After 33 years, Funkadelic finally returns with 3 albums worth of material for all the hardcore P Funk fans out there. Released digitally earlier this month, George Clinton hopes to prove he can still funk you up even though he’s in his mid-70’s.
The album is an eclectic mix of genres including funk, soul, g-funk, rap, rock, and jazz. The 3-disc set includes 33 songs in total, representing the 33 years since their last album The Electric Spanking of War Babies, released in 1981. George brings on some mainstays such as long-time guitarist Michael Hampton and his son Trey Lewd, as well as many new musicians. As with previous efforts, George tries to remain relevant to the mainstream by allowing heavy influence from current pop/hip-hop music by adding elements such as auto tune and sampling.
Unfortunately, with 33 tracks of various genres (and recorded at different time periods) the album sounds seriously disjointed. I feel it could have benefited by cutting out all the filler and trimming down to just 1 disc. The overuse of auto-tuned vocals and sequenced synth loops rather than live instruments really take away from the organic funkiness P Funk fans would expect of the album.
If you read George’s auto-biography, you’ll note that George admits he’s always kept a younger crowd around him to keep him sounding new and fresh. It sounds like that younger crowd really pushed him in a direction he shouldn’t have gone. If George wanted to make a hip-hop album, he should have done that and enlisted the legion of talented producers that have sampled his work (and they probably would have been honored to do it). The thing is, George is at a point in his life where he no longer needs to try to sound like anyone else; because everyone is trying to sound like him.
With that being said, I don’t want to deter anyone from copping this album. Within the 3 discs, there is definitely a large chunk of funk that is some of the best work George and crew have put out since the mid-90’s. We all have to accept that we’re in a new era and the days of the Mothership landing are long gone. But every now and then, she re-visits the Earth’s atmosphere to deploy some clones to keep the funk alive.
For those looking for an in-depth track-by-track review, keep reading…
1. Baby Like Fonkin’ it Up – Disc 1 starts off with a tune reminiscent of Parliament’s “Mr. Wiggles” – a long, simple groove with some light horn riffs. The song features 2 rap verses (one in Spanish) and some slightly off-beat singing. My biggest problem with the song is the bass line. It’s not funky at all, but rather a low, droning synth bass. Definitely not on “the one“.
2. Get Low – Probably one of the worst songs on the album (sorry George!). This is basically an attempt to sound like current hip-hop, but I imagine the song is probably a few years old as it sounds dated. It’s a mediocre Southern hip-hop beat at best with some rapping and singing. Whoever produced the song, definitely wasn’t a “hip-hop” producer. Also sucks that there really isn’t any room for actual musicians to do anything, other than a few keyboard lines.
3. If I Didn’t Love You – This song is pretty decent, but the auto-tune/vocal effect kind of ruins it for me. My only real complaint is the bass line. Instead of having someone play something funky, they use an “upright bass” patch from a synth and it’s just a simple loop. The song could have really benefited from live bass.
4. Fucked Up – George handles most of the lead vocals on this jazzy track, speaking on drug use. The song is really dope (because it actually uses live musicians!). I will say that I wouldn’t expect something this jazzy from George; it sounds more like something Roy Ayers would do.
5. Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You? – One of the best songs on the album and the name of George’s new auto-biography. The song is smooth, mellow, and funky with George doing most of the vocal leads. Only criticism of this track is the drums. The whole Roland 808/909 kits are kind of played out at this point; wish it had some live drumming.
6. I Mo B Yodog Fo Eva – Taking over where “Atomic Dog” left off, this track is filled with plenty of sexual dog innuendo. The beat draws on hip-hop influences, but in a good way. It sounds more like mid-90’s west coast G-Funk and there is nothing wrong with that. Woof!
7. In Da Kar – “In Da Kar” is a long, drawn out groove. It’s hard to describe, as it’s kind of vibey, speeding up and slowing down with some light key and guitar solos sprinkled throughout. Also not sure if George is trying to convey some deep message with a car metaphor or if he’s just talking nonsense and we’re interpreting it that way haha.
8. Radio Friendly – This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, which is heavily influenced by the G-Funk of the mid-90’s. In other words, this track would be right at home on T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M.
9. Mathematics of Love – Speaking of T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M., this one lifts a lot of the lyrics from a song on that album – “Mathematics“. It’s an interesting take on the original, but the synth strings sound too fake. Would have been really cool if they had a live orchestra doing the strings.
10. Creases – Another hip-hop track, but this beat is actually really dope! The track is compromised of some old P-Funk loops (I think from George’s work in the 80s?), but they work really well. What really helps is that the raps are provided by Deltron aka Del The Funky Homosapien.
11. Not Your Average Rapper – Yet another hip-hop track. This isn’t half bad and I think there is another sample used for the main loop. However, it would have benefited from a more well known rapper and some enhanced production. Basically a filler track.
