling the Music Industry Sharks

We sat down with the Godfather of Funk George Clinton and talked about the state of music in 2012.. His relationship with Hip Hop.. We also went into great detail about his financial situation with respect who owns what when it comes to his catalogue.. Clinton talks about the shadiness of the industry and what he’s doing to fight back..Thus far there have been law suits and George working on a new project designed to make sure artist get their copyrights and the industry is flipped upside down.. Enjoy

George Clinton Interview

Is George Clinton a Pretender?… Shock G’s Open Letter Defending P-Funk

Shock G of Digital Underground found it necessary to pick up the pen and pad and respond to a recent damning article written by popular Soul Music Archivist Bob Davis of Soul-Patrol.com called ‘George Clinton and the Demise of Funk” In thjis article Davis takes Clinton to task for squandering his fame, fortune and influence. He also calls him a ‘pretender and a ‘bit player’ who hijacked the music direction being blazed by stellar artists Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis.

Bob Davis of Soul-Patrol.com says George Clinton is a Pretender who squandered away huge opportunities for us to advance

See for a lotta people FUNK starts and ends with George & in my mind nothing could be further from the truth and I suppose that I dislike the fact that he continues to receive so much adjuration for creating something that even he says he is not responsible for.One of the reasons that I discuss Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis here on the board is because the music that they were creating was where FUNK was headed circa 1971-1973. The influence that their music of the late 60s & early 70s has had over the past 20 years is nothing sort of phenomenal. It was kind of like music for a new generation and it was totally different from what had come before. This music was heavly influenced by the music of Sly Stone and James Brown and was primed to lead the way into the future.

George Clinton was little more that a “bit player” in all of this.
Funkadelic was just a “black rock” band that was the opening act at shows. They would be performing with the lights still on and people still coming in & trying to find their seats. Its no accident that Jimi & Miles were planning to hook up. These two revolutionary “brothas from another planet” both knew that the time for a change had arrived and that they were going to lead that change.

Unfortunately by the time 1976 had rolled around…Jimi was dead..Miles was “sick”….Sly was in his own world..& James was being hounded by the government!

None of these innovators was recording music at that point. There was a vacuum and that’s what George Clinton stepped into. When he transformed Funkadelic into Parliment. George knew exactly what he was doing. all he really did was to take the music of Miles, Jimi, Sly & JB and “commercialize” it.
He took simple rhymes that had been a part of “Black Vernacular” (See ebonics in the PC dictionary….lol) and put them to music rooted in the tradition of Sly, Miles, JB & Jimi.
In addition, George made up a bunch of cartoon characters (coon show???) and said they were funkateers. (some might even say that George “sold out !!)
This was a very different take on what Miles, Jimi, Sly & JB were trying to promote. George was only interested in making money. And make money he did …..GOBS of it !!!

Davis continues with this missive…

How much blame should George Clinton shoulder for Urban America indulging in cocaine?

George had the very “army” at his disposal that everyone else from JB to Miles to Sly to Jessie Jackson to Julian Bond to Jimi Hendrix all wanted to be the General of..(the generation of “funkateers”).
He was even in a position to influence the 1980 election & he said nothing (I think he was too busy “cashing” in to even to notice that there was an election going on too busy promoting his pro drug agenda, at a time when there were not only “bigger fish to fry” but during a time when here was a GOVERMENT SPONORED PROGRAM TO COMMIT GENOCIDE AGAINST BLACK AMERICANS BY FLOODING URBAN AMERICA WITH RELATIVLY CHEAP COCAINE AND DERIVITIVES.But enough of the past. today the act known as “George Clinton & TheP-Funk All Stars” bears little resemblance to the mighty force that dominated Black music in the late 1970’s.
I have seen them live within the past year and they were awful. I get reports from all over the place from fans who have been disappointed by the performances of the group at recent shows. Their performance on TV at the Sinbad Summer Jam was an abomination. I was personally embarrassed!
But ol George just keeps on pumping out bogus albums and bogus concerts. In my opinion he is perpetrating a fraud against younger music fans who keep expecting the “real deal” from him and don’t even know they are being ripped off.

