I was introduced to the music of L.A based band The Internet by my good friend and musical associate Andre Grindle, when he wrote about their Nu-Funk banger “Dontcha”, produced by Chad Hugo of The Neptunes. That song is a funky tune that struck me for it’s fresh takes on “I Need a Freak” by Sexual Harrasment and “Boogie Nights” by Heatwave, melded with a dry, Neo-Soul influenced studio sound, prominent phat drums, and singer Syd the Kid’s sensually soulful vocals. There was something about this combination of regular looking Black kids playing instrumental, Hip Hop inflected modern R&B Funk that activated my hope genes. And I’m not the only one, as their music became a favorite of most of my music loving friends, without any prior discussion among us about the bands dopeness. One of my favorite music podcasts, “The Music Snobs”, actually recorded an episode with the conversation starter of a theme, “Is the group The Internet the future of R&B?” As the band represents for me a package of good instrumental Funky R&B, with a dynamically modern, relate able and up to date image, with a slyly charismatic front in Syd the Kid, who breaks new ground with her boyish stud vibe. It’s not enough for a would be paradigm shifting Black band to simply play instruments, they must also make those instruments relate able to a young public nourished on drum machines and samplers, beyond the traditional instrumental mainstays of the church and school band room. Today’s Funk feature, “Famous”, is an uptempo stepper released as a digital bonus to their 2015 album, “Ego Death.”
“Famous” wastes no time jumping on the One, starting off with a lead in snare fill from the drummer, setting off the groove at a brisk tempo. The groove has an uptempo Afro-Latin syncopated funk feel, executed as crisply as a funky song from Earth, Wind & Fire, Barry White, M.J, or Sade. The bass line’s broken up syncopated beats combine to create a funky, quick, short and simple pattern. This bass pattern leaves space for the funky, low rhythm guitar part, which goes from single line to emphasizing the holes in the groove with chopping guitar chords. The drum part is recorded in the bands trademark crisp drum style! with. Sizzling hi hats and an anticipatory kick drum. Every fourth bar the instruments stop the groove a fraction of a beat early, creating a bouncy, stop/start groove.
At the chorus, the chords are extended out, the bass has more room to play notes, and the guitar strumming becomes more prominent, as the vocals are enhanced by a multi tracked choir of Syd the Kid’s. Syd flips the script with her lyrics on this one, making the traditional, “I can make you famous”, casting couch romantic jive from a female stud’s perspective. Syd sings “You have something special/I can tell just by the way you dance.” “if you knew girl/the things that I could do for your career.” The whole band punches out a James Brown horn like band “stab” to move from the chorus to the next verse, which is enriched by Fender Rhodes sustained chording. The music grows in nuance, as the guitar adds wahw ah slides up the neck to accentuate the holes in the groove. The song also goes into a slow/rubato/free time breakdown before kicking the groove back into high gear, with the rhythm guitar and drummer in particular showing up to show out.
What I appreciate so much about this joint is the usage of traditional groove band techniques in a modern context. Even a tremendously funky groove like “Uptown Funk” sounds like a “track”. In this song, The Internet steps toward mastering the Funk band ability to create a wall of sound with limited musicians, in this case, 5. The way the drummer kicks it off at the top, then goes to the ride cymbal to give the chorus a different texture, the contrast in bass feels on the verse and chorus, the ratcheting up of guitar activity as the band progresses, the horn stabs that spee rate the chorus from the following verses, the slowing down of the song and picking it back up to end with energy; all musical techniques of a tight, well rehearsed, BAND. They ain’t trying to emulate drum machines or sequenced loops on this one, they’re giving you a sound only a well rehearsed band can give you. And Syd puts a new sincerity to the line, “I can make you famous.” It all adds upto The internet taking this live band thing very seriously!