Rickey Vincent: Top Ten Sins of Omission From James Brown’s ‘Get on Up’

Rickey Vincet

Professor Rickey Vincent

The August 1, 2014 release of the James Brown biopic Get On Up has been a long anticipated event for many music fans and people that grew up with Soul Brother Number One as an integral part of their lives.  The film has been praised by mainstream critics and ripped by many who believe it did a disservice to one of the greatest African Americans that ever lived.  I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Many of Brown’s closest supporters such as Bootsy Collins and Charles Bobbitt have stated that while flawed, they enjoyed the film also.

If nothing else, the release of the film has given many of us “insiders” into the discourse of soul music a reason to publicly reassess the narrative of one of the most important black musicians – and black people – of our generation.

Chadwick Boseman as James Brown

Chadwick Boseman as James Brown

While Chadwick Boseman’s role as James Brown has been universally praised, and the producers have delivered an entertaining treatment of Brown’s rags to riches story, there are some omissions and issues of emphasis that stand out more and more as sins of omission, particularly when the subject matter is one of the Greatest African Americans that ever lived.

There has been strong criticism that of all the writers, producers and directors associated with the film, none of them are African Americans.  This is not a reason to avoid the film, but it is one reason why I was trepidatious when I went to see it.

One should approach the film more accurately as “Mick Jagger presents Get On Up” and the perspective will become clear.  Jagger, lead singer of the Rolling Stones, is a very sympathetic and strong supporter of soul music and the legacy of black entertainers in his work and of Western popular music in general.  He and the other producers are nevertheless coming from an outsider’s perspective and it is revealed in the film in many places.

Here is a – pared down – list of sinful omissions from the film:

1-Emcee Danny Ray does not exist in the film, yet Danny Ray was with James Brown longer than Bobby Byrd was, and was the reliable voice introducing “Mr Dynamite, Mr. Please Please Please himself…”  at countless concerts and events for over 40 years.  Danny Ray also donned the cape on Mr Brown during the shows and was integral to the stage act for decades.  During music performances, the film shows numerous times when the cape is placed on Mr. Brown but the cape holder is conspicuously anonymous.  This is inexplicable to any JB fan.  Why his character was omitted is unconscionable.  Similarly, longtime (black) business manager and confidante Charles Bobbitt was eliminated from the film altogether.  There were many backstage scenes in which Bobbit’s sage council and trustworthiness could have been shown, however briefly. Bobbitt’s loyalty was and is legendary, and for it to be rewarded by his omission is also unconscionable.

Fred Wesley was omitted from the movie

Fred Wesley was omitted from the movie

2-Fred Wesley does not exist in the film.  As Mr. Brown’s bandleader off and on from 1969 to 1975, Wesley was responsible for such classics as “Get On the Good Foot”  “The Payback,” “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” and “Mother Popcorn”  all of which were heard or referenced in the film, yet Wesley is nonexistent.

Further, Maceo Parker’s character was played by a heavy set, comic actor Craig Robinson that resembled Fred Wesley both visually and in terms of temperament. Robinson did not in any way resemble or reflect the smooth, slender dark chocolate hued Maceo.  Essentially Fred and Maceo were fused into one person. This was unforgiveable.  (It is plausible however in light of the fact that Fred Wesley was among the first of the sidemen to pen his own autobiography which delineated the trials and tribulations of working for the Godfather of Soul.  It is possible that the family members that “approved” the script were petty enough to request that Fred Wesley be removed from the story line)

Many of us music collectors figured that once the JB reissues came out in the 1980s, with liner notes from Cliff White and later Harry Weinger, that the days of ignoring the genius of the James Brown band were over… but with the omission of Fred Wesley from this film, they are back again.

Further, during Brown’s 1971 Paris concert, his last great one in the timeline of the film, there are cutaways to the white bandleader (David Matthews most likely) that night.  This was a subtle nod to the worldliness of James Brown, and a subtle erasure of Fred Wesley once again.  This was troubling to me because it reflects once again an outsider’s view of Brown’s music which ignores the genius of Fred Wesley in the creation and maintenance of the JB’s funk sound of the early 70s.

Lyn Collins3-The women are all cardboard cut-out characters with lines that a film school intern could have written, and probably did.  They were dimensionless tragic victims of Brown’s ambition, without any complications, back stories or personality.  Viola Davis’ role as Brown’s mother was particularly troubling, not because she can’t act, but because we’ve seen that act so many times before.  Almost no references to who these people were and how they dealt with life as black women during Jim Crow, was consistently troubling.

Furthermore, there were many other important women in Brown’s life and career, such as Anna King, Martha High, Lyn Collins, Marva Whitney and Tammi Montgomery a.k.a. Tammi Terrell, which the movie chose to wipe away from the narrative.

Brown’s third wife Adrienne was left out of the film, as was Brown’s companion Tomi Rae at the time of Brown’s death.  These were white women that Brown was passionate about and should have been seen.  While the chronology of the film did not make a necessity of their roles, their absence denies a particular element of Brown’s racial ideology that is more complex  – and reflective of the complexity of black life in America – and deserved to be seen as such.  This leaves little doubt that the film was from a white Brit’s viewpoint of blackness. In the absence of these women, Brown is seen as a racial simpleton, a victim of the binary logic of Jim Crow and little more.  He was far more than that.


H Rap Brown

H Rap Brown

4-The film re-creates absurd encounters with white pop culture such as the “Ski Party” sequence in great detail.  However Brown’s encounters with radical black leaders, while well documented in the literature on Brown, were only mentioned in passing.   Brown writes in his autobiography of a face-to-face meeting with black radical H. Rap Brown on the Harlem streets.  This would have been a priceless encounter and priceless opportunity to educate the audience, black white and other, of Brown’s steadfast positions on black pride and black power.  This was clearly a dimension that the (entirely white) team of writers and producers were not equipped to develop with any authority.

Further, the only references to Brown’s relationship to black power were portrayed in the context of his revealing to his confidante, his white manager Ben Bart.  It is an incongruity that would only be generated by a writer/producer with more affinity with the white manager than to the brother from the block.  This is where the ‘center’ of the story gets lost.  James Brown is a product of America to be sure, but he is first and foremost a product of Black America, and the film lost touch with this point just as the racial consciousness of the nation was on the rise, compelling Brown to remain in touch with his people in ways he saw fit.

5-The film could have dealt with Brown’s visits to Africa – his trip to Nigeria in 1970 when he and his band witnessed the genius of “The African James Brown,” Fela Kuti, and most importantly, his 1974 performance in Zaire ahead of the Muhammad Ali – George Foreman fight, the “Rumble in the Jungle.”  This was a true cultural moment appropriately named in the 1996 film When We Were Kings.  The filmmakers chose not to emphasize Brown’s worldwide impact as a musician and cultural icon of African / Black identity.


James brown say it loud6-The encounter with Brown’s recording of “Say it Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud” while exciting, was unsubtle and cartoonish.  Out of the blue – and inconsistent with the plot up to that point – the characters were dressed in African garb and natural hair.  Then just as quickly, that moment ends and the story moves on.  As if Black Power – and Brown’s popularization of Black Power came and went in a whiff, yet it is perhaps Brown’s most lasting contribution to the world.

There are any number of live performances on tape that could have been re-created to show Brown’s towering stance in the community at that moment.  Cutaways to the 1968 Olympic games, with the triumphant black power fists of Tommie Smith and John Carlos could have been shown, as “Say it Loud” was the #1 R&B song on the radio at that very moment.

Visual images of the Black Panthers, of Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver, Ron Karenga and others that represented what “black and proud” meant to the black community and the world community could have been shown.  This is the singular moment where James Brown did not simply cross over to the mainstream as a black artist, he made the mainstream cross over to black.  This is perhaps his greatest accomplishment, and the greatest omission from the film.

