Shoot Your Shot

5 Aug

What exactly happened to funk after 1975?

The short answer is that it ran out of ideas. As the civil rights movement lost momentum, and the American cultural landscape changed, funk simply failed to adapt. The bravura style of Nixon-era political anthems (“You Can Have Watergate” and “Impeach the President“) found less traction during the Ford and Carter administrations. Social justice themes (“Am I Black Enough for You?“) also waned as the nation’s economic doldrums paralyzed growth and the popular imagination. By the time Reagan took office, hip hop had succeeded funk as the primary pop medium for social and political redress.

While its influence was felt through the 1980s, funk failed to top charts, ceding ground to modern soul, smooth R&B, and most importantly, disco. Funk was the primary forerunner to the disco craze; the initial dalliance between genres became permanent when the vinyl standard for club play changed from 7″ to 12″ singles. Whereas early funk entries relied on tight instrumentation and swift rhythmic progression from build to breakdown, the later songs began to sprawl. Under disco’s influence, funk artists mixed tracks for extended play and locked the tempo at a more regimented 120-130 BPM. As dance music continued to change, synthesizers replaced the Hammond B3 organ; Roland 808s replaced the funky drummer. And the music lost its nuts.

There were, of course, numerous exceptions. You could say that P-Funk made a solid run into the 90s but–as a snooty aside–I regard George Clinton about as seriously as I do Jerry Garcia. If you’re a fan, you probably don’t give a fuck. That’s partly my point. Other popular artists, such as Prince, Clarence Reid aka “Blow Fly”, and Cameo, made significant strides in the 1980s, pushing the limits in funk’s rhythmic arrangements and sexual candor. That being said, the cod pieces and heavy breathing fail to convince me against the obvious: the music lacks excitement.

This mix represents my most sincere attempt to find the raw energy in late-entry funk. None of the recordings were released before 1975 and some date as late as 1984. Expect a few nods at the era’s biggest competing influences: disco, Italio, electro, and Afro-futurist jazz. No? Suffice it to say that this compilation sounds a lot like a Grand Theft Auto soundtrack.

It’s a party mix. You should be fully prepared to get down or go to the gym before you listen. I’m serious.

Track List:
1. Bob James – Tappan Zee (Intro)
2. Spade Brigade – I’m Your Man
3. Pure Essence – Third Rock
4. Margaret Singana – Why Did You Do It?
5. Van Twist – Hot Wax
6. Roy Ayers – Everybody
7. Change – Paradise
8. Evelyn Champagne King – Love Come Down
9. Gil Scott Heron – Willing
10. Bohannon – Summertime Groove
11. Xavier – Do It To The Max
12. East Coast – The Rock
13. Idris Muhammad – Could Heaven Ever Be Like This?
14. Pure Essence – Wake Up

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