Folks may recall how rappers brought artists like James Brown and Donald Byrd back into the forefront of Black music during the mid 80s when their music was freely sampled in every which way, shape and form by literally hordes of artists. Back then folks may recall the commonly expressed sentiment that many ascribed too.."
" And to a large degree there was a lot of truth in that statement, after all, at that time Black radio wasn't aggressively promoting a format in which they would highlight "classic" artists like Brown while maintaining their appeal to younger listeners... The result was many young white listeners being able tell you all about pop icons like the Beatles and Elvis while artists like Brown were relatively unknown to the young Black listener, at least until hip hop came along. It"s important to note all this because another facet about hip hop is that it allowed folks and still allows folks to build upon their musical past... The Brown sampling phenomenom in the mid-late 80s was the result of younger people reflecting their musical past. Most of the artist putting out records at this time were from New York and James Brown was not only an artist that mom and dad grooved to, but it was an artist that their older brothers and sisters grooved to in the late 70s when block parties were common place and hip hop was still in its embryo stages... The break beats that could be found within the grooves of James Brown records were the sounds that really set off these early hip hop jams.
So what does all this have to do with p-funk and its relationship to hip hop? Well one of the great things about hip hop is that it has always been an easily accessible form of expression with each participant being able to bring into the fold their own experiences and musical background So while brothers back east during the late 80s were building off their musical experiences involving James Brown and hip hop culture dating back to the late 70s, brothers out west who were just starting to release hip hop records were bringing a whole other set of musical experiences to the table. Much of it centered around artists like George Clinton, Bootsy Collins George Duke and Roger & Zapp to name a few. Simply put, brothers out west brought p-funk to the hip hop round table. Now upon reading this there are a lot of folks who are immediately gonna reach back into time and point to the p-funk style hip hop music of EPMD, especially since they dropped the '88 classic tune "You Gots To Chill" which looped the now infamous "More Bounce To The Ounce" beat. Many rap fans consider this jam to be the first record to incorporate a p-funk. sample. In addition, these same rap fans may be quick to point out that cuts like "Knee Deep" and "More Bounce To The Ounce" were staple items in a b-boy's record crates. Back in the days, many a dj cut up these tracks while an emcee flowed. And while it's safe to say that Erik & Parrish earned their spot in the history books with "You Gots To Chill", they weren't the first to utilize music from the p-funk treasure chests... In addition, EPMD's usage didn't reflect the special relation and love the San Francisco / Oakland Bay Area had for funk.
Ricky Vincent better known as the Uhuru Maggot is a Bay Area music historian who earned his stripes during the 80s for his radio work on KALX, UC Berkeley's college station... and can now be heard every Friday on KPFA 94.1 FM... Vincent has not only chronolized funk music through his History Of Funk radio shows, but he has written his doctorate thesis on the genre..and has now just penned a book for St Martin's Press with an intro from George Clinton himself. This work will undoubtly be a definitive and comprehensive work on this facet of Black music... In a recent interview where Vincent was asked about the Bay Area's love for funk and its relationship to hip hop, he broke things down and explained that there has always been a deep seeded love affair with -funk ..He noted that George Clinton has always claimed there was something 'heavy' about the Bay Area funkateers.. Vincent noted that so involved was that relationship that Clinton recorded part of his live album "P-Funk Earth Tour" right here at the Oakland Coliseum.
This [The Bay Area] was probably the only place that he could capture that strong P-funk vibeIf that wasn't enough, Oakland was city where the mothership first landed. This took place in 1976. For those who don't know the mothership was brought back into the forefront when Dr Dre landed it in his video 'Let Me Ride'. Vincent elaborated by noting that the landing of the mothership was a major turning point. It could be interpreted as the second coming of Christ. And furthermore, Vincent explained that there are many facets of the funk as prescribed by George Clinton that are based upon ancient African religion. It encouraged folks to move in a spiritual direction. In fact many of the songs Clinton performed were nothing more than modern day spirituals that were ripe with metaphors that held religious conotations. For example the song 'Flashlight' was really a gospel song which called upon the Lord to shine some light on the 'funk' [hard times] that Black people here in America were experiencing.
The Bay Area's Al Eaton, a veteran producer established himself by being Too Short's early producer. In addition Al had a hand in the production end back in the days for such well known Bay Area acts like Dangerous Dame, Rappin' 4 Tay and E-40 & The Click who were than just starting out their careers. Eaton expounded upon Vincent"s assessment by noting that while p-funk had a strong hold in the Bay Area it wasn't the only funk kickin' up dirt. "It wasn"t just p-funk, but it was the whole musician scene that put the Bay Area on the map, " Eaton noted. Groups like Tower Of Power, Cold Blood, Maze going all the way back to Sly Stone in the late 60s all had big names and helped shape the Bay Area music scene.
When speaking on the subject of funk and hip hop Bay Area style, no discussion would be complete without talking about the work of Shock G lead rapper and producer for Digital Underground. In late 1987 several months before EPMD hit with their track "You Got's To Chill" Digital Underground made a lot of noise with a hard hittin' song entitled 'Underwater Rimes'. Here Shock incorporated sampled riffs from the Parliament classic 'Aquaboogie' and cleverly weaved all sorts of p-funk like characters and elements into the song, including MC Blowfish. For the most folks it was hard to believe Clinton himself didn't have a hand in the production. Eventually Clinton did come aboard and lend a helpin hand in Digital's second lp 'Sons Of The P'. It was on this lp that Shock felt DU was a head of its time because of their liberal use of the moog synthesizer.. Nowadays artists like Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube have been on hit with songs that utilize this device to provide that buzzin' bassline...