The cutaway from the gleeful chorus of “I’m Black and I’m Proud” in the film to Brown’s character shoveling dirt on a casket with a Jewish symbol is the most jarring and incomprehensible edit in the film.  This is a moment when a sensitive director (of color?) would have embellished the “Say It Loud” moments with cutaways to Brown’s influence on black popular culture, fashion, language, style and identity.

A few seconds would not have been difficult to produce, but instead a moment was cut off, crushed in order to emphasize Brown’s sentiment toward his white manager – deliberately identified as Jewish – just as the film was embellishing Brown’s blackness.  It was an inexplicable jump cut from a film making perspective, and a racially insensitive one.  It is hard to imagine an African American director making that kind of edit on this film, in that moment.  (Furthermore, the son of manager Ben Bart contends that Mr. Brown did not even attend Ben Bart’s funeral….)


7- The film could have easily referenced a young (black)Michael Jackson doing the “James Brown moves” as part of the Jackson 5 audition for Motown.  Mick Jagger was not the only superstar transformed – note for note and move for move by James Brown.  During a lifetime achievement award for Brown on BET in 2003, Michael Jackson emerges (at the peak of his popularity) to introduce his mentor James Brown and to educate the mass of MJ supporters where he got his funk from.  This is on tape and could be reconstructed like the other Jim Crow era events on tape.  The King of Pop’s profound debt to James Brown could have been mentioned in less than one sentence but was omitted.


8- The final performance sequence in which Brown walks to a stage and sings “Try Me” with Bobby Byrd and Vicki Anderson in the audience was given a deliberately intimate feel.  But anyone that saw James Brown in the years after his prison release in the early 1990s saw a spectacle of a stage show, with tall glamorous dancing girls and a sprawling stage set reflecting the scope of Brown’s triumphant return.  This final scene implied that Brown was a shell of his earlier star power, which was not the case.

Further, the decision to render the climactic scene of Brown’s triumphant life to a forlorn Jim Crow era ballad speaks volumes about the orientation of the all white, predominantly British filmmakers.   This did not reflect the triumphant nature of the man’s life.  The previous scene, in which Brown is seen as a young boy, still wearing the painted number one on his chest (from one of the few illuminating scenes about the racism of Jim Crow) speaks to the camera and says “I paid the cost to be the boss.”  That would have been the proper moment to end the film.  On the undisputed triumph of Brown’s life.  Period.


9- The film harps on Brown’s isolation and loneliness in the years from the death of his son Teddy in 1973 until his arrest in 1988, as if those intervening years were not relevant to his life.  Only to outsiders to the black experience would this be plausible.

The narrative should have continued until The Payback in 1974, and should have featured Browns’ dominant presence on Soul Train, and his strong relationship with Soul Train host Don Cornelius.   A behind the scenes dialogue between Brown and Cornelius about the state of black people and black music would have been priceless.  But apparently this was “not important enough” in this film about yet another self-made Jim Crow survivor.

In addition there exists footage of a young Al Sharpton on Soul Train during an interview giving Brown a “Black Record” (a prize for having the best black song of 1974, “ThePayback”).  Sharpton would go on to become a “surrogate son,” stand-in for Teddy, and an important part of Brown’s self-recovery.  But the producers chose to simplify Brown’s loneliness, as if he was in a death spiral for 15 years and not a single event was worthy of inclusion until 1988.  And yet to these filmmakers the entire comic-tragic highway chase was worthy of detailed reconstruction on film.


James Brown and Afrika Bambaataa10-James Brown, through his raw Soul Power in the late 1960s and early 70s, taught us how to frame our blackness.  Perhaps more than Malcolm, more than Huey & Bobby, it was Soul Brother Number One that gave us the fuel for our emerging black identity. During the first half of the 70s with songs like “Get on the Good Foot,” “Make it Funky,” “Hot Pants,”  “Doing it to Death,” “Funky President,” “My Thang,” “Papa Don’t Take No Mess,”  “Take Some, Leave Some,”  “Mind Power,”  Lyn Colllins’ “Think,” Fred Wesley’s “Damn Right I Am Somebody” and “The Payback” all helped us define our “blackness” in a certain way.  This film completely missed a means of truly bringing that to light. A quick passage to a deejay in the mix, or a montage of rappers sampling JB, might have illuminated this essential aspect of the great man’s life.

The entire creation of hip hop should be seen as an outgrowth of this fact, yet the fact that hip hop has taken over the world, and is STILL and FOREVER based on the work of James Brown was barely even mentioned.

Having said all of this, I truly enjoyed the film and would recommend that people go and see it while it is in the theaters.

People should realize that it has been many years since we have all been able to see a truly impactful performance of The Godfather of Soul.  He was performing up to his death in 2006, but those later shows were relatively mild showcases of a pop superstar rather than a burning beacon of black self-awareness.  This film brings back Soul Brother Number One in many entertaining ways despite all of its flaws.

There have been complaints of “why can’t black filmmakers do projects like these” and that white film producers have such privilege they can just peruse wikipedia and stumble on a black cultural icon and get a film green-lighted about them.  It is not that simple.  The Ray movie took years to get approved, and it was produced by Taylor Hackford, a white man.  I also noticed with chagrin that at the peak of the popularity of black film makers in the 1990s with Spike Lee, the Hudlin Brothers, John Singleton, Mario Van Peeples, Oprah Winfrey and others, I don’t remember any of them seriously taking on a biographical project involving a black musical icon.  So stop hating on this very thoughtful and professional production and Get Up Offa That Thang and do something to change this situation!

Get On Up should open the door for other films to focus on more events in Brown’s life with greater detail, emphasis and affection.    It is a good first step, on the good foot…

written by Professor Rickey Vincent..

author of History of Funk, Party Music and Host of KPFA’s History of Funk

james Brown and Rickey Vincent







Some Funky Christmas and Holiday Songs To Keep You in Step


There’s been scores of Hip Hop Christmas songs ranging from Run DMC‘s Christmas in Hollis to Eazy E‘s Merry Mutha…. Christmas.. I put a few of them together to bring that Holiday cheer.. Enjoy.. Feel free to add your own… Davey D

Beat Street Christmas Rap


Kurtis Blow Christmas Rap


Run DMC Christmas in Hollis


Santa Baby Rap


Sypda D ‘Ghetto Santa’


Snoop Dogg & Nate Dogg & Tha Dogg Pound


Grace Jones Little Drummer Boy


James Brown ‘Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto’


James Brown ‘Soulful Christmas’


Jimmy Jules & the nuclear soul system


Jive Turkeys ‘Funky Christmas’


Lauryn Hill ‘Little Drummer Boy’


Cee-Lo Mary ‘Did You Know’


Surf MCs ‘New Years Day Song’


**For Adults only..Here’s a couple of dirty Holiday songs that may make you laugh or cringe but nevertheless are classics of sorts including the new Too Short

Eazy E Merry MuthaPh— X-Mas


Master P Christmas in the Ghetto


Too Short – Hanukkah Favorite Time Of The Year


Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

What’s a Jigga to Do? To Barney or not Barney?

Harry BelafonteAt the height of his career actor, singer Harry Belafonte had a variety show which was exploding in the ratings.. He was bringing on all sorts of guests and making things pop..There was one problem, TV stations in the South disliked the fact that he had racially mixed cast.. The networks stepped to Harry and told him he could continue the show, but he needed to tone things down and make some adjustments and they would give him the World.. Belafonte turned down the offer and quit the show the next week..

This would not be the first time Belafonte would walk away from something so tempting and potentially lucrative from the world of Art and Entertainment..He did this on several occasions.

