Taken from The Orange County Register (Sep 13, 2016)
George Clinton talks about working with Kendrick Lamar and other young artists
by PETER LARSEN / STAFF WRITER
It was his grandkids hanging out in his studio in Florida, funk legend George Clinton says, who indirectly led him to connect with a handful of the freshest stars of the West Coast’s progressive hip-hop and electronic music scene, and now this weekend a shared stage at the Hollywood Bowl.
“They were the ones who told me Kendrick Lamar would be the one to deal with,” Clinton says of the suggestion that resulted in a collaboration with Lamar on “Wesley’s Theory,” the opening track of his acclaimed 2015 album “To Pimp A Butterfly.”
“And when I did that with Kendrick, he told me he had some friends who were into the funk,” Clinton says. “And it was Flying Lotus and Thundercat.”
Brainfeeder at the Hollywood Bowl – the name references the record label founded by Flying Lotus – packages the electronic jams and experimental hip-hop of Flying Lotus with the classic funk of Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic at the Bowl on Saturday, with jazz-soul-funk bassist Thundercat, the alternative hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces, and DJ-producer the Gaslamp Killer rounding out the bill.
Clinton and most of those artists played the two-day Afropunk Fest Brooklyn at the end of August, and Clinton, 75, says he’s excited to team up with such eclectic younger artists there and now again at the Bowl.
“I’m glad we’re getting these kinds of shows coming up,” he says. “I like working with Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus. They all got the same enthusiasm we had when I first got Bootsy (Collins) and them with Funkadelic, and it became a whole new movement.
“It seems to be happening again,” Clinton says. “To me this is an outgrowth of that mentality. Each one of them is a different part of our history. One of them be like Funkadelic, one might be Parliament. One might be like Eddie Hazel or Bootsy or Bernie Worrell or Junie Morrison.”
Those last four names, of course, are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame through their work with Clinton and the Parliament-Funkadelic collective he founded and led for years. Ace players on songs such as “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” and “Flash Light” who broke ground in the studio and in live performance alike, a similarity Clinton says he sees in this cutting edge of the West Coast scene he’s embraced the last year or so.
“It was really refreshing to see musicians what that sound is and actually play that,” he says. “when I saw Kendrick and his live band it blew me away even more. I loved the album, but when I saw him do it live, my heart just flooded.”
Where once a band like the Roots stood practically alone for its willingness and ability to play hip-hop with live musical instruments, Clinton says he’s excited to see more and more artists challenging themselves that way today.
“Flying Lotus and Thundercat, that’s brand-new music,” he says. “They’re legitimate jazz musicians. Everybody got to up their game in rap, even if they’re doing it in a retro style.
“A couple of years ago it was very adolescent. It turns itself into jazz. It’s poetic.”
He’s well aware of the role his own bands and albums and songs have played in this music today, the P-Funk catalog an endless source of samples in rap and rock over the past three decades.
“You do that and then somebody comes along and says, ‘I want a piece of that,’” Clinton says. Which he likes on the one hand – “I appreciate it when I hear kids going, ‘That’s the new (stuff)’” – though he also thinks he and the rest of the band should be paid for it, too.
That last issue is behind a years-long legal battle to recover royalties and rights to the music, which in the years since Clinton cleaned up from old addictions is partly responsible for his higher public profile. His 2014 memoir, the awesomely titled, “Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You?” included much of his argument on that front.
His steady touring in recent years has also been part of a long-range plan to stay in the public eye – a documentary film is in the works, Clinton says – and keep earning money to support himself and his new-found addiction to lawyers and legal filings.
“I’ve been working 24/7 just to stay relevant and pay the bills,” he says. “Do the book, do an album, make the people know that I’m still relevant.
“I’m talking about a whole bunch of labels that didn’t have their game together when they started sampling so now they have to hide the fact that they didn’t pay anybody,” Clinton says. “It’s gonna be something that’s gonna hit the fan so hard. It’s gonna be like Enron.”
The next part of his strategy to land: The Mothership, a large-scale space ship prop that was a key part of the P-Funk mythology and its ’70s stage shows, which will go on public display when the Smithsonian’s when the new National Museum of African American History and Culture opens later this month.
“It is blowin’ me away,” Clinton says of the fact that Mothership will now be part of the nation’s history in this official way. “I’ve been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we’ve got stuff all over the place.
“But to see that space ship? I had it sitting in my studio for years, lighting it up and everything. But when I heard they were doing this thing I said, ‘Y’all take this thing.’”