In short..George Clinton broke my heart ….:(

Davis concludes..

We have sat by and watched an entire generation of people who squandered the gains of the Civil Rights Revolution because of their need to be “sedated” by Cocaine during the 1980’s. The “Maggot Overlord” played a role in this during that timeframe because of his public endorsement/support for using the drug.
Surely Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, etc did not die in vain so that the Maggot Overlord could allegedly peddle drugs to children from the stage?

Now here he is, as we approach the end of this century allegedly publicly promoting and even worse drug in crack. Many of us are sitting here in our 40’s and above, with children of our own, we can’t afford to sacrifice yet another generation of young people to the scourge of someone who is supposed to be providing leadership for the future, who instead chooses to be an active participant in the GENOCIDE of our people.

Personally I don’t care if the “Maggot Overlord” (or anyone else) wants to blow his brains with a crack pipe. Just let him do it in the privacy of his own home and away from my children.

-Bob Davis-

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OPEN LETTER REGARDING “THE DEMISE OF FUNK”
BY: SHOCK G

Not a pretender, not at all.

What we have in George Clinton is an enabler.

George’s gentle guidance liberated the musicians around him and drew the best out of them. George is the glue that held Parliament Funkadelic together, the mediator/referee who provided the “space” for Bootsy, Bernie, Gary, Michael, Junie, Eddie, Fuzzy, Glen, Fred and Maceo to create from and be their freest.

The best leaders leave the people thinking they did it themselves, and inspire them to their highest potential; precisely George’s role in P-Funk.

Now, as for the later cocaine-abuse period, I believe that functions more as a coping mechanism, aiding the bigger sacrifice; his continuance to tour and create budgets and sessions, and his tireless juggling act of keeping a family of 60-to-a-hundred people working every year.

I’ve been on tour with them this past decade, as a guest vocalist, and their rooming list was 60 names deep, every member with their own room. The tour I was on, back in ’02, had 4 tour buses, and 2 separate production trucks. Those great musicians you speak of, who gave their life blood to the funk through the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, are now adults with families, bills, grandkids, –many many mouths to feed. Meanwhile, their lives aren’t geared to earn a living any other way besides workin’ in P-Funk, which they each gave 20 to 40 years of their lives to help build.

We must realize the great sacrifice being made by George to tour and continue to work well into his senior years when most people his age retire and opt to spend time at home with their immediate families.

If George doesn’t tour, the frontier for P-Funk members becomes sketchy, and the threat of homelessness becomes very real. You think they don’t know the shows aren’t as tight and crisp as they were in their youth? You think they’re not aware that these most recent albums aren’t as creatively cutting edge or as relevant as their heyday material?

Of course they must. But what choice do they have, a cashier job at Walmart? Or playing at the local church? And it’s not only age, changing times, or substance abuse that causes these records to rate by comparison; it’s also the lack of lucrative working budgets, strong label support, well-connected and ambitious management, fresh energetic musicians, new equipment, etc–all the things that existed for them in their era but now belong to Jay-Z, Diddy, Black-Eyed-Peas, Snoop, G-Unit, Dr. Dre, & whoever.

Still, when P-Funk tours, it employs over a hundred people, from the musicians, managers, guitar techs, publicity people, roadies and merchandisers on the road, to the local office and field promotion teams involved, many of whom are veteran P-Funk members & lifetime contributors. If George quits, where do they go?

He probably would’ve loved to have had time away from it, I’m sure he’s contemplated it a few times.

Sly Stone

Consider Sly Stone‘s decision to not tour or perform for all those decades, but rather hide away and do his drugs in seclusion, to the disappointment of his fans and band members.

Consider the many ex-members of Barry White‘s Love Unlimited Orchestra, walking around LA for the past 20 years out of work, or barely surviving on session work (I personally know a couple of ’em),  some doing jobs that are not even music related, with no connection to the great legacy they helped build.