Fast forward to 2013.. We have a high-end department store named Barneys New York with a reputation for humiliating its African-American customers even as African-American celebrities who are crossed over pop icons, make the store a desirable place.

jay-z-folded-225The latest incident where a 19-year-old young man was arrested after buying a belt has led to calls of boycott and punishment for the store. Caught in the middle is rap star Jay Z who has lucrative deal with Barneys New York which includes a clothing and jewelry line..Up to now Jigga has remained silent as calls for him to end his relationship with the store grow louder with each passing day..

Now the rubber in many ways is meeting the road and question becomes What’s a Jigga to do? Keep the money and make his presence felt and influence from the inside? Or does he pull the plug and make a public statement that racial discrimination will not be tolerated by entities he’s involved in no matter what the cost? Is this about Jigga? The community or is this case of we got bigger fish to fry?

Back in the days, James Brown did a song called ‘America is My Home‘ where he gave props to the US and said it was the best country on earth.. Problem was it came in the aftermath of the riots in Watts, Malcolm had been killed and the Black Power Movement was emerging.. Folks stepped to Brown and dissed the song, SNCC leader H Rap Brown had a meeting with J Brown about the song and pushed him to do something grand..

James Brown

James Brown

Brown responded to the pressure and produced the anthem ‘Say it Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud’.. Almost overnight Brown lost radio airplay and concert dates, because his crossover audience perceived him as a racist for doing the song..

He definitely took some financial hits, but the community loved him for it.. What’s a Jigga to do? What would James do? What would Belafonte do? Will his charitable presence be enough to turn the tide?

LL Being Pushed to Step Up Like James Brown Was After He Did a Race in America Song

Davey-D-yellow-225-frameMany have been up in arms about LL Cool J‘s lyrics in the song Accidental Racist where he expresses forgiveness for slavery (iron chains) if white America can accept him wearing sagging pants and a gold chain.. He explains that he has no problem with white people rocking the confederate flag if they don’t get freaked out with him wearing a doo rag..

The out cry against LL has been harsh and swift.. Many have resorted to calling him LL Coon J, remembering how he famously came out in support of Republican Governor George Pataki who was vying for a third term against Black gubernatorial candidate Carl McCall. Fellow rappers like Rhymefest have called upon LL to come get a history lesson. NY Oil formerly of the UMCs jumped in the fray and called for an intervention. In fact Oil reworked LL’s classic cut I’m Bad’  where he provides a history lesson on Confederate General Robert E Lee who LL name checks and the Confederate Flag.

NY Oil

NY Oil

NY Oil spoke to my Black Creative Arts class yesterday and explained it was important to publicly push for correction because he sees first hand in his role as an educator on how artists and celebrities influence actions and the thoughts of young people. He said he didn’t want folks to over simplify the legacy and institutions of slavery and Jim Crow and act like these are things to sweep under the rug.

He noted that it’s clear from the current state of poverty, mass incarceration and other societal ills institutional racism is alive and well.. NY Oil referenced as proof, what was going on in his hometown New York City around Stop-N-Frisk  where Black and Brown men are targeted to the tune of 90% with over 5 million stops made and less than 10% yielding any sort of violation…

NY Oil had stepped in the arena and felt it was necessary to call LL out and ‘push him back into greatness’.. He said he wants LL to respond and do better..

James Brown

James Brown

When hearing those remarks  I could not help but think of another great artists who had this happen to him. His name was James Brown..soul brother number one..the hardest working man in show business. The story goes as follows in 1967 at the height of the Black Power Movement,  two years after Malcolm X was assassinated and the Watts Riots jumped off and one year after the Black Panthers formed in Oakland and SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee ) had taken a more militant approach to resolving issues concerning Black folks, James Brown recorded a song called ‘America is My Home‘.. Although sentimental to Brown, it came across as corny to many others and outright coonish to many in the movement.

Folks stepped to Brown pretty hard about that song and pushed him…In fact there’s a famous story about James Brown having a meeting with SNCC leader H. Rap Brown (know known as Jamil Al Amin) and Rap expressing his disdain for that song and pushing for James to do something meaningful for the people.. The end result was James Brown recording a song a year later that went on to be a Black power anthem.. ‘Say It Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud‘. We should note after Brown did that song, he caught major heat from white folks and even had the record pulled from many radio stations..

In the clip below from the 1970s interview Brown talks about the concern about Black athletes and entertainers and how they were being used by white power structure. He also talks about how culture is dangerous if not informed by politics..



Rickey Vincent

Rickey Vincent

This morning I spoke with my radio colleague Ricky Vincent  better known as the Uhuru Maggot, He just finished penning his second book. The first was called The History of Funk.. This new one is called Party Music The Inside Story of the Black Panthers band and how Black Power Transformed Soul Music..

In our conversation, Vincent also noted that Brown always defended his song ‘America is My Home‘.  He explained that Brown always held a sentimental feeling for this country and reflected those feelings in the song. In defending the song, he was able to point out that he had done a number of songs for the people with the movement in mind. Ultimately Brown was about enhancing what he described as the ‘revolution of the mind’

With that being said, Vincent noted that H Rap did indeed step to James Brown, but it wasn’t some planned out formal conversation. The two literally ran into each other in the street. Also it wasn’t the only conversation Brown had with movement leaders.

H Rap Brown

H Rap Brown

Vincent noted that’s important to understand, because back in those days running into an entertainer was not unusual. In fact it was commonplace. It was a reflection of the type of  mindset many entertainers had.. They needed and wanted to be with the people. Brown and other popular artists at that time were always in the mix and amongst the people. They didn’t have walls up and handlers keeping them apart. It’s not like today where are top stars are sequestered by bodyguards, PR folks and corporate interests that ultimately wind up informing and controlling them. James Brown heard from more than just H Rap Brown about that song.

Vincent continued my noting it was always made clear to Brown and other artists that if they wanted to be popular and in step with their audience their music needed to reflect where the folks were at and at that time the Civil Rights struggle and Black Power Movements was what was happening.  It was made crystal clear to Brown that his reputation was in jeopardy and so he responded with ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud‘.. The music was a reflection of the movement and the movement was a people’s movement.

With respect to LL Cool J and his song ‘Accidental Racist‘,  Vincent pointed out, that LL who lacks a body of work addressing key issues of the day was already on shaky ground when he stepped into the recording booth. The fact that his song did not connect with many in the Black community  is a reflection of the increasing widening gap between pop entertainers and the movement or lack of a movement. Sadly, today LL and other pop artists don’t have to reflect any movement sentiments in order to be financially successful today. It also appears that credible leaders don’t have much access to him the way they did during Brown’s hey day.

(on a side note it appears that EMI pulled down all the videos to the Accidental Racist song, but this video lays out the lyrics..)


LL Cool J RedVincent expounded by noting there was a constant flow of information from the community to the artists and vice versa. Now it seems walled off even at a date and time when we have so much new technology. Compounding this divide is the fact that pop music is showered upon via broadcast mediums making it easily accessible and overtly familiar while message and conscious music is not. He talked about the number of artists who have message type songs being discouraged and sometimes outright refused by their label to put them out, much less have it promoted.

Although we didn’t speak about this in our conversation this morning, it should be noted that in our respective works over the years both myself and Vincent have highlighted the role of NATRA (National Association of Television and Radio Association) and the important role they played in furthering the Civil Rights and Black power messages of the past.. Dr King talks about that at length in in 1967 speech to NATRA and clearly states that there is no Civil Rights Movement without those radio taste makers of the day getting the information to the people. He also talks about the important role Soul Music plays in bridging important divides.  Rickey Vincent’s new book takes that conversation about the transformative nature of Soul Music to new heights.. be sure to check for it..


Here’s a link to the full NATRA speech http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wxBCl1RDwA


The History of Hip Hop And Funk.. Bay Area Style

Funk photoWhen all is finally said and done , there will be quite a few things that folks will be able to say about hip hop music. First it was born out of the African-American community and in many ways has managed to serve the role of the modern-day griot. It has managed to be a reflection and statement of who we are and what we were about and like the West African griot who was charged with passing along the village history, customs and mores through songs and narratives [African Oral Tradition], hip hop has also managed to link generations and keep some of customs and mores alive..especially on the music tip.

