Happy Birthday, George Clinton

 

By Devon “Doc” Wendell

 

July 22, 2016 may be the 75th birthday of George “Dr. Funkenstein” Clinton but the good doctor shows now signs of getting old and slowing down. He’s still out there touring with Parliament/Funkadelic, spreading funk all over the World. No one has done more for the genre of funk than George Clinton. Who else could have taken tipsy doo-wop vocal arrangements and fused them with psychedelic rock, groundbreaking electronic dance music, gospel, blues and just about any style you can think of and made it into something so timeless and irresistible? George has this ability of putting together musicians you never would have dreamed would have been able to work together much less be in the same room with one another and it always results in something magical.

George Clinton Pic

George’s concepts have always been silly and serious at the same time. Parliament’s 1978 classic The Motor Booty Affair addresses the realities of black life in America disguised as an underwater funk opera. The music is gloriously filthy and lively but the message is deeper than deep and that’s just one of hundreds of examples. Can anyone actually feel bad and judgmental when listening to Funkadelic’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep” or One Nation Under A Groove in its entirety?  I wouldn’t believe in a million years that it would be possible and you will find yourself shaking your ass in the process. P-Funk unifies people like no other music in the galaxy.

In high school, I was introduced to P-Funk and have been a hardcore funkateer ever since. I have every album by Parliament, Funkadelic, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Parlet, Brides Of Funkentein, Eddie Hazel, Bernie Worrell, and The P-Funk Allstars ever released and then some. George Clinton’s influence gave birth to hip-hop. No artists in history has been sampled more and try to imagine how many rock bands who have used Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain and Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On as blue prints for their sound. You hear the influence of P-Funk everywhere. Parliament’s Mothership Connection and Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome transformed dance music forever. They are both essential albums for any collection like John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, Jimi Hendrix’s Band Of Gypsys, Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue, and Sgt. Pepper by The Beatles.

Like Miles Davis, George refuses to become an “old relic.” He’s worked and continues to work with the most popular and innovative artists in hip-hop. George even won a Grammy for his contributions to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly this past year. There would be no Prince or The Red Hot Chili Peppers without George Clinton. George will always be out there with the youth of the World, bringing funk into the cutting edge as he’s always done.

Of course, George didn’t do it alone. The mothership is filled with essential musical contributors that make up The Parliafunkadelicment Thang such as Bernie Worrell, William “Bootsy” Collins, Garry Shider, Eddie Hazel, Billy “Bass” Nelson, Tiki Fullwood, Mallia Franklin, Michael Hampton, Walter “Junie” Morrison, Cordell “Boogie” Mosson, Tyrone Lampkin, Rodney “Skeet” Curtis,  Ray Davis, Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins, Grady Thomas, Glenn Goins, Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, Rick Gardner, Richard “Kush” Griffith,  Gary “Mudbone” Cooper, Jerome “Big Foot” Brailey, Dawn Silva, Lynn Mabry, Ron Ford, Ron Dunbar, Frankie “Kash” Waddy, Dewayne “Blackbyrd” McKnight, Belita Woods  Michael “Clip” Payne, Sheila Brody, Danny Bedrosian, Jerome Rodgers, Jeff Bunn, Lige Curry, Kendra Foster, Garrett Shider, Greg Thomas, Benny Cowan, Greg Boyer, Benzel Cowan and many, many more.

Happy Birthday, George Clinton and please keep serving up your one of a kind, uncut funk; the planet needs it now more than ever.

 

 

Eric B. & Rakim: Paid In Full Revisited

 

By Devon “Doc” Wendell

 

So I was born it 1975, so that makes me a “Gen- Xer”. Growing up was hard on us X-ers. The generation before ours made up of old, whiny hippies who constantly told us what music to listen to and what music not to listen to. And so it was basically The Beatles,The Stones, The Byrds, Country Joe & The Fish and a lot of music that just did not speak to my generation or surroundings. The Vietnam war was long over by the time I was in grade school and “peace and love” had run right into Wall Street by the ’80s and “Greed was good.”

This new music called “rap” or “hip-hop” was a no- no. For years I tried to figure out where the disdain towards this exciting new music came from. It wasn’t until I started working in the music industry professionally in high-school that I found out why the old rockers and folkers of my parent’s generation were so set against it. In a nutshell, hip-hop started organically and could never successfully be co-opted by the greedy, anglo, cocaine- fueled rock n’ roll industry and so they tried to destroy it. The thing is, the more my generation was told to “stay away” from hip-hop, the more we got into it because “no” is the greatest sales pitch of all.

Eric B.

 

I hung out with musicians all of my life, even as a kid and we listened to everything from Skip James, Sun Ra, Jimi Hendrix, Parliament/Funkadelic, and Johnny Cash, to Miles Davis, Monk, Charles Ives, Gil Scott Herron, and hip-hop. We were way more open than the boomers before us. We had to be or music would have ceased to exist after 1976.

When Eric B. & Rakim hit with their debut album Paid In Full, it changed my perception of music.They were all about their craft, period. You didn’t see them at Lakers games on TV or hanging out with movie stars. Rakim was and will always be the greatest emcee in the World. When I first listened to Paid In Full, Rakim’s rhyming abilities were akin to the way John Coltrane played the tenor and soprano saxophones. And Eric B.’s DJing skills were raw, honest, and funky as hell. It wasn’t overproduced and not a lot of PR went into it. It was one guy with a microphone and another with a turntable and they could do more with just those two things than most so-called “real musicians” could do on their instruments. The album was recorded at Marley Marl’s home studio, Power Play in New York City.

Rakim’s vocals were hard and his phrasing was so bad. It was fucking perfect and swinging. Just listen to “I Ain’t No Joke”, “Move The Crowd”, “I Know You Got Soul” and the title track and you’ll feel what the real, pre-gentrified New York was like. I hear Eric B. scratching over The J.B.’s “Pass The Peas” on “I Ain’t No Joke” and I can smell the 6 train going uptown or taste a Papaya King hot dog with extra sour kraut. It was a simpler, better time. You could actually be poor and middle class and not have to work a thousand god damn hours a week to barely scrape by. Paid In Full remains a powerful statement of black consciousness. It boasts, celebrates, and covers life as it is. There’s no fucked up PR campaign involving the Kardashians, but wait, I don’t want to come off sounding as close minded and selfishly nostalgic as my parent’s generation, so all I’ll say is, this is the real shit. No auto-tuning, just hip-hop for the sake of art and not fame, a “game changing” (I hate that fucking expression!) album for all generations who are open enough to receive it. I remember in 1993; George Clinton said to me “Rakim is like the Jimi Hendrix of the microphone”. So if you missed out on this now classic, go get it now and pass it on but don’t be a dick about it to the “youngsters.” (there I go again, shit) Just slip it to them with a copy of Kind Of Blue and see what happens.