No disrespect or blame to Barry or Sly (I love them both, their talent and contributions to the world are enormous!) but the decision to stay home and live a simpler life may have been all they could handle mentally, physically, spiritually; who knows? Every man’s tolerance level is different, so perhaps they opted to retire, and take care of their immediate family, rather than continue to carry the weight of an entire organization like George is still doing today, even as I write this, selflessly sacrificing the victorious-grandpa home life for the greater needs of an entire organization. (He’s a Great-Grandfather too, by the way).

As for that 1970’s “movement” –the struggle against racism, the FBI, and Cointelpro– don’t knock George’s huge contributions just because his were different then Malcom’s or Huey’s, or Gil Scott’s, or The Last Poets’.

George’s approach was decidedly less militant, more Zen Taoist in nature, more introspective and personally active. Almost Buddha-like. George functioned as a living example of unity, employing vast networks of artists.

Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron on the other hand, who I caught live at Kimbles East in Oakland in the 90’s, and who was equally cracked-out (must’ve weighed 110 pounds), had 4 people on the road; his 3-piece act and a manager.

Lyrically, George’s contributions to the human condition are immeasurable, urging us to “free our minds so our asses can follow” and discover the “Kingdom of Heaven within” all of us.

“By Any Means Necessary” is but one approach, an approach which often led to more violence, pain and grief for all involved. One could also ponder, would cheap drugs had even been pumped into the hood if the Panthers & similar organizations hadn’t scared the shit out of the FBI and unknowingly provoked it?

In spite of all this, George was well aware of another rarely-acknowledged truth: Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis Jr, Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier, Berry Gordy, Arther Ashe, Muhammed Ali, and Dr. J all lived in the same America that Malcom -X, Huey Newton, and Gil Scott-Heron did, though they had very different perspectives about social limits and opportunity.

Where Tupac felt “trapped in a white man’s world”, Diddy felt boundless in that very same world. As Tupac believed it would, this “hopeless” world did him in; and as Sean Combs believed, the world was his, and the sky was the limit.

There’s no better example of “Free your mind and your ass will follow” than that.

Malcolm X

As a teenager and college student in the early 80’s, my homies and I used to love gettin’ all pumped-up on Malcom-X and Stokely Carmichael speeches, and we’d pledge to one day do something major for the struggle, like rob a rich corporation, or bomb a courthouse.

But the cosmic revolution not only challenged those feelings, it exposed them as dark tension-filled energy. Funkadelic’s mood and message always soothed the soul, loosened tension, and fed the intellect: “The desired effect is what you get when you improve your interplanetary funksmenship.” (even as kids we caught the bigger meaning: Acknowledge things beyond your immediate surroundings to live a richer, happier life).

It was broader than the usual revolutionary rhetoric, less demanding, more fun, and appealed to the basic humanitarian that dwells inside all of us.

“Everybody’s got a little light under the sun!” Wow, it was also less exclusionary, and invited all the races, (“One nation under a groove!”)  Even the animals seemed welcome, and sometimes George even inspired us to ponder the meaning of life in general– “Why must I feel like that, why must I chase the cat?” –which is a great accomplishment: to get kids to contemplate life beyond their immediate surroundings.

But most of all, it always seemed fueled by love rather than anger, or rage, or self-defense, or revenge, so it simply felt better in the heart. George offered cool, colorful and humorous solutions: “He just can’t find the beat, (the rhythm of life) so flash light! Help him find the funk!”

While Gil Scott, Marvin Gaye, and Curtis Mayfield opted to spotlight the ills (“What’s goin’ on? Fred is dead!”), other artists adored those very same years, like Stevie: “I wish those days, would, come back again…”

While the FBI/Panther reality dwelled in a racist, segregated, crime-ridden world plagued by war, some of us were busy celebrating our “Chocolate City” and danced our way out of our constrictions as one joyous nation under a groove thanks to George’s beautifully open and optimistic mind.

Digital Underground

That alternate world delivered Dr. Dre to his producing dream, Denzel Washington to the top of the box office, Prince to his magic Purple Kingdom, and allowed me to spark a place called Digital Underground and declare Peace and Humptiness to all!

