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Taken from DOPE Magazine (Feb 02, 2017)

George Clinton: Doctor Funkenstein’s New Prescription

by Nate Jackson, Photo by Bridget Arias


Decades after the Mothership landed on Earth, opening its shiny metallic hatch to reveal the smoky silhouette of the man nicknamed Dr. Funkenstein, George Clinton continues to be a man ahead of his time. The extraterrestrial groovemaster of Parliament Funkadelic drafted the musical blueprint for generations of musicians, rappers and producers that followed him. But not even Clinton himself could’ve imagined the everlasting glory of the house that funk built, or that he’d still be around to see it over 40 years later.


On a recent evening in West LA, the thick fingers of George Clinton’s left hand glinting with gold rings grasp the crystal stem of a wine glass. Wearing a sharp, caramel checkered suit, bug eyed glasses and a Panama hat poked with a pink feather, he swirls a splash of cabernet at the dinner table of his hotel room before taking a sip. A light haze of smoke clouds the air, remnants of a recent smoke session. Back when the psychedelic shaman sported a head full of his trademark rainbow dreads, George Clinton spent plenty of nights like these bathed in the toxic fumes of a crack pipe. A lifelong addict, there’s no drug he wouldn’t pay to get his hands on. It wasn’t until a bad batch of crack cut with baking soda sent him to the hospital in LA several years ago that he decided it was finally time to stop chasing an impossible high.


“Once that happened…I had an inside joke with myself, like I’m gonna change and nobody’s even gonna know I’m changing. I’m gonna be so far gone away from my old self before anybody even notices,” George Clinton says. “I told people around me that’s the mission.”



Today, the 75 year-old clean-cut funkmaster only basks in the aromatic cloud of fresh bud or his stylish cannabis vape pen. Having kicked all other substances to the curb, he says he’s able to see the future clearer than he ever has before. With the help of his wife and manager Carlon, who also used cannabis to successfully wean herself off of medication for ADD, Clinton cut off his multi-colored locks, got sober and prepared to enter a brand new chapter of his career.


“Once I got off the drug itself, that was the easy part,” George Clinton says. “The thing was to get off of a habit. You still got a habit. I’ve smoked weed ever since I started, I had to start appreciating that again and it served the purpose of the habit.”George Clinton also says that it wasn’t until he switched primarily to cannabis that he really got high for the first time in years. “Cuz I wasn’t getting high on the drugs. It took up my time more than anything else. I’d be up all hours of the night chasing shit,” Clinton says. “Between what I need to do for the music, with some good weed and [my wife] taking care of me, I was able to get my health back together.”


“Once that happened…I had an inside joke with myself, like I’m gonna change and nobody’s even gonna know I’m changing. I’m gonna be so far gone away from my old self before anybody even notices,” George Clinton says. “I told people around me that’s the mission.”


It’s not often that we hear stories of a star who used cannabis to get off of hard drugs. But it’s hard to deny the positive effect it’s had on George Clinton, who is riding the wave of a productivity while grand marshalling the full-fledged funk renaissance. In 2014, he produced a whopping 33-song album (First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate), and had a Louie Vega remix of his single “Ain’t That Funkin Kinda Hard on You?” Nominated for a Grammy in 2016. He’s a co-authored a popular biography (Brother Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?), producing two more albums—one for Parliament (titled Medicated Broad Dog) and another solo record. The latter will be released on Brainfeeder, the LA label owned by beat scene king Flying Lotus, who he’s recently shared the stage with at the Hollywood Bowl, along with other young jazz and hip-hop revolutionaries like Thundercat and Shabazz Palaces. He even got to see a recreated piece of Parliament’s famous giant Mothership, which used to land on stage during their concerts back in the late ‘70s, exhibited in the Smithsonian.


That amount of activity in the past few years alone would be enough to fill any artist’s plate. But for the man sampled and celebrated by every West Coast rapper in existence (including Kendrick Lamar, who included him on his Grammy-winning album To Pimp a Butterfly), it was only the beginning. The swell of activity was also able to prime the pump for his latest untitled documentary project. Sometime this year, George Clinton plans to release a film detailing his legal battles with various record companies over the royalties he says he’s owed for an endless amount of his sampled works.


“And ain’t no way people are gonna pay attention to that story unless I’m relevant again,” Clinton says. “It’s too much for them to want to dig into. It’s a big story with all the sampling and what the record companies have done, to do a documentary which is what we’re working on now. We’ve got all the legal side compiled and put together.”


Clinton’s lengthy groove-tastic jams have been sampled well over 400 times by dozens of artists, second only to the Godfather of Soul James Brown. With songs from Parliament and Funkadelic combined, it’s nearly double that amount. Yet George Clinton says he never received the amount of compensation from various record companies that made money off the artists who used his music on their recordings.


In the ‘90s alone, Clinton’s iconic 1982 track “Atomic Dog” was sampled in a number of classic West Coast hip-hop records, including Snoop Dogg’s “Who I Am (What’s My Name)” and Ice Cube’s “Friday.” The fact that today’s most popular artists like Kendrick Lamar continue to re-create and sample his psychedelic funk sound proves that when it comes to George Clinton’s music, people really do want the funk. In the end, the strength of his albums, not just the hits, are what have sustained his career.


“Funkadelic made it a point to not be in a bag, Clinton says. “After the song “Testify” in ‘67, I never wanted to have to follow up with another single. You’re outta the game quick if that’s where your head is at. Make a record that lasts as a record even if it doesn’t sell at first. The endurance of that record will pay off.”


At a time when iconic musicians like Prince, Maurice White of Earth Wind and Fire, Parliament keyboardist Bernie Worrell and David Bowie have passed away, George Clinton’s ability to carry the torch for funkateers is all the more important.


“After the song “Testify” in ‘67, I never wanted to have to follow up with another single. You’re outta the game quick if that’s where your head is at. Make a record that lasts as a record even if it doesn’t sell at first. The endurance of that record will pay off.”

-George Clinton


“It gives me a good excuse to stay around. Whenever I hear a hot record, like Childish Gambino’s new one (Awaken, My Love)…they went through the same thing we went through, trying to impress Smokey Robinson or the people at Motown back in the day. We wanted to be around them so bad because we wanted to be a part of that. We did everything we could to learn the Motown theory. They did the same thing with funk.”


Staying healthy with the help of cannabis allows him to continue on the road and produce new music. Most importantly, the endurance of his work is a testimonial not only to the power of the funk, but the power of the man who finds the strength to keep it going and continuing to keep his finger on the pulse of the future.


“A lotta people go ‘ain’t [Parliament] gone? Ain’t they dead?’ No, we ain’t dead,” Clinton says with a laugh. “We makin’ music you’ve been listening to the whole time, but you just didn’t know we was involved.”



 
 

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