Folks may recall how rappers brought artists like James Brown and Donald Byrd back into the forefront of Black music during the mid 80s when their music was freely sampled in every which way, shape and form by literally hordes of artists. Back then folks may recall the commonly expressed sentiment that many ascribed too..”

if it wasn’t for the rap artists James Brown would be unknown to the younger generation

“And to a large degree there was a lot of truth in that statement, after all, at that time Black radio wasn’t aggressively promoting a format in which they would highlight “classic” artists like Brown while maintaining their appeal to younger listeners… The result was many young white listeners being able tell you all about pop icons like the Beatles and Elvis while artists like Brown were relatively unknown to the young Black listener, at least until hip hop came along. It”s important to note all this because another facet about hip hop is that it allowed folks and still allows folks to build upon their musical past…

James Brown

James Brown

The Brown sampling phenomenon in the mid-late 80s was the result of younger people reflecting their musical past. Most of the artist putting out records at this time were from New York and James Brown was not only an artist that mom and dad grooved to, but it was an artist that their older brothers and sisters grooved to in the late 70s when block parties were common place and hip hop was still in its embryo stages… The break beats that could be found within the grooves of James Brown records were the sounds that really set off these early hip hop jams.

So what does all this have to do with p-funk and its relationship to hip hop? Well one of the great things about hip hop is that it has always been an easily accessible form of expression with each participant being able to bring into the fold their own experiences and musical background. So while brothers back east during the late 80s were building off their musical experiences involving James Brown and hip hop culture dating back to the late 70s, brothers out west who were just starting to release hip hop records were bringing a whole other set of musical experiences to the table. Much of it centered around artists like George Clinton, Bootsy Collins George Duke and Roger & Zapp to name a few. Simply put, brothers out west brought p-funk to the hip hop round table.

Now upon reading this there are a lot of folks who are immediately gonna reach back into time and point to the p-funk style hip hop music of EPMD, especially since they dropped the ’88 classic tune “You Gots To Chill” which looped the now infamous “More Bounce To The Ounce” by Zapp and Kool and the Gang‘s Jungle Boogie.. Many rap fans consider this jam to be the first record to incorporate a p-funk style sample.

In addition, these same rap fans may be quick to point out that cuts like “Knee Deep” and “More Bounce To The Ounce” were staple items in a b-boy’s record crates. Back in the days, many a dj cut up these tracks while an emcee flowed. And while it’s safe to say that Erik & Parrish earned their spot in the history books with “You Gots To Chill“, they weren’t the first to use music from the p-funk treasure chests… In addition, EPMD’s usage didn’t reflect the special relation and love the San Francisco / Oakland Bay Area had for funk.

Rickey Vincent

Rickey Vincent

Ricky Vincent better known as the Uhuru Maggot is a Bay Area music historian who earned his stripes during the 80s for his radio work on KALX, UC Berkeley’s college station… and can now be heard every Friday on KPFA 94.1 FM… Vincent has not only chronicled funk music through his History Of Funk radio shows, but he has written his doctorate thesis on the genre..and has now just penned a book for St Martin’s Press with an intro from George Clinton himself.

This work will undoubtedly be a definitive and comprehensive work on this facet of Black music… In a recent interview where Vincent was asked about the Bay Area’s love for funk and its relationship to hip hop, he broke things down and explained that there has always been a deep seeded love affair with -funk ..He noted that George Clinton has always claimed there was something ‘heavy’ about the Bay Area funkateers.. Vincent noted that so involved was that relationship that Clinton recorded part of his live album “P-Funk Earth Tour” right here at the Oakland Coliseum.

This [The Bay Area] was probably the only place that he could capture that strong P-funk vibe

Dr Dre

Dr Dre

If that wasn’t enough, Oakland was city where the mothership first landed. This took place in 1976. For those who don’t know the mothership was brought back into the forefront when Dr Dre landed it in his video ‘Let Me Ride‘. Vincent elaborated by noting that the landing of the mothership was a major turning point. It could be interpreted as the second coming of Christ. And furthermore, Vincent explained that there are many facets of the funk as prescribed by George Clinton that are based upon ancient African religion. It encouraged folks to move in a spiritual direction. In fact many of the songs Clinton performed were nothing more than modern-day spirituals that were ripe with metaphors that held religious connotations. For example the song ‘Flashlight‘ was really a gospel song which called upon the Lord to shine some light on the ‘funk’ [hard times] that Black people here in America were experiencing.

Al Eaton

Al Eaton

The Bay Area’s Al Eaton, a veteran producer established himself by being Too Short‘s early producer. In addition Al had a hand in the production end back in the days for such well-known Bay Area acts like Dangerous Dame, Rappin’ 4 Tay and E-40 & The Click who were than just starting out their careers. Eaton expounded upon Vincent”s assessment by noting that while p-funk had a strong hold in the Bay Area it wasn’t the only funk kicking’ up dirt. “It wasn’t just p-funk, but it was the whole musician scene that put the Bay Area on the map, ” Eaton noted. Groups like Tower Of Power, Cold Blood, Maze going all the way back to Sly Stone in the late 60s all had big names and helped shape the Bay Area music scene.

“There”s always been a funk thing going on in the Bay Area-It’s always been funk base central. There’s always been lots of musicians on the crest, who didn”t make it to the big time but yet had names around town.” , Eaton pointed out. Funk bands like Johnny Talbert and the Thangs, 2 Things In One and Marvin Holmes and The Uptights were some of the funk bands that immediately came to mind.

Eaton pointed to several factors that may influenced the Bay Area to embrace the funk. First off, many of the musicians who played for these bands back in the late 60s now have kids who are now into hip hop. He also made it known that when he was coming up there was at least 2-3 bands on every block. “Each one was trying to get to the next level and hence it made for a very competitive situation.”, he noted

Rappin' 4Tay

Rappin’ 4Tay

Eaton’s last reason for the Bay Area’s embrace of funk focused on a famous movie entitled The Mack. “It seems like all the Bay Area rappers at one point or another were influenced by The Mack. ” , Eaton said. The movie depicted lots of characters real life players and pimps who many Bay Area artist have directly or indirectly tried to emulate try to emulate. Eaton went on to add that phrases like ‘Player’s Club‘ and ‘Pimp Of The Year‘ which were borrowed by SF rapper Rappin’ 4 Tay and Oakland artist Dru Down reflected the raw gritty attitude street vibe often associated with funk. “Funk is here because it’s always been here”, Eaton concluded, “And there’s been a lot of musicians laying down the groundwork for years”.

Eaton made mention of Sly Stone and spoke about how important he was in developing the funk scene here in the Bay Area… Vincent took it a step further by noting that artists like George Clinton were influenced by Stone who once upon a time ruled the city of Vallejo back in the late 60s-home of funky Bay Area artists like E-40, Potna Deuce, Khayree, Young Lay, Mac Dre and Mac Mall to name a few..Vincent gave Sly props for being the first musician to come out and dress in freaked out ostentatious outfits. This of course was later picked up and mimicked by Clinton and his p-funk mob..”Sly managed to package all the energy of James Brown while embracing the hippie vibe which was pervasive because of the summer of love among other things taking place about that time”.

When speaking on the subject of funk and hip hop Bay Area style, no discussion would be complete without talking about the work of Shock G lead rapper and producer for Digital Underground. In late 1987 several months before EPMD hit with their track “You Got’s To Chill” Digital Underground made a lot of noise with a hard hittin’ song entitled ‘Underwater Rimes‘.