In hindsight, I’m thankful that in addition to the straight-laced messages of say, Earth Wind & Fire, or the soulful messages of James Brown, we also had intellectual daredevils like Hendrix, Miles, and George to walk the outer edge for us, to experiment in the studio with acid and mushrooms, to risk their own health and sanity and bring us back all those amazing sounds, colors and philosophies.

These people went to war for us, physically and mentally, and are recognized and appreciated by many as real-life royalty-

Royalty earned, and not just because of whoever their parents happened to be. And like all geniuses, George has his flaws; his vulnerabilities. But what’s so different about his crack habit than Billie Holiday or Jerry Garcia’s heroin habits? Or Jimi Hendrix’s any-drug-he-could-find-that-day habit? Or Bob Marley’s weed habit?
The only difference I see is that George somehow survived his habit into his 70s, while the rest of their hearts gave out much sooner. (R.I.P.)

Bravo! Last man standing; the mighty, mighty Dr. Funkenstein! Not just standing, but standing on stage, giving, performing, traveling, and leading the greatest and largest funk band in the known Universe, PARLIAMENT-FUNKADELIC!!

Of course lately they can be a little rusty or uninspired up there airy-now-n-den, but that’s okay, us true fans, we allow it, because we can all imagine and appreciate that life inside of P-Funk probably ain’t no cake-walk either.

Chaos. Mayhem at times. The inside competitions and feuds are probably unbearable to the average musician, only the strong survive in P-Funk. Even Bootsy had to step out a few times, and catch his breath for a year or two. The truth is, most bands couldn’t endure what they’ve lived through (more live shows than the Rolling Stones or Grateful Dead.) Most of us can’t imagine the level of patience it requires to exist in a band of that size and essence. Think 6 basketball teams, including the bench, all traveling together, with their grandkids in the band, still doing a show per night to sold out audiences to this very day.

That’s P-Funk.

Parliament

P-Funk isn’t just a band, it’s a phenomenon.

And George is for sure an extraterrestrial, the magnetic centerpiece to that phenomenon, who’s earned the right to do whatever he pleases in most of our eyes. Especially as long as he chooses to remain in the driver’s seat and take on such a mammoth responsibility, one in which he navigated for 50 years strong so far without complaint.

How many men in this world would stay in there and do that? Plus, have you ever actually been around P-Funk? These dudes are not your average Bar Kays or Kool & the Gang, nowhere’s near that normal or orderly.

We’re talkin’ some of the weirdest & most intense cats in the business, misfits. Most producers wouldn’t even work with some of these cats, but George welcomes ’em all, communicates with all their quirks and personal languages, and pulls a coherent performance out of them each night.

Managing P-Funk probably has the stress-level of managing 3 or 4 Wu-Tang Clans at once. Between touring and the studio, George hasn’t taken a break since the 1960s, so I think we owe the man a little cred here:

Some 90 or so albums-with the common lyrical thread of self empowerment, upliftment, humor, optimism, and mental liberation-running through all 90 of ’em.

Never an arrogant, cruel, or self-centered lyric through all his work, never talked down to his audience, always approachable and charming in person, and never used his platform to chase pussy. Also, he never imposes any rank when speaking with his bandmates, treats everyone with the same respect, young or old, new or 50-year veteran.

George Clinton is a true class act, an artist of immovable integrity. I’ve never been around a person with a more peaceful vibe, who’s mere presence relives tension in whatever company he’s in. He’s also one of the most influential poets of the 20th century, his magical wordplay and phrases still circulate today within the hip-hop, electro and rock communities.

And finally, he will go down in history as one of the great composers and arrangers of our time. He was not the last person to put his touches on their greatest songs, George was often the first person to touch it, the creative spark who set the ball in motion. “Atomic Dog” was one of those: in his first take he laid all his vocals as they are now in the song in one continuous take, improvising all the memorable hooks and key melodies that became the song’s theme.

“Flash Light” is another in which George was the first voice to touch it, even before Bernie’s keyboards. When George sung over it, it was just drums and guitar strumming; no bassline, no space-organ, no moog synth squeaks and chirps yet, and no group vocals. The essence of those two songs is all George, notice the keyboards following his lead next time you hear it.

