Tag Archives: Funkadelic

The ’87 Sound: “Bring the Noise” by Public Enemy

One of the most interesting facets of Public Enemy’s 1988, “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back” for me personally, is the way it took shape. As we mentioned in discussing P.E’s “Rebel Without a Pause”, the musical innovations of Eric B & Rakim and Boogie Down Productions, featuring lead rapper KRS ONE, made the crew dissatisfied with the sound they achieved on their debut, “Yo! Bum Rush the Show”. Public Enemy got moving quickly, creating the “Rebel” single and giving their career new life. “Bring The Noise” would be their next single in ’87, which would make two key cuts released as singles before “Millions” was finished and released in 1988. A third single, “Don’t Believe The Hype” would also be released in 1988, several months before “Millions” was released. These singles laid out P.E’s brand new bag and set the stage for what many call the greatest Hip Hop album of all time. In the case of “Bring the Noise”, the song was composed for the Def Jam soundtrack to the movie “Less Than Zero”, which was a popular book and film in its time that told the story of rich kid cocaine dealers. “Bring the Noise” was a mission statement for P.E and has gone on to become an anthem in the repertoire of the band.

The song begins with a Malcolm X sample saying, “Too Black too Strong.” Which is followed by a very noisy horn sample of Marva Whitney’s James Brown produced “It’s My Thing” (an answer record to The Isley Brothers “It’s Your Thing.”) “It’s My Thing” provides several musical elements of the track. Right alongside that is a thunderous drum kick playing insistent 16th notes, as Flavor Flav delivers the type of hype man energy that secured his place in Hip Hop history, “Yo Chuck, these Honeydrippers is still frontin’ on us/show em that we can do this/cause we always knew this.” After which he lets out an epic “Yeah, Boyeeee!” as the snare drum hits on all fours and a bass fill leads up to the verse. Chuck D booms out the lines which have become so well known in the years since, “BASS! How low can you go?/Death Row?/What a Brother know?/once again/back is the incredible/rhyme animal/the Incredible!/D!/Public Enemy Number One/Five-O said “Freeze!?And I got numb.” Underneath that The Bomb Squad concoct an amazing track of sampled riffing JB’s horns from “It’s My Thing.” Greg Tate remarked at the time the horns sounded like “Decaying kazoos.” Underneath that Terminator cuts up Funkadelic’s “Get off Your Ass & Jam”, focusing on the trippy, alarm sounding guitar solo that ended up being very close to DJ scratching. So right there, the track combines the two pillars of funk, J.B, and P-Funk. A loud guitar sample from “Get off Your Ass” loops, with its guitar solo peak energy sounding more like an alarm than music. Chuck D goes on to describe a scenario where he is literally persecuted for his music, put in jail because of the Pro-Black stance the group espouses. Which would almost literally happen to rappers such as 2Pac, Ice T, Ice Cube, N.W.A and many others in the next few years after this song.

The chorus gets even noisier musically, with D proclaiming, “Turn it Up!/Bring the Noise!!!” Vocal samples, scratches, and horn blasts mix as Flavor says, “Yo Chuck! They sayin we too Black man!” The next verse was always super unique to me for the early triplet based cadence Chuck used. The rhyme is supported by a sample of Clyde Stubblefield playing on James Brown’s “Funky Drummer”, but The Bomb Squad don’t leave it naked, they lay a heavy stomping drum kick over the top of it, for Chuck to lay down his flow, “Never badder than bad/but the brother is madder than mad/at the fact/thats corrupt like a Senator/Soul on a roll/but you treat it/like soap on a rope/cause the beat and the lines are so dope.” After which the arrangement returns to the original verse. Chuck D also calls out Black radio at the end of the verse, “They call themselves Black but we’ll see if they play this.” Chuck spends the last verse praising his D.J and talking about music more generally, defending the artistic merits of Hip Hop compared to artists like Yoko Ono and Anthrax (which would lay the groundwork for P.E to redo this song with Anthrax in 1991). The song goes out with a sickly sounding “Transformer” D.J scratch routine.