Here Shock incorporated sampled riffs from the Parliament classic ‘Aquaboogie’ and cleverly weaved all sorts of p-funk like characters and elements into the song, including MC Blowfish. For the most folks it was hard to believe Clinton himself didn’t have a hand in the production. Eventually Clinton did come aboard and lend a helping hand in Digital’s second lp ‘Sons Of The P‘. It was on this lp that Shock felt DU was a head of its time because of their liberal use of the moog synthesizer.. Nowadays artists like Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube have been on hit with songs that utilize this device to provide that buzzin’ bassline…


ShockG-posterShock G pointed that funk was heavy all around the country except New York where he spent a lot of time growing up. He went on to explain that there were two things going on in New York City..”First of all, disco had taken off in a big way and hip hop was starting to become big among the younger people. The result of this activity was that New York missed out on the P-funk”.

Shock explained that he made a deliberate attempt to bridge the gap between hip hop and p-funk. He noted that while a lot of his buddies in New York were true to the game with respect to hip hop however, they constantly fronted on George Clinton. Shock’s exposure to funk came when he moved down to Florida to stay with his dad. Folks in his house and school were fanatical about p-funk. He began fusing hip hop with George’s music out of necessity. “We would try and play some NY based underground break beats like ‘Love Is The Message or ‘Dance To The Drummer’s Beat‘ and it they would scare folks off the dance floor.” He eventually won them over when he started cutting up p-funk songs…

As Shock became engrossed with p-funk he found himself heading out west to the Bay Area because he had heard the vibe for p-funk was not only strong but supportive of the style of music he was trying to create. “One of the reasons I decided to move I to Oakland was because Oakland was putting p-funk on way back…and the vibe was strong..plus it was the only place in the country where they had a radio show dedicated to the funk”. Shock of course was referring to the Uhuru Maggot’sHistory Of Funk Show‘.. Eventually Digital’s first singles were dropped on the Uhuru Maggots Show. The first hip hop based show in which Shock dropped DU material was mine on the same station… KALX.

An interesting aspect that Shock brought to light was the fact that he felt that George Clinton was heavy on the Black side with both his concepts and lyrics… “George’s music was unselfish and promoted brotherhood… It reminded people of Black festivities and celebrations”. Shock also noted that George was very conscious and all about the upliftment of Black people.

Originally Digital started off the same way.. In fact their original name was Spice Regime and they were attempting to experiment and become the Black Panthers of hip hop complete with berets and all that. Two things happened that forced DU to switch..One was the emergence of Public Enemy and their beret wearing S1Ws. The second was the overwhelming popularity of Humpty Dance and the character ‘Humpty Hump‘ which force the group to momentarily move away from the conceptual p-funk style vibe that eventually emerged on their second lp ‘Sons Of The P.


Another longtime player in the Bay Area p-funk hip hop scene is actually Flava Flav‘s cousin, the Supergroovalisticalfunkuponablack C-Funk. OGs of the Bay Area hip hop scene will recall that C-Funk an East Palo Alto native started out with the name Captain Crunch, but a certain cereal company came forth with some court orders forcing him to change. However, C-Funk along with his partner Mozilla the Funk Dragon have definitely made some noise around town.

In 1989 under the group name Rated X, they released a funky track entitled ‘Law Of Groovity‘. Two years later under the name Funk Lab Allstars, C-Funk came with it a p-funk style lp entitled ‘Music From A Motion Picture Rap Funk Track‘ Included on that was a slamming track entitled ‘La Da Da‘. His big hits came in ’92 with the release of the lp ‘Two Stoags’ in which C-Funk did as so many other Bay Area hip hop producers have started to do..abandon sampling and start playing the music.


C-Funk spoke candidly about the funk, “Funk is not a fad..I’ve been with the funk before rap kicked in ..I’ve been with the funk when it died down, I’ve been with when its in hip hop and when people decide to go away, I’ll still be with the funk”. C-Funk pointed out that he feels there are a lot of players who ain’t true to the game when it comes to funk. He noted then when its time to go the next step, musically, a whole lots of folks are not gonna bring the funk with them. “I won”t abuse the funk like brothers did James Brown..When its time to go to the step, I’ll go but with the funk”, he asserted.

Like so many other Bay Area folks C-Funk noted that his history for the music goes back to when he was 8 years old and his Uncle Chief who was a die hard funkateer would take him to Parliament concerts. For C-funk its more than just a music but a lifestyle that’ll keep on evolving. C-Funk’s most recent lp was released on the independent label Scarface records which was owned by Paris. Entitled “3 Dimensional Ear Pleasure”, the underlying message to this lp was to ‘Tune In now because you won’t know funk until you C-funk’… He also collborated with Shock G on a few projects…

Paris the Black Panther of hip hop, CEO of Scarface Records and producers for the hit group Conscious Daughters , is himself no stranger to the funk. On his last album… ‘Gorilla Funk‘ is just that a reworking of the Funkadelic classic ‘Knee Deep‘ and a derivation of George Duke‘s ‘Dukey Stick‘. Paris assessed the Bay Area”s music scene this way, “Funk for the most part has always been a west coast thing..

In other parts of the country people have been more in tuned with other types of music..jazz and dance hall seem more prominent back east, but here in the Bay Area it’s all about the funk”. Paris went on to explain from a producer’s stand point that funk has found an increased resurgence in popularity due to the fact that many folks are into hearing jams that have fuller and more complete production.


Funk music allows one to dig deep and present a high gloss more complex type of sound. Back east the high gloss end of production is personified by the works of artist like US3 or Justice System while here its all the funk players. ‘Gorilla Funk’ certainly stood out on the high gloss end. Here Paris went out of his way to hire studio singers for the harmonies and session players for some of the instruments. Paris explained that for a while people moved out of the era of song writing and into the era of track making.. When trying to recreate funk via live instruments one learns to pay close attention to the song and consequently incorporate those elements of music that you really love.



Khayree, producer of two of the Bay Area”s hottest artists Young Lay, Mac Mall and Ray Luv has been in the game dating back to the time when there was a female group called New Choice who dropped a record back in the mid 80s called ‘Cold Stupid‘. Khayree of course produced them.. He summed up the funk situation this way, “My involvement with music goes beyond George Clinton, I grew up on the musicians that taught George, like Sly Stone, Donny Hathaway and Jimi Hendrix“.

Khayree went on to say that he tries not follow trends and hence if his music sounds like something that could classified as funk, it’s not because he attempted to be a part of the band wagon, but because he did things from the heart. Khayree like everyone mentioned in this article is an accomplished musician who has long learned the value from not sampling. When you play you can come from the heart” he noted. In addition he doesn”t have to pay for use of samples. The funk elements found in songs like Ray Luv’s ‘Get My Money On‘ and Mac Mall‘s ‘Sick With This‘ Perhaps the most important feature about funk was that much of the music when initially introduced appealed to folks in the hood. This was crucial because funk landed at a time when so much of Black music was either being diluted or in some cases avoided altogether by Black music radio stations.



Afrika Bambaataa

Afrika Bambaataa

Afrika Bambaataa once noted that hip hop was the result of Black music radio not keeping funk alive in New York City… Author Nelson George confirmed that statement in his book the ‘Death Of Rhythm & Blues‘ in which he spoke about Black radio stations diluting the music from the hood with some other stuff that was ultimately designed to appeal to a downtown, hipper, more affluent, [whiter audience] and not the young black and Puerto Rican audience that listened to a radio more than any other ethnic group.

By the mid 70s Black music radio in New York wasn’t kicking a lot of music across the airwaves that was hitting on point in other parts of the country.. In the late 70s I recall a whole lot of disco songs being played… Brothers from around the way were doing block parties and playing old James Brown, Sly Stone and break beats…while outside New York in places as close as New Haven Connecticut, brothers were jamming to groups like Fat Larry’s Band, The Barkays and Mass Production

For example, I recall hearing jams like ‘Fire Cracker‘ by Mass Production outside the Big Apple, but never really hearing too much if at all within the city’s five boroughs… Mean while in places like the Bay Area where hip hop had not really surfaced the grooves put out by these types of groups were the ‘ phat buttahs ‘ of the day.