Another longtime player in the Bay Area p-funk hip hop scene is actually Flava Flav's cousin, the SupergroovalisticalfunkuponablackC-Funk. OGs of the Bay Area hip hop scene will recall that C-Funk an East Palo Alto native started out with the name Captain Crunch, but a certain cereal company came forth with some court orders forcing him to change. However, C-Funk along with his partner Mozilla the Funk Dragon have definitely made some noise around town. In 1989 under the group name Rated X, they released a funky track entitled 'Law Of Groovity'. Two years later under the name Funk Lab Allstars, C-Funk came with it a p-funk style lp entitled 'Music From A Motion Picture Rsap Funk Track' Included on that was a slamming track entitled 'La Da Da'. His big hits came in '92 with the release of the lp 'Two Stoags' in which C-Funk did as so many other Bay Area hip hop producers have started to do..abandon sampling and start playing the music.
Paris the Black Panther of hip hop, CEO of Scarface Records and producers for the hit group Conscious Daughters , is himself no stranger to the funk. On his last album... 'Gorilla Funk' is just that a reworking of the Funkadelic classic 'Knee Deep' and a derivation of George Duke's 'Dukey Stick'. Paris assessed the Bay Area"s music scene this way, "Funk for the most part has always been a west coast thing.. In other parts of the country people have been more intuned with other types of music..jazz and dancehall seem more prominent back east, but here in the Bay Area its all about the funk". Paris went on to explain from a producer's stand point that funk has found an increased resurgence in popularity due to the fact that many folks are into hearing jams that have fuller and more complete production. Funk music allows one to dig deep and present a high gloss more complex type of sound. Back east the high gloss end of production is personified by the works of artist like US3 or Justice System while here its all the funk players. 'Gorilla Funk' certainly stood out on the high gloss end. Here Paris went out of his way to hire studio singers for the harmonies and session players for some of the instruments. Paris explained that for a while people moved out of the era of song writing and into the era of track making.. When trying to recreate funk via live instruments one learns to pay close attention to the song and consequently incorporate those elements of music that you really love.
Khayree, producer of two of the Bay Area"s hottest artists Young Lay, Mac Mall and Ray Luv has been in the game dating back to the time when there was a female group called New Choice who dropped a record back in the mid 80s called 'Cold Stupid'. Khayree of course produced them.. He summed up the funk situation this way, "My involvement with music goes beyond George Clinton, I grew up on the musicians that taught George, like Sly Stone, Donny Hathaway and Jimi Hendrix". Khayree went on to say that he tries not follow trends and hence if his music sounds like something that could classified as funk, its not because he attempted to be a part of the band wagon, but because he did things from the heart. Khayree like everyone mentioned in this article is an accomplished musician who has long learned the value from not sampling. When you play you can come from the heart" he noted. In addition he doesn"t have to pay for use of samples. The funk elements found in songs like Ray Luv's 'Get My Money On' and 'Mac Mall's 'Sick With This' Perhaps the most important feature about funk was that much of the music when initially introduced appealed to folks in the hood. This was crucial because funk landed at a time when so much of Black music was either being diluted or in some cases avoided altogether by Black music radio stations.
Afrika Bambaataa once noted that hip hop was the result of Black music radio not keeping funk alive in New York City... Author Nelson George confirmed that statement in his book the 'Death Of Rhythm & Blues' in which he spoke about Black radio stations diluting the music from the hood with some other stuff that was ultimately designed to appeal to a downtown, hipper, more affluential, [whiter audience] and not the young black and Puerto Rican audience that listened to a radio more than any other ethnic group. By the mid 70s Black music radio in New York wasn't kicking a lot of music across the airwaves that was hitting on point in other parts of the country.. In the late 70s I recall a whole lot of disco songs being played... Brothers from around the way were doing block parties and playing old James Brown, Sly Stone and break beats...while outside New York in places as close as New Haven Connecticutt, brothers were jamming to groups like Fat Larry's Band, The Barkays and Mass Production... For example, I recall hearing jams like 'Fire Cracker' by Mass Production outside the Big Apple, but never really hearing too much if at all within the city's five boroughs... Mean while in places like the Bay Area where hip hop had not really surfaced the grooves put out by these types of groups were the ' phat buttahs ' of the day.
Khayree, Al Eaton, Paris, Shock G and C-Funk are just a few of a long line of artist/producers who have helped keep the funk a strong force in the Bay Area and begin to influence the rest of the hip hop nation. There are still lots of others in these here parts that are making lots of noise with their new brand of funk including E-40 and The Click"s producer Studio Tone, Oakland rap dou/producers, Easki and CMT, En Vogue producers Foster & McElroy, George Clinton colloborator and long time funkateer Dave Kaos and SF rap start JT The Bigga Figga. All have come to the hip hop roundtable with funk in their back pocket.