“Bring the Noise” was a musical marvel that was the second step in paving the way for the classic P.E sound. It utilized a unique combination of samples and placed all that “noise” within a context of song structure, with an intro, verses, a bridge where the beat changes, and D.J solo space as you would give a musician. All of this was the perfect music to match with Chuck D’s stentorian baritone, and he laid down a great rap that broke new ground for Rap, in so much as it was bragaddocio, but it was strong, defiant and bold about political situations and the world at large, as Chuck took on both his critics and the critics and naysayers of Hip Hop and Rap music as a whole. He achieved 3 different unique flows by taking three verses he had from different songs and combining them here. With the creativity of Chuck, Flav, The Bomb Squad (Hank Shocklee, Keith Shocklee, Eric “Vietnam” Sadler) and Terminator X all in play, “Bring the Noise” was another important 1987 step to P.E’s 1988 triumph.

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Music 4 the Nxt 1, 04/01/17: “Junie’s Boogie” by Nicholas Payton

New Orleans multi instrumentalist Nicholas Payton has been one of my favorite artists working in modern music for at least the past 5 years now. He’s escaped the limiting prison of “jazz” music despite being one of the greatest trumpeters on the scene, through his sense of groove and his broad artistic vision. He also has articulated the social and personal ideas behind his music through his blogging. He has turned his musical movement, which he has titled “Black American Music” or “#BAM”, into a record label and an ongoing institution. His latest album, “The Afro Caribbean Mixtape”, is self released on his own label and features a numnber of highly rhythmically and melodically engaging tunes, but today’s selection, “Junie’s Boogie” is one that stood out to me for Paytons’ patented brand of late ’70s/early ’80s funk, which was very much in the vein of a great musician we lost this past month, the Dayton Funk multi instrumentalist Junie Morrison.

“Junie’s Boogie” starts off with Payton playing a funky pentatonic bass line that moves upward. The line sounds as if its played on a piano sound and a clavinet sound together, so that it has that extra weight. The line plays two times unaccompanied to set the groove up. The second part of the bass riff has a little Nicholas Paytonism that I’ve heard on some of his other lines such as the one from “By Your Side (Illeth’s Blues).” After the bass figure is introduced, the groove starts to heat up with a percussion roll accompanied by string glissando’s and a 2 and 4 bass kick. The bass line also plays on synthesizer, while Payton also plays high synth lead melodies. When the groove comes in it has a funky churning motion, as the bass line steps upward and the melody descends. The drums just maintain a steady groove with an open hi hat. The groove swtiches up to a sweetly melodic section after 8 bars, based on a bouncy octave type of groove with multiple instruments maintaining the same rhythm. Payton also unleashes some sweetly wailing synth lead lines, switiching the analog synth sound to another lead sound as the arrangement goes into a passage that ratchets up the intensity through its use of insistent strings in the middle of the “Funky Worm” style synth patch. The strings and synth tastefully take their rest as the main groove returns, but continue to add punctuation as the groove begins to take on more and more of a jam feel within its well arranged structure. The groove calms down for Payton to begin his trumpet solo, which is backed by strings playing at a lower dynamic that occasionally swell, a funky electric bass, and Payton playing choice phrases. The regular groove comes back during Payton’s solo and is eventually joined by choral voices while Payton plays the same line the voices are singing on his trumpet. After the vocal/instruemntal interlude Payton adds some starp phrases followed by a change in the arrangmeent that takes on a darker minor tone over a rich chord progression. Payton trumpet interacts with his analog synth lines before he plays a long sustained note that signals the end of the tune, while he plays a phrase on piano very reminiscent of Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man.”

“Junie’s Boogie” is a wonderful tribute to the late Junie Morrison and a great example of how the rich late funk band vibe is still fertile for current musical growth. Payton’s musicality is of such that he creates a groove that fits in with the groove of the time period he was invoking without direct copying , but using subtleties such as the synthesizer melody reminiscent of the patch on The Ohio Player’s “Funky Worm.” “Junie’s Boogie” introduces a very funky groove and surrounds it with dynamics while also leaving room for improvisation. It has that epic late ’70s funk feel of a Junie Morrison classic like Funkadelics “(Not Just) Knee Deep.” Which is both a fitting tribute to that legacy and music to groove to in the here and now!!