Khayree, Al Eaton, Paris, Shock G and C-Funk are just a few of a long line of artist/producers who have helped keep the funk a strong force in the Bay Area and begin to influence the rest of the hip hop nation. There are still lots of others in these here parts that are making lots of noise with their new brand of funk including E-40 and The Click“s producer Studio Tone, Oakland rap duo/producers, Easki and CMT, En Vogue producers Foster & McElroy, George Clinton collaborator and long time funkateer Dave Kaos and SF rap start JT The Bigga Figga. All have come to the hip hop roundtable with funk in their back pocket.

Funk is a Bay Area tradition, loved and embraced amongst a population which is only one or two generations removed from their southern roots. The Bay Area is also a music market place that has long encouraged folks to let themselves go and explore… It has encouraged folks to buck the trends and follow their own musical path. It is no coincidence that the first funk hip hop records have come from the Bay Area.

Props out to DJ Slice and Kool Rock J for sampling” Knee Deep in their 1986/87 classic “Slice It Up“.


Props to Hammer for incorporating the p-funk in his original version of his 1987 hit “They Put Me In The Mix“.


props to MC Ant


Also props to Dave Kaos cause back in the days.. he did a little cutting and scratchin on some of George Clinton”s records. Props to the die-hard funkateers of the Bay Area like Rickey ‘The Uhuru Maggot Vincent for documenting the funk and keeping the spirit alive . Keep in mind , while there are lots of acts that use funk in their music, in the Bay Area folks live and breath p-funk… from now until the end of time.

written by Davey D c 1996Go Back To Davey D Corner Home Page

Have Funky Merry Christmas.. Here’s a Dope Song List…

santa -jolly blackThe homie Weyland Southon who does Father Figures on KPFA.. decided to rock the tables and give us an alternative to all the Holiday music we normally hear.. He went digging in the crates and rocked this set the other day. I had to share it.. Enjoy

I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm (Yesking Remix) – Billie Holiday
White Christmas – The Wailers (Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer)
Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto – James Brown
‘Zat You Santa Claus? (The Heavy Remix) – Louis Armstrong
The Christmas Song – Jimmy Smith
Wish You A Merry Christmas – Kim Weston
Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas – Carla Thomas
The Little Drummer Boy – The Temptations
Happy Holidaze – Bootsy Collins ft Snoop Dogg, etc
I’ll Be Your Santa Baby – Rufus Thomas
Silent Night (Brazilian Girls Remix) – Dinah Washington
Purple Snowflakes – Marvin Gaye
Presents For Christmas – Solomon Burke
I Am Blessed (Wax Tailor Remix) – Nina Simone
Winter Wonderland – Booker T & The MG’s
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery
Please Come Home For Christmas – Little Johnnie Taylor
What Are You Doing New Years Eve? – King Curtis
Good Morning Blues (Remix) – Count Basie and His Orchestra
This Christmas – Donny Hathaway
Merry Christmas Baby – Otis Redding
Back Door Santa – Clarence Carter
Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’ – Albert King
May Ev’ry Day Be Christmas – Irma Thomas with Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday – William Bell
Christmas Present Blues – Jimmy Reed
Christmas Feeling Ska – Toots & The Maytalls
Funky Funky Christmas – Electric Jungle
Soulful Christmas – James Brown




Thousands Flock to Remember Elvis..Why Don’t Thousands Flock to Celebrate James Brown?

Today (Aug 16th) all the stops are being pulled out to remember the death of Elvis Presley the so-called King of Rock-N-Roll.. Ever since yesterday we’ve seen national TV crews camp out all out at Graceland.. Special tributes on radio.. Even some urban outlets are giving Elvis his props.. In typical form Elvis like Ronald Reagan and our slave-owning founding fathers has been sanitized..Many forget when he died, he was an obese drug addict.. Contrast the celebrations around Elvis with the lack of tributes, shout outs & honoring we do for iconic figures like a James Brown..The Godfather of Soul, Marvin Gaye or Ray Charles. Sure folks will do a quick plug for Michael Jackson upcoming birthday, Aug 29th..Michael Jackson’s death day June 25th came and went w/o a peep. If these dates were or are mentioned, they’re usually accompanied   but not w/o reminding us of all his troubles..Sadly we see similar treatment around all our icons..Many of us were still talking about the Drake/Chris Brown fight which happened a week or so earlier..

From Elvis to the Beatles to Reagan, they are all celebrated, their troubles and misdeeds wiped away while our heroes are either demonized in the mainstream or completely obscured within our own circles. Meaning we have folks with platforms, resources and loud microphones who allow our heroes and sheroes to be overlooked. So while thousands flock to Graceland to talk about the greatness of Elvis, why don’t we start the process of talking up our own.. Where’s the equivalent to Graceland for James Brown?

Thousands flock to Remember Elvis..

Looking back, Remembering Chuck Brown and GoGo Sound He Started

Losing 2 icons back to back is never expected and definitely not easy especially when you reflect and realize just how much their music was a part of your life…  Chuck Brown the Godfather of GoGo and Donna Summers the Queen of Disco are iconic not just because they came to personify their respective genres of music, but also because they transcended those labels and in many ways came to embody the sentiments, hopes and desires of a people..

Listen to our Chuck Brown Mix

As I mentioned in an earlier post Chuck Brown in addition to being an innovator was also key architect and influence in the music landscape of Hip Hop. I don’t feel he gets enough proper credit for that..

Yes, its true many are quick to point out landmark cuts like;  Bustin Loose (1978) and  We Need Money (1984) as proof that Chuck and the GoGo sound had a home within Hip Hop. But we also have to acknowledge the contributions he made outside of GoGo.. Chuck and his band the Soul Searchers were early staples  with songs like; the politically laced  We The People  (1972),  the dance floor packing Blow the Whistle and the heavily sampled Ashley’s Roachclip . Those cuts were right up there with other popular B-Boy anthems like Apache, It’s Just begun and Give It Up or Turn It Loose.

It’s interesting to note that every year when the Universal Zulu Nation holds their annual gathering in November, they honor the big three seminal pioneering figures, Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. Alongside them they pay tribute to the funk and soul architects who proceeded them, James Brown, George Clinton and Sly Stone. I suspect this year the circle will expand to include Chuck Brown..How could it not?

What we should all note are Chuck Brown’s humble beginnings. He didn’t start out in music..For a long time he was a boxer and then a brick layer. He loved music in particular blues, jazz and swing, but he didn’t learn to play guitar until he did a stint in prison. Not only did he learn how to play behind bars but it there he actually made his first guitar.

Brown talked about how prison was a place where many sharp minds could be found and how it was important to apply yourself and rise above the limitations of those walls, even as oftentimes appeared to be hapless.. On a side note Brown served time with another famous Washingtonian who he counseled and would later  blaze trails in the world of radio-Petey Greene.

Brown after getting out worked for a bit, but eventually decided to focus all his attention on music..In the early 60s he hooked up with Jerry Butler and The Earls of Rhythm to play guitar. Later he joined Los Latinos. He said it was there that he developed some of the rhythms he would later use in GoGo.

Eventually he branched out and formed the Soul Searchers in 1966.. He initially was going to simply call himself the ‘Soulsearcher’, (spelling it as one word), but he didn’t wanna appear too egotistical and hence gave the name to his band members. Brown noted that he was on a quest to find musicians who had soul.

Brown noted that back in his early music days Washington DC was all about Top 40. In order to make it as band you were expected to play whatever was happening on the radio. Brown said he got good at duplicating everyone from James Brown to Sly Stone. Because he loved swing and blues, Brown would also replay popular songs falling into those genres and while he did have lots of ideas musically, they were hard to introduce. If it wasn’t on the radio it wasn’t happening was the rule of thumb.

