It's All About Funk

author: FunkyMatt date: 04/12/2005 category: genres' battles
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Ok, so we have a good number of articles on various types of genres of hard rock, emo, and all that crap (hey, I sometimes enjoy all that crap). I mean, I did see a couple of articles that weren't on those types of music. One on rap and one on ska, yay for those who had the nads to try and educate the masses of teenagers who forgot to take the Zoloft this morning who usually come to this website. Now, we all know that classic Rock is cool. Led Zep, Hendrix, Beatles, the good stuff. But did you know that at the same time, there was another wonderful musical movement going on at the same time? It was called Funk, and it was basically (well to put it in a nutshell) Black folks classic rock. That doesn't mean that you have to be a 40 year old black man to enjoy funk. No, funk is out there for everybody (except complete jerks) and just like classic rock, was played by a wide variety of people. Now, let me first tell you a little bit about how you can know if you're listening to funk...
  • You'd first know this by: 01. A more complex and conspicuous bassline. The bass is much more emphasized and celebrated in funk than it is in most rock n' roll. 02. Scratchy and somewhat high pitched guitar. Funk players love the wah wah pedal and often use high minor chords which they play in a scratchy and constant rhythm. Needless to say, guitar is often times more of a rhythm instrument than a melody instrument when it comes to Funk. 03. There will probably be a much wider variety of instruments in a funk band than in a rock band. Rock just needs vocals, bass, drums, guitar done. However, Funk, keeping very close to jazz roots, will often use trumpets, trombones, saxophones, and almost always includes the keyboards or synthesizers of some sort. 04. A wider vocal range. Most rock and roll has one guy singing, with some backup vocals comin in every now and then. Funk, however, will often have the whole band singing different vocal parts in order to create harmony, and sometimes different members will sing solos. This is very similar to a vocal group like the Temptations or maybe the Four Tops, except with more instrumentation in the music. 05. Smoother, more orthodox vocals. Funk bands usually have singers who are actually good singers in non-band form, unlike very many rock bands who have guys who can yell (not to dis these guys or anything, just tellin the truth) I mean, could you honestly imagine Steven Tyler of Aerosmith singing a lullaby or singing a hymn in church. That's some of the main ways to tell that you're listening to a funk band or song. The best way to tell you're listening to a funk band is if you're listening to a song and your toe starts tapping while your head starts bobbing rhythmically back in forth, and you find yourself trying to do a good Stevie Wonder impersonation while using your keyboard as a piano. Like I'm doing right now.
  • Now here are some superstitions about Funk 01. Funk is disco: they're completely different. The two main distinctions between Funk and disco are as followed: 1) Disco sucks; 2) Funk kicks ayasss! 02. George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic are great examples of the best kind of funk: haha no. Actually that's my opinion, not a big George Clinton fanatic. 03. All Funk has been sampled for rap songs: Not all of them, but most of them have (actually that's just a joke, I really don't know the percentage of Funk songs that have been rapped over, but I know very many rap songs that all are using the same funk song, most of them by George Clinton) Now let's go over a short history of Funk, including it's modern manifestations. First, there was jazz. Everyone knows a little bit about jazz. It was a popular form of black music in the thirties that had an infectious rhythm and very free moving melodies. People loved to dance to jazz. It was good stuff. Jazz continued to inspire many artists over the next few decades and continues to today. Now Jazz was the main squeeze in the more Northern and urban areas of the country, down in the Southern rural parts, blues and country were the two most popular forms of music. As you may already know, when country artists began playing blues and vice versa, rock and roll was born. Meanwhile, Jazz pretty much evolved within itself, eventually leading to Rhythm and blues which is basically a more rigid, constructed, and more importantly; coherent version of jazz. Versions of this early R&B would be Sam and Dave, Ben E. King, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Ray Charles, and a young Stevie Wonder. Another term for R&B was Soul music. As the late fifties and sixties rolled by, soul music seemed to blend with rock and roll more, but was still called soul music (however, with our 20/20 hindsight, we will call this Pre-Funk). Along with it's fusing with rock and roll, soul (I mean pre-funk) gained a much more free and emotional attitude (which kind of regressed it back to jazz in some sense). This produced artists like James Brown, The Isley Brothers, The Barkays (their main hit "Soulfinger"), Booker T. and the MGs (their main hit "Green Onions") among others. One artist took this Rock Attitude and Soul Rhythm to a whole new step, and he was the Great Sly motherfriggin' Stone!!! (sorry he's my favorite, I gotta give him super-props and btw, his middle name isn't motherfriggin' nor is his last name Stone, it's actually Stewart) Sly and the Family Stone became one of the most popular bands to come out of the late sixties, a racially