Your entry point into one of the most influential musical legacies of the past 50 years.
by Lachlan Kanoniuk
Photo courtesy of Heineken
It’s one of the most influential legacies in modern music, still growing 50 years after its conception. It’s hard to narrow down the scope of the sprawling P-Funk family. But we can start with its progenitor, George Clinton. Beginning with doo-wop outfit The Parliaments, later shortened to Parliament, then expanding into the concurrent Funkadelic, and branching off into a convoluted family tree of affiliated acts and murky rights to band names and music ownership.
P-Funk’s influence cascades throughout generations since the late 1960s, most notably shaping the iconic sound of the iconic G-Funk era of West Coast rap. Current superstars Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, and more, have all paid homage.
With the release of the first new material under the Parliament moniker since 1980, and an impressive never-ending global tour led by tireless hype-man Clinton, P-Funk is truly alive and as strong as ever.
The Parliaments – (I Wanna) Testify
Released in 1967, (I Wanna) Testify is a feel-good slice of Detroit soul that became one of the most enduring entries in the P-Funk canon. The track was later reworked in 1972, after The Parliaments became Parliament and a more funked up Testify landing on the Up For The Down Stroke tracklist.
It’s still a staple of the raucous Parliament-Funkadelic live experience, five decades after its creation.
Funkadelic – Mommy, What’s A Funkadelic?
The opening track of Funkadelic’s debut album asks a worthy question. The leading lyric of “If you suck my soul, I will lick your funky emotion” goes some way to answering the query. A series of far-out adlibs follow, guided by slow and sticky guitar licks.
While Parliament went on to build a mythology full of recurring characters and over-arching narratives, Funkadelic laid their thesis statement all out on their opening track.
Parliament – Flash Light
On the surface, Flash Light is an irresistible dance jam – up there on the same echelon as Give Up The Funk in terms of P-Funk’s most universal hits. Lyrically, it deals with the antagonist Sir Nose D’Voidofffunk and his refusal to dance. It’s a good versus evil narrative, with good appearing in the form of funk.
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain
“Play like your momma just died.” The directive from George Clinton to guitarist Eddie Hazel has become almost as legendary as the song itself. The ten-minute guitar solo serves as the title and opening track to Funkadelic’s landmark 1971 album, showcasing Hazel’s standing as an all-time great virtuoso with a searing run of raw emotion.
It sets up a classic album, ranging from the proto-metal of Super Stupid to the freak-out jam Wars Of Armageddon.
Bootsy Collins – I’d Rather Be With You
A former member of James Brown’s J.B.’s, Bootsy Collins became one of the most extravagant figures of Parliament’s and Funkadelic’s recordings of the 1970s, providing bass for the majority of albums. With his trademark space bass, Bootsy became a bona fide solo star in his own right. I’d Rather Be With You showcases Bootsy’s inimitable voice in seduction mode, with signature P-Funk flourish throughout.
The track served as heavy inspiration for Childish Gambino’s Redbone, taken from Awaken, My Love! – an album that serves as a P-Funk homage in itself.
George Clinton – Atomic Dog
After the Parliament and Funkadelic empires imploded at the beginning of the 1980s, George Clinton released his first album under his own name. Computer Games heavily explored then-modern synths, and managed to produce a hit in Atomic Dog. The P-Funk hallmarks are there, featuring a catchy chorus-cry that wouldn’t feel out of place during Parliament’s glory years.
The indelible hook formed the basis for Snoop Dogg’s breakthrough, What’s My Name? to consolidate George Clinton’s stamp on the G-Funk era.
Funkadelic feat. Kendrick Lamar & Ice Cube – Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You?
George Clinton and Ice Cube previously linked up on 1993’s Bop Gun – which utilised a sample of One Nation Under A Groove, only borrowing the title from Parliament’s Bop Gun. Cube features here again, along with Kendrick Lamar repaying the favour after Clinton appeared on the heavily P-Funk indebted To Pimp A Butterfly.
Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You originally appeared on the sprawling 2014 album First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate without the guest verses, released 33 years after the previous official Funkadelic recording.
Parliament – I’m Gon Make You Sick O’Me
Soon after the release of Funkadelic’s last album, George Clinton began to tease new Parliament recordings with the assistance of Flying Lotus. While the status of FlyLo’s contributions to new material are yet to be confirmed, we do have new Parliament material in the form of song I’m Gon Make You Sick O’Me.
It sounds just like modern Parliament should, employing new devices while cultivating P-Funk’s rich mythology. 50 years on, and it feels like P-Funk will be eternal.