In terms of how GoGo started, Chuck Brown explained that when their bands were playing at local venues, they were locked into the top 40 format which presented a few challenges. Among them was short attention span.  He recounted how there were too many instances where the crowd would be hyped and frenzied and the energy would die after a song ended and the audience would used the beak in the music to go get a drink or go to the bathroom.  Chuck and his band would have to start all over again getting the crowd hyped.

What  he did to keep the energy going, was not stop playing. They would start rocking a percussion breakdown and then lead chants, do call and response, neighborhood shout outs or rhyme over them. Brown noted how these segue ways soon became more popular than the songs, especially since it more accurately reflected the feeling of the audience and allowed them to actually join in. This participatory aspect caught on in a big way and the rest they say is history.

What Brown was doing wasn’t too much different from what was happening up further North in NYC around the same time where early emcees would rap endlessly over percussion break downs of popular songs that were kept going by the early deejays. The key in both places was to keep the energy up and never stopped. It was all about the drum, one played by a band in DC and the other spun by a deejay. in NY call and response and as Chuck described it, feeding off the energy, respecting and most importantly, communicating with the crowd is what took it over the top. Chuck Brown and the GoGo sound he was Godfather to, gave voice to a young, marginalized and oftentimes discarded population of in DC they way Hip Hop did for similar population in NY.. The difference was is GoGo is something you have to actually experience, while there are some great records, they pale in comparison to when you saw and felt the energy of a live show..

RIP Chuck Brown..

written by Davey D

To learn more about Chuck Brown I would encourage folks to peep out :


Folks may also wanna check out this documentary that gives you some keen insight into GoGo and Mr Chuck Brown…


Today is James Brown’s Bday: Did Your Local Hip Hop Station Remember Him?

Today is May 3rd and for many of us this date holds no real meaning except that it either signifies another payday or the start of Cinco de Mayo weekend (Cinco de Mayo is May 5th). Sadly, there are many of us who are knee-deep in Hip Hop culture who have never took notice when May 3rd rolled around, but perhaps we should. After all, it was on this day back in 1933 in Barnwell, South Carolina that Hip Hop’s true Godfather was born.

Like so many within Hip Hop he had a harsh childhood. Before he was even 5 years old, Hip Hop’s ‘true Godfather was shipped off to Augusta, Georgia where he lived in a brothel owned by his Aunt. As a child he earned his keep by running errands and trying to solicit soldiers from the nearby base to visit his Aunt’s establishment. Like so many who came after him, the hardships and him needing to hustle led to a life of crime. He eventually had to serve jail time until he finally got himself together. It was that humble and troubled upbringing that sparked a fire and laid down the ethos of Hip Hop-to create something out of nothing.

No, I’m not talking about is not Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash or any of the other often named pioneering cats. However, if you sit any of them down in a room, they will tell unequivocally that they are children and grandchildren to this individual who wound up being Hip Hop’s original driving force and musical inspiration. His music, vocal delivery and showmanship would influence everyone from Chuck D of Public Enemy to MC Hammer.

One has to understand that back in the days when Hip Hop was first evolving in the 1970s Hip Hop’s pioneering figures routinely paid tribute to the musical offerings of this individual. While Black radio stations moved in a direction that embraced formalized disco, the musical landscape of the early Hip Hop Park Jams was juxtaposed. Classic songs like ‘Soul Power‘, Pass The Peas‘, Funky Drummer‘ and ‘Get Up, Get Into It, and Get Involved‘ would blare through the sound systems of Hip Hop’s early deejays and drive the early b-boys and b-girls to the edge. In later years many would point to this individual’s signature dance ‘the Good Foot‘ and his song ‘Get On the Good Foot‘ as the inspiration for what we now call ‘break dancing’.


For those who don’t know who I’m talking about; it’s the ‘Hardest Working Man in Show Business‘. I’m talking about ‘Mr. Dynamite’ himself-Soul Brother #1- James Brown and today-May 3rd is his birthday. There are more than a few good reasons to celebrate. Let’s just say for starters that no individual has been sampled more times than James Brown. To date his music al treasure chest has been sampled by more than a thousand artists. To see a partial list of all the songs that contain James Brown samples go to http://www.xampled.com/blog/sampled-from/james-brown/

Peep this insightful incredible interview w/ James Brown from Detroit’s Black Journal


Professor Rick Vincent-

History of Funk‘ author and KPFA Radio host Professor Ricky ‘The Uhuru Maggot’ Vincent notes that James Brown is perhaps the most important individual in modern music who has done more to change the structure of Black music than any other person in history. Vincent explained that in many respects James Brown ‘Africanized’ Black music by changing the rhythm, the structure and the manner in which soul/Black music was played.

Vincent elaborated by noting that prior to James Brown, much of Black music was based in the Blues tradition which derived from the slave experience and the fact that we were not allowed to play the drum. Much of our music had a melancholy feel that was sometimes accompanied by polyrhythmic swings. This ‘swing’ aspect is clearly defined in traditional music forms of Black music like Spirituals, Ragtime, Bebop, Jazz and early Rock-N-Roll which was called Race Music. According to Vincent, this polyrhythmic swing aspect was essentially our collective attempts to recreate the drum

When James Brown entered the scene all that changed. He delivered the drum front and center. Vincent noted that James Brown brought out a more prominent rhythmic foundation for the music and introduced the important concept of ‘Hitting on the One’. James Brown focused his entire band including the complex horn, rhythm guitar and keyboard arrangements of his band mate Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis and Nat Jones to ‘deliver on the one’. James Brown punctuated his efforts by using his voice with his vintage grunts, groans and screams as a binding force which also drew everything ‘on the one’. It seems so simple and commonplace today, but back then it was ground breaking.

Vincent who eloquently breaks this whole thing down in book ‘The History of Funk’ went on to add, that prior to James Brown most American music built upon the Blues tradition. After James Brown, American music built upon the tradition of the Funk concept of ‘Hitting on the one’. Everything from ‘disco’ to ‘modern rock’ to Hip Hop has built upon that concept introduced by James Brown. In later years the West Coast Hip Hoppers would build around the music of Parliament and George Clinton who themselves were directly influenced and inspired by the ‘Hit it on the One’ concept of James Brown.

What’s even more interesting about James Brown was the fact that early Hip Hoppers kept his name in circulation and his music ‘in the mix’ at a time when many in the music industry seemed to move beyond him. Vincent explained that in the 60s James Brown for the most part had become a pop star who was delivering hit after hit. [The only person to have more number one records then James Brown was Elvis Presley]. He suddenly found himself out of favor on the pop side of town after he delivered his anthem ‘Say It Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud’. Songs which came after like ‘The Big Payback’ which was his most successful venture came after further pushed him away. He had simply become two Black for pop radio.

By the early to mid 70s Black radio at least in New York City had stopped playing James Brown despite the fact that he was recording 2-3 albums a year. That’s at a higher pace then 2Pac and that’s not counting the additional recordings he delivered with members of the James Brown family which included artists like Lynn Collins, Marva Whitney, Bobby Byrd, Maceo, Fred Weasly and the JBs, and Martha High. Brown’s relentless drive positioned him to be a major force in music during the 70s and while he did drop a couple of big hits he wasn’t the mainstay artist like those who came after him and built upon his concepts.


Vincent noted, the problem that James Brown was running into was the fact that many of the artists who came after him retooled their overall sound to be smoother and more mellow. In the early 70s artists like Curtis Mayfield, Eddie Kendrick, Marvin Gaye and Teddy Pendergrass ruled the airwaves with their message type songs over melodic beats. For the most part James Brown remained raw and gritty and very street.