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Music 4 The Next 1, 12/10/16 : “Have Some Love” by Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino just dropped one of the hugest surprises on the music world from a funk perspective that anybody could hope to drop in this lifetime or the next. Already buzzing in critical acclaim from his fantastic slice of life Black TV sitcom, “Atlanta”, Gambino’s new album, “Awaken, My Love”, goes (not just) Knee Deep into the funky waters of early to mid ’70s Funkadelic and P Funk in general. This is coming from a commentator who had pretty much resigned himself to the variations on ’80s funk currently being released and explored by Dam Funk, Tuxedo, Anderson Paak, Bruno Mars, and even occasionally reaching the commercial pop, Hip Hop and R&B worlds. Of course, the Dap Kings, Budos Band and several other groups explore a Funky late ’60s, early ’70s James Brown/Meters sound. But few even attempt to do a whole album in the zone of early ’70s Black light poster smoked out psychedelic funk inhabited by Sly & the Family Stone, Curtis Mayfield, Issac Hayes, The Temptations, Maxayn, The Undisputed Truth, Willie Hutch, and of course most famously, the original Funkadelics, and that is exactly what Gambino captures on this album. The sound of a band playing live (whether it was overdubbed or not) with a live drummer filling in and leading the sections, tight baselines, keyboards, psychedelic effects and incredibly topical lyrical content all come together in a way it maybe hasn’t in the whole post ’70s funk revival. The rock funk legacy of Funkadelic was translated through people like Prince into the modern day, and groups like Outkast and D’Angelo definitely trafficked in that territory, but not to put one funk up against the other, Gambino tops even Outkast and D’Angelo on “Awaken”. The reason is he eschews drum machines and any attempt at heavy modern production for a full, phat, organic funk groove, that is both more human and softer than the modern Hip Hop groove, and more virile and powerful than the grooves found in Neo Soul and modern R&B or smooth jazz. In other words, that bed be just right! And to tell the truth, its more focused on the bottom end and cleaner sonically than early ’70s Funkadelic, along the lines of the other psychedelic funk innovators such as Curtis Mayfield and War, but still with that Tiki Fullwood/ Jerome Brailey type groove and the way out lyrical concepts of Dr. Funkenstien. The album is so dope we have to bless you with two cuts this weekend, and the first one to really catch my attention was the early ’70s “People music” (as my good brother Andre Grindle would say) of “Have Some Love”.

“Have Some Love” starts out in a way that makes it’s ’70s funk pedigree unmistakeable, with a well recorded, solid drum beat from drummer Chris Hartz. The beat is rock solid upfront drumming, with Childish Gambino’s tamborine accompanying the fatback playing. After two bars the sounds of the vocal chorus come in, intensifying the early ’70s soul/funk feel. The chorus is comprised of Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) himself and a full choir, Brent Jones and the Best Life Singers, singing the uplifting people music chorus “Have a word/for your brother/have some time/for one another/really love one another/its so hard to find!!!” The choral sound is full, consisting of male and female voices together, with deep bass on the bottom and soprano’s on top, reminiscent of the Parliaments singing over the original Funkadelic bands heavy grooves. The inclusion of a bass singer reminds me of the Parliaments great bass vocalist Ray Davis, as well as Melvin Franklin of The Temptations, who also innovated in psychedelic Funk after receiving an early P-Funk influence.

After one go round of the chorus the vocal starts. The vocal is accompanied by a super funky, riff based early ’70s type groove. Album producer Ludwig Goransson takes the bass duties, playing a standard funky bassline in concert with the guitar of Sam Sugarman. The bass line moves upward in a funky strutting motion very related to the vocal melody, as Lynette Wililams holds a suspenseful chord on the Hammond B-3 organ that she adds color tones to as Gambino’s verse moves forward. Gambino’s vocal sound is as strained and paranoid as George Clinton could be vocally, as he sings an oblique verse, somebody has come to get the protagonist, and Glover sings a song of keeping his own mind and independence, also a very P Funk/early ’70s theme that resonates today. As Gambino moves into the second stanza of his verse Lynette Williams starts to chop 8th notes on her organ, adding to the tracks galloping, progressing funk feel. Behind the vocals and the band, people whoop, holler, scream, and ullate, which in addition with the rocking funk of the band give the song a truly live, rocking, human feel.