and culturally diverse group who had an audience that was very diverse as well. They played along with the most popular rock bands of the day at Woodstock in 1969 yet at the same time topped the R&B charts. Their impressive repertoire includes the songs "Dance To The Music", "Everyday People", "Everybody Is A Star", "Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" and other lesser known but just as kick ass tunes as well. Other artists caught onto this new type of music pioneered by the likes of Sly and James Brown (there were others but I consider these two to be the most important funk pioneers). Many of the Funk artists were bands that had already been around for years but had there main popularity during the 70's Funk age, like Stevie Wonder, whose Funk era tunes are among his most well known (Superstition, Higher Ground, Sir Duke, etc.) Others were songwriters who had been writing for Soul artists for years but had big hits as performers in the seventies. People like Issac Hayes, who was writing most of Sam and Dave's songs but had hit mass popularity as an artist himself with his album Hot Buttered Soul and his score for the movie "Shaft". Another example is George Clinton, but I forgot who he wrote for before gaining popularity with Parliament Funkadelic. Many of the new artists who had become popular for the first time during the Funk era include the Ohio Players, Wild Cherry, War, Kool and the Gang, the Dazz band, and the O' Jays (which was a vocal group). Along with this came a number of rock bands who took a shot at funk, most notably the Rolling Stones song: "Miss You". Unfortanately, many funk artists began experimenting with a cruel mistress, no not drugs (although they did that too). No, this was something much worse which would probably be the big nail in funk's coffin: Disco. The word itself sends a shiver down my spine, maybe because it makes me think of my mom dancing with her friends after a long day at work and a wine cooler. ~shudder~ Disco (shudder) took the free spirit and the intelligent yet accessible attitude of funk, and cut it's balls off. Armed with synthesizers and polyester, the man attacked funk, luring great artists like the Ohio Players and Kool and the Gang like Bugs Bunny with a carrot into a deviant world of flashy lights and early metrosexuality. So, Please, Don't confuse KC and the Sunshine band with Funk, because if Republican mothers of two beautiful blonde haired children can dance to it, it ain't funk. Disco almost killed Funk. Funk had not gained enough mainstream popularity by the time Disco had so the average idiot on the street who wasn't a purist still had some difficulty telling the difference; and when Disco, like all stupid fads, suffered a huge backlash in the 80's, Funk suffered as well. This was because a lot of people were getting into funk by first getting into disco. You could dance to funk just like you can dance to disco, yet funk has so much more as some were finding out. But when no one gave a living crap about disco, no one gave a living crap about funk. Black music became R&B primarily, only with synthesizers. Some artists actually did this very well, like Micheal Jackson, and Hall And Oates (ok they weren't black but they still did Soul really well back in the eighties). Funk still lived though through some of the most popular artists of the day like Rick James and Prince. But as Rick James and Prince lost popularity, Funk seemed to go out of the mainstream, but it was still alive. Funk lived for a few years symbiotically with Rap music. Rap was really beginning to gain mainstream popularity in the late eighties and early nineties, and many of the Rap artists had grown up listening to funk, using many funk songs as samples for their songs or producing breaks that were very heavily Funk influenced (ex: Aint Nothin But A G Thang and pretty much the entire album The Chronic By Dr. Dre). In the mid-nineties, a Punk rock band had many chart toppers, and the whole time being heavily influenced by Funk. They were the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and with Flea's complex basslines and John Frusciantes's silent yet extremely skilled guitar playing, The Red Hot Chili Peppers brought back raw funk right under the noses of former Disco fans. As the Chili Peppers got older, they got better (at least in my opinion which is right anyways). They became more outspoken about their Funk influence and along with George Clinton's cameos in about a billion movies, funk began to have a rebirth. It is right now where we are witnessing this rebirth, be it through some pop bands like Maroon 5 and Justin Timberlake (hate them both, but sigh, have to admit their funkiness) or an artist who completely kicks it back to the olden days and does funk style (Like Andre 3000 of Outkast and his song Hey Ya). Funk is making a comeback, and expect to see more funk in the years to come (after all, I've got a band). Thanks for reading this extremely long article. Now, here's some music you should consider purchasing or illegally downloading if you are interested in Funk.
  • Sly And The Family Stone: Greatest Hits
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers: Californiacation
  • Rick James: Street Songs
  • Prince: 1999
  • Outkast: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
  • Issac Hayes: Hot Buttered Soul
  • James Brown: Any James Brown album will do
  • Steely Dan: Aja (hey they're pretty funky too) That's pretty much all I can think of right now, so hope you enjoyed the article, good night, and may the Funk be with you.
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