100 Greatest Artists
Parliament and Funkadelic
When I was going out in the Eighties, you could get your ass kicked if you put on Funkadelic's "(Not Just) Knee Deep" at a house party. Some DJs wouldn't play that song or "Flash Light," because a fight would start: The crazy motherfuckers at parties would become real crazy. "Knee Deep" was their coming-out music. At 15 minutes, it was so long and so good, it made you feel like now was the time. For whatever. George Clinton showed me that anything goes: You do what you feel.
Obviously, he had great musicians on those albums: Bootsy Collins on the bass; Bernie Worrell, the best keyboard player I've ever heard. Clinton would pull in people like James Brown's saxophone player Maceo Parker and anyone else he could find. The arrangements are always so unpredictable: high-pitched synthesizer sounds you never heard before, followed by straight-up beautiful music. He could turn the corniest things into funk.
My uncle Jerry was a DJ and introduced me to all the P-Funk records when I was a little kid: The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein, Mothership Connection. I loved them because they reminded me of cartoons, but they were crazy and psychedelic, and the superheroes were black men. To this day they still have the best album covers I've ever seen; they would sustain you as much as a video would today. I remember just sitting and staring at the cover of Motor Booty Affair; there was that picture of Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk with a big-ass bird breathing down his neck. My favorite characters were Star Child and Sir Nose, even though Sir Nose was a sucker who didn't swim and didn't like the funk. I was too young to go to the concerts, but I'd hear about them from my older brothers and sisters — about the huge stage shows, and one story about a fan who stripped off all his clothes and ran the length of the arena. That bugged me out.
In the end, nobody described George Clinton's music better than the man himself: It is "Cosmic Slop," it is funkadelic — funky and psychedelic. You feel a mothership connection. Clinton was a great marketer, in the best sense possible: He delivered what he promised. He was no Geraldo Rivera — he was Muhammad Ali or LeBron James. His music never went away on the West Coast, and you can still hear his mark all over music today. Parliament and Funkadelic were 30 years ahead of their time.
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