The song goes into another chorus, supported by synthesizer and acoustic guitar strumming from Sam Sugarman. At the end of the chorus we are provided with a beautiful musical moment, as there is a brief pause and you can still hear the choir singing the chorus as the music changes to the next sections. It has that real live feel of the group being a hair off in their arraignment OR of the recording being a splice of two differently recorded sections, and that “mistake” feeling adds to the human touch of the song. The change section is powerful and dark, with the Goransson playing a strong three note bass line and then improvising on the next bar, the B-3 playing sustained color chords and soloist singers stepping out to verbalize with the whole chopus backing. A high synth also provides a trippy sustained melody line on top as Gambino begins to sing “Wherever you are” at which point the bass player supports his vocalizing with more active bass runs. Hartz’s drumming also really stands out at this point as he caps off each turnaround with sharp drum rolls. The groove halts at a very natural point as the arrangement goes back to the starting point for the verse.

Instead of going back to Gambino singing alone, the whole choir sings the next verse together, which is inspirational and about how “we’ve got to really stay together”, supported by whoops and soul hollers. The song ends out on a jaunty country soul acoustic guitar and the sounds of exuberance at the musicality just released by the collective.

Childish Gambino came in a year that has been so rough for music with the loss of so many, and that has also been rough politically and dropped the absolute funk bomb. There is no way around it. “Awaken, My Love” is funky, trippy, well played, well produced, well sung, the concepts are sharp, and it has that full diverse broad scope of what author Rickey Vincent termed “United Funk.” It brings back a style some have attempted but rarely achieved. It’s amazing to me because even though I grew up with many P Funk fans and influences in my music, it was always based on the late 1970’s video game/synthesizer based style so popular in the hood. Very rarely was it based on the post-60s Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix inspired style of the early days. But Gambino on “Have Some Love” uses that as a starting point and creates a nonspecific protest/upliftment song in that classic style. I, among others, am very thankful for Gambino laying this whole project on us, I have an album review on it coming up soon, and if you haven’t yet cop it, go out and do your ears, booty, feet and mind a favor!!!

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SoulSchool TV Upcoming Teaser : Rickey Rouse of P-Funk and Death Row

My last post on riquespeaks “P-Funk is Hot: Go see ’em”, was a review of last weekend, May 8-10’s Parliament-Funkadelic gigs at Yoshi’s San Francisco in the Filmore distric, in particular the show on May 10. What I didn’t go into in that post was that Calvin Lincoln of SoulSchool Television had the oppurtunity to interview guitar player Rickey Rouse and I was fortunate enough to be behind the camera for the interview. We met up with Rickey at the bands hotel in Oakland. Rickey was really cool as he ran down his dope musical resume. He’s a lead guitarist who also plays other instruments as well as writes songs, and he was well acclaimed in years past for being an excellent interpreter of Jimi Hendrix classic catalog and guitar style. Rouse laid out an engaging musical story, taking him from auditioning in Detroit at the exact same time as Stevie Wonder with Motown, going to hanging out with George Clinton and the early Funkadelics, seeing Sly Stone at his peak, playing with The Undisputed Truth, being good friends with Gary Shider of P-Funk, playing with Chaka Khan, and then problably the work for which he is most known, his studio work with Dr.Dre and Death Row Records at the peak of G-Funk. It’s funny because I had been on a Beyonce trip recently and I was listening to her and Jay-Z’s “Bonnie & Clyde ’03” a record I hated at its release time, because 1) It had the audacity to take a favored Tupac song that was one of the best metaphorical tunes ‘Pac ever released and make it a straightforward rather unimaginative “love” song, and 2) Queen Bey had the audacity to throw in lyrics and melodies from Prince’s “If I Was Your Girlfriend” at a time I was living by “Sign O’ The Times. Basically I was jealous they got to it first on that one.

