If I was campaigning for the US Presidential Election, I would make it clear to the people my utter commitment to funk. I believe that we should all wake up to the reality that is the funk-related shortcomings of our generation. Now the 70s, they fought for funk. They lived, breathed and pooped funk. Funk was in their bones, in their afros, in their glittery flared pants. Hell, you couldn’t walk into a club without being assaulted with the titanium rhythm and groove that characterised the explosive songs of the decade. They were the carriers of the funk torch, paying true homage where homage was due. They danced like their bootys depended on it. This was surely a time of outrageous groovular energy, when people really FELT things and DID things. A time when shaking your stuff on the dance floor was what some people lived for.
Fast forward to 2016, where pop music came to slowly die through a combination of autotune and everyone’s-a-DJ culture. Where people have lost their respect for breaking it down and instead prefer to fist pump to songs that could’ve been written by a monkey with garage band. THIS is a time where funk needs to be at the forefront of our political conversations. When will people realise that the only way to beat Donald Trump is to drown him out with funk so raw that he couldn’t possible build a wall to keep it out. We need to teach our children to appreciate that funk is not just a genre, it’s a way of life. And without it, our world would be a whole lot less sparkly.
With this in mind I would like to salute those that have managed to incorporate funk into a different genre of music. Just to show that it’s possible to bring funk to the people. My examples are the funkalicious early members of Sugar Hill Records. These guys have channeled the early forefathers of funk and injected the mixture into their hip hop jives. You can access this funkery on “A Complete Introduction To Sugar Hill Records”, a compilation released in 2010.
Now I hope we’ve all heard the song “Rapper’s Delight”, which is the first track on the album. It’s by the Sugarhill Gang, which is made up of Big Bank Hank, Master Gee and Wonder Mike. Hell YEAH those are their NAMES yo! This is just the start! This is their most famous song and also notable because it was the first rap song to reach the top 40 in the US. This song is the perfect intro to the vibe of this compilation album. The first thing you notice is the upbeat mood, the happy-go-lucky kind of aura it provokes. They’ve sampled the funky disco instrumental from Chic’s “Good Times”, which has an irresistibly smooth bass line groove. The song lasts an incredible 14 minutes and 33 seconds and it is worth every damn minute. Their flow is mellow and the rhymes are beautifully old school. A lot of it is essentially them describing how outrageously awesome they all are. And if they’re not doing that they are instructing people on how to boogie right.
“I said a hip hop,
Hippie to the hippie,
The hip, hip a hop, and you don’t stop, a rock it
To the bang bang boogie, say, up jump the boogie,
To the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.”
Best. Opening. Ever.
What follows is 46 tracks that could make even the most awkward person in the world feel like putting on some dancin shoes and letting it rip. I’ll give you my personal picks, which are just a scratch on the surface of this record. The whole thing must be listened to and grooved to at some point. “Monster Jam” is a perfect example of the kind of floor fillers this album has to offer. This is a collaboration between Spoonie Gee (one of the “Godfathers of Rap”) and The Sequence (a badass, all-female early hip hop trio). The brass fills on the track are unmissable, as are the drum breaks which kind of sound like they’re done Stomp style with trash cans and other such paraphernalia. “Birthday Party” by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five is wooplicious. It is peppered with recordings of people having an actual party, which makes me wish I could’ve partied with any and all members of this group. It also has this weird sound that sounds like a digeridoo which I very much appreciate. Another classic from these guys is “Beat Street” which features some skilful record scratching. That’s some old school cool for you right there. The production on this is deliciously rich, combining a funky rhythm section with hip hop sound effects layered on top.
The Sugarhill Gang’s other hit “Apache” is one that many of you will recognise. This is one of my all time favourite dance tracks. It’s the combination of those sexy sexy bongos and that flirty brass section. Then Master Gee’s cheeky section at 2.14. And that break where the bongos go craayyyy!! This will NEVER not be on my party playlist. It makes brain tingle. Also notable for its party-friendly vibe is “Let’s Dance (Make Your Body Move)” by West Street Mob. This one introduces some electro elements into the mix with a Daft-Punk-esque robot voice. There’s also a sassy brass riff and an equally sassy refrain: “Shake your ass and dance”. Daaaammn right.
Some of the more groovy rap-based tracks are “Livin’ In the Fast Lane” and “Kick It Live From 9 to 5” by The Sugarhill Gang and “Making Cash Money” by Busy Bee. What I love about this kind of old skl rap is the relaxed vibe. No need to swear too much, no need to scream- just good old fashioned rhythm and rhymes. These guys prove that you don’t need to be violent to be utterly badass.
If this is a funk derivative then imagine the whole fuckin deal?!?! It’s enough to go round the whole damn nation and beyond. The funk revolution must be ignited once more, so we can leave this world even one iota more funkadelic.
Groove on soldiers,