It just hit me the Parliament-Funkadelic is playing D.C. TONIGHT and I’m missing the show. Damn! It also hit me that I still haven’t spoken about the brilliance of P-Funk, so let’s do this RIGHT NOW.
You didn’t know I was a big P-Funk head now, did ya?
I had (not “had”…more like, “relished”) to dig up some Funkadelic and Parliament albums for a friend recently, an aspiring musician in his 20s who had never heard of the collective. I mean, he’s a very good friend, but damnit, that just shook the whole damn foundation. I’m thinking that he was a deprived child.
Throughout the 1970s, George Clinton and his many, many friends embarked on making some feel-good music, and in the process, redefined Black music, shaped pop culture, and influenced artists from all over the map, especially in hip-hop music. Clinton’s two main groups, Funkadelic and Parliament, created nothing but endless jams, delivering classic tracks hitting on old school southern-style rock, funk, and R&B. All of this was woven into Clinton’s ridiculously complex mythology of “funk,” a freeing force which could make even the most jaded person shake their ass for eternity. As the ‘70s went on, Clinton and crew began to use the music not only as joyful escapism, but as a method to comment on the social issues of the day, explore and affirm Blackness and Black history, and take Black people into places where Black people had not been before. It was strange, inspired, brilliant stuff.
The history of Parliament-Funkadelic is long and complex, and there are too many albums and songs to go over, so I thought I would start with one of the early works. Though Parliament came around first, it was Funkadelic that Clinton pushed most heavily in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and after a trippy-assed debut in 1969’s Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow, they came back in 1970 with their self-titled record, a leaner work that started laying out the groundwork of the funk mythology and the group’s style. Heavily focused on rock, with strong bass and drumwork, Funkadelic is one of the group’s influential records. “I’ll Bet You” is a fantastic piece of work, with those thundering drums, that twangy guitar string, echo effects which stretch into infinity, and the wild vocals of Clinton and buddy Eddie Hazel (also legendary guitarist). This track, or elements of it have been sampled countless times by rappers since, most notably by EPMD on “Total Kaos” and “Dark Skin Girls” by Del Tha Funkee Homosapien. It’s a badass listen.
Originally posted on my old blog, Emaciated Wildebeest, on June 20, 2011.