The Fatback Band – “Is This The Future?”

Happy new year…did everyone make it?

2017 was a goddamn mess, wasn’t it, filled with anxiousness, anger, and confusion in the nation, and personally, I felt much of the same way. What’s in store for this year? I have no idea, but let’s hope it’s not wave after wave of garbage water like the last 12, ehhh, make that 24 months, have been.

Anyhow, it may be 2018 but I wanted to take it back to 1983 with this listen from The Fatback Band, later simply known as Fatback. The NYC funk-disco group headed up by drummer Bill “Fatback” Curtis had a run in the late ’70s and early ’80s with their groove-laden, dance club-perfected jams. Though the band didn’t tear up the musical charts with their releases, they’re cult favorites, with several of their tracks remembered fondly by R&B fans and countless samples by hip-hop artists. In fact, many look at their 1979 single “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” as one of hip-hop’s earliest commercial releases, employing braggin’ and boastin’ rhymes from “King Tim” over a funky bassline. Fatback weren’t rappers, but they definitely knew what sounded good.

“Is This The Future?” is the title track from their record of the same name, a message track which tapped in to that early ’80s malaise and destitution touched on by tracks like the Furious Five‘s “The Message.” Over a synth-heavy, electro beat our protagonist looks at his situation with heavy cynicism, seeing that unemployment is up, his block is getting seedier, people are feeling a bit more hopeless, and at the dawn of a new decade, he wonders: “Is this…the future?” Three decades on that question looms ever larger. In 2018 we’re facing dramatic income equality and enduring racism, sexism, and violence. We’re glued to the rot through our phones, devices which track our every move, dictate how we act and feel, and make us increasingly comfortable with losing our privacy. We even gotta worry about robots taking our jobs. So you gotta ask yourself: Is this the future?