Another one, not only the lyrics, but the chord changes to “(Not Just) Knee Deep” was George-inspired;  he already had the words & melody years before it was recorded, it was something he used to sing to himself. He sung it a cappella to Junie one day, who figured it out further on the keyboard, finding the chords & adding the bassline.

Quiet as it’s kept, most of the classic P-Funk hits, it’s George’s essence that rings through the most, that thing that makes it recognizably P.

Soooo not a pretender. On the contrary, he was the ears, the visionary, and the primary lyricist responsible for 90% of the P-Funk song titles and words.

Okay, and while we’re at it, one more juicy little-known gem about the man: He’s responsible for the rhythm arrangement of “More Bounce to the Ounce” by Zapp(!!) Yes, George Clinton, in a little bit of a fluke, a little studio savvy, and a bit of luck, actually gave Roger that sound, that formula that Roger went on to use on his next 3 follow-up singles; “I Can Make You Dance”, “So Ruff, So Tuff”, and “Dance Floor”, That chunky stutter bass against the thick handclap? Zapp & Roger’s signature sound and main money maker? It was a George Clinton creation. (Doh!)

Very true. That sound is the result of George cutting a 2-foot long piece out of the 2-inch multi tape, flipping it around backwards, looping it to itself, and then slowing it down to the current speed of “More Bounce”. Apparently, Roger’s original groove was faster and a lot busier. They said it was in a vein like his “Heard it through the Grapevine” song: fast and choppy with a busy chord progression, and the bass was all over the place, an elaborate melody.

George, who was producing Roger’s first album for his new Uncle Jam label that year (which is another fascinating story: how the crazy older brother Larry Troutman sneak signed the group to Warner Bros. behind George’s back while he and Bootsy left the studio to get food. Yes, the same crazy brother who shot Roger dead 10 years later.)

Anywayz, earlier that day, while Zapp was still set to be the first new act on George’s label, George got concerned that Roger didn’t have anything they could use as a single yet, and that he needed something simpler then what he had heard so far, and that’s when he performed the tape trick.

The new slower piece in reverse created the rhythm and melody that became the infamous “More Bounce” kick-drum and synth-bass “B-B-Bomp CLAP-Bomp-Bomp” arrangement. With a smile George said “That’s all ya need right there. Just build the song around that”, and the rest became that beast of a record. If you listen closely, you can still hear the backwards bass & drums underneath; that was the first thing they started with, and then began overdubbing more tracks on a second 2-inch machine.

They told me that Roger also had about 10-times the lyric content he wound up using and that George convinced him to eliminate most of it and just keep repeating “mooore boooounce” they way he did. I was told this first hand by Boogie the bass player and Gary Shider, who were both also there that day.

And speaking of George’s Zen-like integrity; get this:
-after he had a verbal agreement from Roger and had been grooming him for months to be the first release on the new Uncle Jam label, and also after producing a good portion of his album so far, (including literally creating “More Bounce” for him), after all that, when George returned and learned that a Warner rep had showed up, went in the back room with Larry and Roger, talked him out of signing with George’s label in 5 minutes they said, and signed him directly to Warner–

They said George looked at them with disappointed eyes that said “Really?” looked down at the ground for a second, shook his head no, shrugged and said “Well, so much for that”, and turned around and walked out the studio.

The remaining P-Funk cats walked out after George, and I think they said Bootsy was the only one who stayed behind to help finish producing it, which is why Bootsy’s name appeared in the credit.

But yeah, George gave that classic song it’s essence as well as named the group “Zapp.” He never sued or spoke about it again, he just let it go, but I heard he was sad and heartbroken by it, as he had a friendship building with Roger prior to that incident.

Okay, ’nuff said.
George is THE dude basically.
He’s the genuine article, and has well-earned all recognition he’s ever received and beyond..
He is a rare and true artist of artists.

Peace, love, & humptiness 4eva,
and thanx for allowing me to introduce you to Dr. Funkenstien.
-Shock-G
(of 2Pac, digital underground, Luniz, Saafir, Murs)

“Think, it ain’t illegal yet.”
— G.C.

original article http://rimemagazine.com/article/1331/shock_g_drops_knowle

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