1. First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate – Disc 2 kicks off with a modern day version of “Wars of Armageddon“. Basically, it’s a 9 minute simple groove with various vocal riffs, hooks, and stream of conscious nonsense that George is known for. Coolest thing about this track is the lead is played by a didgeridoo!?
2. Roller Rink – “Roller Rink” starts off with a sampled loop from “Atomic Dog” and Kendra Foster singing lead, almost imitating George’s voice (I think it’s Kendra, as without liner notes it’s hard to tell!). The song is definitely funky and fits better than other songs on the album, but it kind of drags out at 11+ minutes.
3. Jolene – I really wish the album sounded more like “Jolene“. The guitars (Michael Hampton?), horns, and bass take you back to a mid-70’s version of Parliament/Funkadelic. Aside from the live instrumentation, it’s great to have a song without over-the-top vocal effects and a rap verse.
4. Nuclear Dog, Pt. II – Another “Atomic Dog” influenced rap song. This definitely sounds inspired by George’s work from the mid/late 80’s. A decent groove but a little too much rap for my taste.
5. Dirty Queen – Funkadelic tries to return to it’s early rock roots with a heavy metal-esque track featuring God’s Weapon. It’s not necessarily a bad song, just really out of place in contrast to the rest of the album.
6. You Can’t Unring the Bell – Probably my favorite hip-hop influenced song on the album. Whoever made the beat did a great job sampling a break beat for the drums and what sounds like an old horn riff from George’s vaults. My only criticism is the auto-tune on George’s vocals. Would love to hear an un-altered version.
7. Old Fool – For those of you who read George’s autobiography, you’ll get the reference to the title of this song. The song is cool, but nothing ground breaking. Reminds me a bit of the late 70s/early 80s Funkadelic.
8. Pole Power – “Pole Power” is a play on James Brown‘s “Soul Power“. This is one of the more traditional sounding P Funk songs, complete with a really dope bridge like the old Parliament songs. If you listen closely in the background, you can hear a sample of Sir Nose. Once again, wish they got rid of the auto-tune.
9. Boom There We Go Again – This one is built on elements of Parliament’s “Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication“. It’s smooth track and a little disco-ish but still funky.
10. As In – The beautiful lead vocals of this track were done by Jessica Cleaves, who sadly passed away this year. For those that don’t know, she was lead singer of The Friends of Distinction. The song is actually a remake of a track by Bootsy’s Rubberband. I prefer the older, funkier version better, but Jessica definitely held her own on this sexy soul version. The live strings also make all the difference on this one.
11. Bernadette – This is a remake of a hit song by the Four Tops. There are samples buried in here too, but they are hard to hear. The song is okay, but I could have lived without it.
12. Meow Meow – Basically a female version of “Atomic Dog“. Not much to say about this track, other than it has a heavy 90’s west coast influence. Another filler track in my opinion.
1. Catchin’ Boogie Fever – I think this may be a track from George’s vaults (which isn’t a bad thing). The song sounds old and is mastered differently than the rest of the album.
2. The Naz – This song actually came out almost 2 years ago and features long time friend of George, Sly Stone. It’s basically just a simple funk groove with Sly talking nonsense over it. More filler.
3. Talking to the Wall – Really dope song featuring Gary Shider’s son Garrett. This is also an example of a hip-hop influenced track done right. The drums are sampled from a well-known break and there are reversed guitar loops in the background. I’m going to assume they are from George’s vaults and may be Gary Shider himself (he is credited on the Wiki page so most likely).
4. Where Would I Go? – One of the best songs on the album, also featuring Garett Shider. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a remake of a vaulted track as well. It’s a very soulful, funky tune reminiscent of the mid 70’s Parliament/Funkadelic.
5. Yesterdejavu – The album really hits a nice stride here with another traditional P Funk cut, complete with dope guitars, George alternating lead vocals, and Bernie Worrell on keys.
6. Zip It – Pretty sure this is another sample based track (or someone put an effect to make it sound that way). This track is just average with some fast-paced rapping and guitars. More filler.
7. The Wall – There is a very heavy Outkast influence on this track, but it doesn’t pan out too well for George. The vocals are drenched in auto-tune/effects and fast-paced drums are laid over the top of what would have been a really dope instrumental. The song also contains more rapping, which would have been a lot better if left to Andre 3000.
8. Snot n’ Booger – Song sounds more like T-Pain than P Funk. Too much auto-tune singing and rapping again. Towards the end of a song a sample kicks in, in the background (at least I think). I would much rather hear that song than the one they made out of it.
9. Yellow Light – More auto-tune and synths… Pretty average and boring track.
10. Dipety Dipety Doo Stop the Violence – The album closes out with a slow, hip-hop influenced soul ballad. If this instrumental was rapped on by someone like Wiz Khalifia it would probably be a hit, but doesn’t work so well with Funkadelic.