By the mid 70s to late 70s disco began to take hold and displaced the sounds delivered by many of the aforementioned soulful artists. At one point James Brown tried to shake things up and boost sagging record sales by releasing an album called ‘The Original Disco Man‘ which contained a song called ‘Too Funky‘. Sadly, the album never ‘moved the crowd’ and wound up flopping.

James Brown & Afrika Bambaataa

So while James struggled to get a foot hold within the changing discotized music industry, in the parks and on the early Hip Hop sets of the Bronx, James Brown was king. You could not go to a jam and not hear James Brown. And soon as one of his jams hit the turn tables the place would go wild. His raw gritty street style sound was embraced whole heartedly by the Hip Hop community who rode with him full throttle all the way up until the late 80s. By then James Brown had hooked up with a number of rap artists including Afrika Bambaataa, Full Force and MC Hammer to record songs.


It wasn’t until the p-funk/George Clinton inspired sounds of West Coast Hip Hoppers began to emerge that James Brown began to take a back burner within Hip Hop circles. It also didn’t help that he along with the rest of the music industry started clamping down on recording artists were sampling his music like there was no tomorrow.

We could do an entire book on the significance of James Brown. In fact there are several that are already written and film maker Spike Lee is gearing up to do a movie that chronicles the life and times of Mr. Brown.

It’s both interesting and sad that many of us in Hip Hop allow our pioneers to drift away in obscurity. Many of us even get arrogant and try to act like that what they are doing is new and unique when in fact it has been done before over and over. Without the history, not only do we not have the opportunity to build on past legacies, we also run the risk of making false analysis and assumptions.

For example, I ran into some ‘keep it real type cat’ who took the position that James Brown had nothing to do with Hip Hop. Dude really believed what he was saying but as we talked I came to find out that he did not know that James had even recorded a song with Bambaataa. But at 19 years old where was he really gonna get that info? He wasn’t even born when that landmark record ‘Unity‘ was first released. The local Hip Hop stations never play the song and even sadder they certainly they don’t do any interviews with Bambaataa or James Brown when he was alive and came to town.

Contrast that with the type of respect and reverence folks have for rock icons. We celebrate their birth dates and various milestones of their careers. Music legends like The Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones and even Kurt Cobain of Nirvana are given major dap as their musical legacies are passed down from one generation to the next.

Recently former Beatle Paul McCartney swung through Oakland to kick off his tour and it was a sight to behold. Not only did the event sell out and was the lead story on the evening newscasts, you also got a chance to see in attendance father and son and in some cases, grandfather, father and son. The bottom-line there was definitely an appreciation and an upholding of the musical heritage and legacy for a sizable segment of our population. Rock-N-Roll will live forever, because fans and practitioners make it a point to never let their heroes wither away into obscurity.


The perception is that Little Johnny from the suburbs is likely to know at least a little something about Elvis or The Beatles while Little Darnel from the hood is hard pressed to tell you something about the most recent musical icons. I swear to God when I speak at schools I’m amazed how kids who love Juvenile, BG and Jay-Z will draw blank stares when you mention groups like X-Clan, Jungle Brothers and even Public Enemy. They’re completely at a loss when you start talking about James Brown, George Clinton and others. Sure they may have heard the names, but they never heard the songs. Sadder still they have no idea of their importance. Hence, that is the reason for penning this article. It’s up to us to make the necessary changes. Not only do we wanna say happy Birthday James Brown, but also we want to pass along a few tidbits to build upon.

For more info on James Brown be sure to peep out Ricky Vincent’s book ‘The History of Funk‘. Also be sure to peep www.kpfa.org starting tonight after 7pm and all day Saturday to hear non stop James Brown…

written by Davey D



Chuck D & Funk Expert Rickey Vincent Speak on the Music & Political Legacy of Michael Jackson & the Jackson 5




Listen to the History of Funk pt 1-retrospective look at Michael Jackson & the Jackson 5

1-Breakdown FM-History of Funk pt1-Michael jackson & the Jackson 5

2-Breakdown FM-History of Funk pt2-w/Chuck D How MJ influenced Hip Hop & Politics

Professor Rick Vincent-author of History of Funk drops a lot of insight about the musical legacy of Michael Jackson  and his brothers

Professor Rick Vincent-author of History of Funk drops a lot of insight about the musical legacy of Michael Jackson and his brothers

Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 are considered steller musicians and entertainers who changed the game in major ways. Oftentimes when we speak of them they are presented as if they came out of nowhere and their musical prowess came out of a vacuum. We wanted to give people some deeper insight into their music and what it meant to Soul, Funk and the Black community.

We sat down with Professor Ricky Vincent aka the Uhuru Maggot, author of the landmark book The History of Funk. We sat down and walked through the history of MJ and the Jacksons and talked in depth about their influences ranging from James Brown to Stevie Wonder. We talked in depth about their roots including how MJ and his brothers grew up in Gary, Indiana. We talked about the important role Gary played in Black America, both in terms of having one of the country’s first African American mayors and the 1972 meeting by Black folks to set a nationwide agenda.

We talked about their father Joe Jackson and who he is and how he spent alot of childhood and teenage years in Oakland, California. Vincent talked about the vibrant blues scene that was in full gear when Joe jackson was around in West Oakland and how that may have been a foundation for his musical ambitions.

We spoke about Michael Jackson and his dancing history. We talked about his signature moves ‘The Robot’, The Moonwalk and locking and noted how these were popular dance styles well known in various hoods throughout California for years prior to Michael introducing them to the rest of the world.

We talked about the struggles the group had when MJ’s voice changed and how Motown executives wanted them to follow a particular pop formula while the group pushed to establish a new sound that was more soulful, funky and contemporary. Eventually the tension became so great that the group left Motown and joined Epic. Because Motown owned the name The Jackson 5, the group changed their name to The Jacksons. Complicating their situation even more was the fact that older brother Jermaine married Berry Gordy’s daughter hence he went on to stay at Motown and do a solo career.

We talk about the influence James Brown had on Michael and how he went out and pretty much adapted much of Brown’s delivery, showmanship and overall style. We explore the music from that time period in the mid 70s and note how the group found themselves under the gun as they tried to keep up with icons like Stevie Wonder, George Clinton, Sly Stone, BT Express and an array of ‘child groups like the Sylvers who had bursted on the scene and were hitting hard.

Ricky reminded us of how George Clinton and his p-funk mob were in Detroit recording songs and that their style and influence was definitely felt. because he was connecting with the hood, the Jacksons were forced to step it up and become alittle more raw with their music.

We end this segment by highlighting the various musical directions the group took.

Here’s the link to part1

Breakdown FM-History of Funk pt1-Michael jackson & the Jackson 5


Chuck D spoke about Michael Jackson's political side and how he influenced his love for Hip Hop

Chuck D spoke about Michael Jackson's political side and how he influenced his love for Hip Hop

In pt 2 we are joined by Chuck D of Public Enemy where we have an indepth discussion about MJ and his politics and how Chuck was introduced to Hip Hop via Mike.

Chuck talks about the important role legendary songwriters Gamble & Huff played in pushing Mike and his brothers. Author Ricky Vincent talks about how the message in the music is part of a much larger tradition within Black music.

Chuck D also talks about how some of Michael Jackson’s records which were used as breakbeats influenced him and made him embrace Hip hop more. In particular is the vintage cut ‘Music’s Taking Over’. Chuck also talks about the sample they used from MJ in the song By The Time I get to Arizona.

Chuck also talks about the important influence Michael Jackson had in the realm of videos.

We play lots of Jackson’s political songs as well as the cuts that inspired Chuck D.

We conclude the interview by talking about MJs War with Sony Music and Tommy Mottola, his charitable works and the importance of being named the King of Pop.

Here’s the link to pt 2

Breakdown FM-History of Funk pt2-w/Chuck D How MJ influenced Hip Hop & Politics

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