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|Funk||- compiled by DJ Asha
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Funk is a many splendored thing. Funk is a nasty vibe, and a sweet sexy feeling Funk is funkiness, a natural release of the essence within. Funk is a high, but it is also down at the bottom, the low-down earthy essence, the bass elements. Funk is at the extremes of everything. Funk is hot, but funk can be cool. Funk is primitive, yet funk can be sophisticated. Funk is a way out, and a way in. Funk is all over the place. Funk is a means of release that cannot be denied... Village Voice writer Barry Walters explained The Funk as well as anyone could: "Trying to put that thang called funk into words is like trying to write down your orgasm. Both thrive in that gap in time when words fall away, leaving nothing but sensation."
Funk is impossible to completely describe in words, yet we know the funk vibe when we see it. Funk is that low-down dirty dog feeling that pops up when a baad funk jam gets to the heated part, and you forget about that contrived dance you were trying, and you get off your ass and jam. Funk is that geeked feeling that comes over you when a superstar steps into the room - or onto stage - and everyone is hyped; The Funk hits you in competition, when that last shot you made was your best, yet you still dig down for that extra level for the overdrive that you didn't know was there; you know The Funk when you're on a date and it's time to make your move - The Funk is a rush that comes all over your body. Scientists have yet to discover that particular funk gland, but rest assured there are plenty of bodily excretions associated with it.
Funk is that nitty-gritty thang that affects people when things get heavy. Funk can be out of control, like the chaos of a rebellion, or instinctively elegant, like that extended round of lovemaking that hits overdrive. Funk is what you say when nothing else will do. When you've done all you can and there's nothing else: "Funk it!" George "Dr. Funkenstien" Clinton, the most heralded authority of funk philosophy, reduced The Funk to its barest essence: "Funk is whatever it needs to be, at the time that it is." Someone "funky-looking" is generally thought of as someone colourful and amusing, yet unkempt, undisciplined, somewhere between exotic and ridiculous. Whether or not "funky" is in style, there are funky-looking people everywhere. Quite often, these funky people are self-styled, creative, and in touch with themselves. Funkiness, then, is an earthy sense of self that is free of inhibitions and capable of tapping instincts and celebrating the human condition in all its forms. Funkiness is a way of life.
Funkiness in a person's behaviour or attitudes can mean anything from an ego trip, to a protest, to escapism. Funkiness is much more than a style, it is a means to a style. While baggy pants, nose rings, and a Hip Hop swagger are often little more than fashion statements, the combination of "far out" and "all in", the juxtaposition of what is in and what is not yet in, that original ensemble that is the post-modern person (particularly the post-modern African-American) is how people use funkiness as a guide to their uniqueness.
Funkiness for our purposes is an aesthetic of deliberate confusion, of uninhibited, soulful behaviour that remains viable because of a faith in instinct, a joy of self, and a joy of life, particularly unassimilated black American life. The black popular music of the early 1970s was a consistent reminder of this new affirming, colourful, ethnic aesthetic, and the Hip Hop culture of the 1990s has spawned a return to this less formalized foundation of life.
Along with R&B/Soul and Rap/Hip-Hop, Funk is one of the most enduring popular music forms to emerge out of the American black community. Although Funk predated the Disco revolution, Funk began to have a major impact on club music as Disco began to fade. Funk evolved from R&B but grew more earthy and rhythmic. A distinguishing feature is the beat emphasis of Funk. The primary accents are on the 1 and 3 counts (of 4). The guitar and horns often are used as primarily rhythmic and percussive instruments in Funk. As the rhythm became more prominent it also became more complex with extensive use of syncopation.
James Brown is the undisputed "Godfather of Funk." The "Hardest Working Man in Show Business" demonstrated the use of syncopation and scratching rhythm guitar on the influential hit Papa's Got a Brand New Bag. Over the years James continued to produce more rhythmically sophisticated Funk recordings, and he spread the gospel of Funk in his wild stage shows. In the 1970's, George Clinton and "Bootsy" Collins, a former member of James Brown's band, emerged as the leaders of the Parliament-Funkadelic conglomeration of bands. They brought Funk forward as a powerful force in popular music. Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk) and Flashlight brought Funk to the attention of mainstream audiences. Through most of the 1970's, Funk was rarely heard in discos. Parliament-Funkadelic concert events drew huge crowds that gyrated and danced for hours, but their audience was not a Disco audience. Disco presented a sound in which all four beats tend to be equal in accent. Some of the most intense examples of the disco beat are evident in the pounding bass beats of the work of Giorgio Moroder on hits such as Donna Summer's I Feel Love.
In 1978, Rick James laced his brand of Funk with a touch of Disco and produced the smash album Come Get It! featuring a brand of Funk that was palatable to dance audiences. He continued to have moderate success on the Disco chart until 1981's party anthem Give It To Me Baby became a #1 dance smash. Other performers helped bring the sound of Funk onto the dancefloor. The Gap Band's aggressive, bass heavy sound found a receptive audience. Songs such as Burn Rubber and Humpin' featured a sexual grind with a bit of bluesy attitude. Cameo carried the Funk standard onto dancefloors of the mid-1980's with the synthesizer-based beats of She's Strange and Word Up! Bootsy Collins - Ah...The Name is Bootsy, Baby! The Funk influence can be seen later in the 1980's in the work of superstars such as Michael Jackson and Prince. Billie Jean's heavy beat on the one is a testament to Funk's lasting influence. Wendy Melvoin's scratching guitar, the fuzzy bass, and vocals punctuated by grunts and moans on Prince's Kiss come together for a picture-perfect piece of Pop-Funk. The golden era of Funk is long gone, but the various elements introduced by seminal performers such as James Brown, George Clinton, and "Bootsy" Collins continue to be influential. Rap and Hip-Hop performers continue to sample pieces of Funk classics and celebrate the accent "on the one."
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