I also got the chance to tell Rouse that his work on ‘Pac’s “Makaveli” album had a great impact on me, hearing the bass and guitar he laid on that album. On songs such as “Bomb First”, “Against all Odds”, “To Live and Die in L.A”, and especially “Just Like Daddy”, and “Life of an Outlaw”, Rouse laid down beats, bass lines, guitar parts, and other musical treats that expanded my perception of what could be done with live instruments in hip hop, two years before Outkast would come with “Aquemini” and contemporaneous to Outkast cuts like “Elevators.” Listening to those instruments in my AKG headphones late at night in East Oakland made me want to play music too! This interview will be aired Friday and can be seen around the world on http://www.vcat.tv!

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Three Jedi’s Join the Funk: Vince Montana Jr, Richie Havens, Cordell “Boogie” Mosson

We lost three more true funk soldiers in the past couple of weeks, but with the visceral contributions of music they left behind for us to enjoy, their prescence will surely continue to be felt. Vince Montana Jr was a vibraphonist who started in jazz music in the Philadelphia area and became a first call vibraphonist for the Philadelphia soul artists. He worked on projects by Thom Bell as well as Gamble & Huff and was an integral memeber of MFSB. In fact, he was so integral, he was able to take most of the group over to Salsoul records and record great disco hits there. The Salsoul sound was very influential in disco, house and garage and continues to be the epitome of many people for good ’70s disco to this day. Vince was very interesting as an Italian-American making funky music with Black and Latino players and is a great example of how music unites. Here’s a great interview conducted with Montana before he passed, courtesy of Waxpoetics

http://www.waxpoetics.com/features/articles/heavy-vibes

Richie Havens is another one of those 20th century black artists who had a highly unique position in American popular music. I remember coming across Richie Havens albums like “1984” in my family collection and being curious as to how the music sounded. The images were pshychedelic and very interesting, and the music surprised me. Havens was a part of the 1960s folk explosion, and in several songs that he did, he emphasized that black music in America was part of the “folk” music mix as well. This is illustrated greatly in his classic song “Freedom”, which interpolates the great old Negro Spiritual, “Sometimes I feel like A Motherless Child.” Havens was able to be very successful with the rock and folk crowd, opening 1969’s legendary Woodstock concert. His passing is poignant for me because I was looking up his songs just last week, after the Blu Ray of “Django Unchained” came out and I heard his feirce, on beat rhythm guitar strumming on “Freedom”, featured in the scene where Django is captured and taken away from Candieland. Havens music should be appreciated for taking a slightly different path, and he should be considered a father to many artists today, especially black artists who are able to affirm their musical roots while not following the styles that are currently popular. It was also last week I heard for the first time, he made a version of one of my favorite songs from the disco era, Lamont Dozier’s “Going Back to My Roots”, popularized by Oddessy, one thing that is interesting to me is how the aggressive, on top of the beat African oriented piano part sounds just like the type of rhythms Havens strummed on his guitar:

Cordell “Boogie” Mosson is highly underrated, but very essential in the history of Parliament/Funkadelic bassists. He was very long tenured in the band, from 1972 to 1978 on bass, and then sliding over for a long tenure from 1979 until very recently on guitar. George Clinton said of him, “Boogie’s bass style lies somewhere between Billy Nelson’s raw Funkadelic groove and Bootsy Collin’s Parliament funk, which made him the perfect guy to play all the material live, or on either bands’ recordings.” Billy played bass on P Funk classics such as “Testify”, “Handcuffs”, “Cosmic Slop”, and “Nappy Dugout.” He also handled the majority of bass duties on live dates until Rodney “Skeet” Curtis joined the band. Boogie was distinguished on stage by his antler like head gear he wore with huge bug eyes. I really dig this quote from him, taken from Bass Player magazine, July 2005 issue featuring “The Bassists of P Funk”

“Dig a deep hole and throw me down there with my amp and my bass-leave the cord plugged in, because I’ve got to have a connection-and you’ll hear from me. I ain’t bullshitting. You’ll hear from me.”

Vince Montana’s Salsoul Hustle

Cordell “Boogie” Mosson and one of the stankiest basslines of all time

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