George Clinton Considers Rakim & Eminem GOATs, Praises Kendrick Lamar (Video)
Along with James Brown and Sly Stone, George Clinton revolutionized R&B, twisting Soul music into pure Funk. He became the mastermind behind Parliament, as well as companion band, Funkadelic. Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic have ignited the party in six decades, spawning three platinum releases. He expanded the boundaries of his music, marrying music of the Black church to extraterrestrial imagery. With puns and rhyming couplets in town, George foresaw Hip-Hop before people even knew what to call it. By the time Rap music had arrived, Clinton was ready to inject his “cosmic slop.” From Outkast’s Aquemini to Tupac’s All Eyez On Me, the 73 year-old has bridged the gap, from Doo-Wop to Hip-Hop, from Motown to Chocolate City.
Recently, Dr. Funkenstein was a part of the Red Bull Music Academy lecture at the Brooklyn Museum, during RBMA’s New York Festival. The Kannapolis, North Carolina native has transformed his image, much like his sound. The former hair stylist swapped the baggy jerseys and colorful wigs, for a tailored suit and brimmed hat.
(4:00) Jefferson “Chairman” Mao’s (ego trip! / XXL) question-and-answer session with the Funk forefather starts off with the topic of longevity. Clinton said he has stayed relevant all of these years by, “paying attention to the ones after us.” He talked about keeping up with current events through his great-grandchildren, even being a fan of Glory Boyz rapper Chief Keef’s first hit “Don’t Like.” When talking about new music fads, George told Mao, “You’ll know what’s getting ready to happen when parents or older musicians hate it.” From working with Ice Cube, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Prince, Clinton’s track record reflects this generational wisdom.
(8:00) This year, Clinton was featured on “Wesley’s Theory,” the first track on Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed album To Pimp A Butterfly. The Prime Minister of Funk described Kendrick as “an old soul with futuristic ways, along with a positivity that know one could understand.”
(11:00) George took the direction of the conversation into a historical context of music. He described the creation of Rock & Roll through Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Muddy Waters. As he puts it, these founding Black artists were categorized under “white music” because they were being played off of white radio stations at the time. Clinton told Mao, “if it wasn’t for Jimi Hendrix single-handedly taking Rock & Roll back, people wouldn’t have adopted a sound of their own.”
(15:00) George spoke about his beginnings. The original Parliaments was founded in Plainfield, New Jersey while Clinton was working in a salon/barbershop. During the Doo-Wop band’s stint with Motown, the collective aimed to set themselves apart from the Berry Gordy’s roster, creating his version of music called the “Motown Loud.” After their 1967 single “I Just Wanna Testify,” and facing legal issues over the record, The Parliaments shifted their sound. Clinton told Mao, “The release of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band changed the world and our image. From that day, we were in our own positive world.” It’s curious that both Clinton and The Beatles’ Paul McCartney are two of the elder statesmen sought out by Rap’s elite today.
(22:00) After Motown, P-Funk as we know it was spawned. With over 30 musicians onstage at once, Funkadelic graced fans with platform shoes, prosthetic Pinocchio noses, and even diapers. Clinton himself often emerged from a giant flying saucer known as “the mothership.” Dr. Funkenstein had landed on planet earth to change music forever. “Going to concerts was like going to the circus; it was fun for the whole family,” George told Mao of his visions of grandeur.
(30:00) From 1977 to 1979, Funkadelic enjoyed a benchmark run, with singles like “Flash Light” and “Aqua Boogie” both hitting #1 on the R&B charts. During 1980, Clinton faced turmoil with his label, management and even some band-mates. This resulted in members Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey and Glen Goins leaving band, to form Mutiny. Clinton likened this incident to RZA, as both P-Funk and Wu-Tang Clan have been challenged by solo contracts. “It couldn’t work because everyone is their own person,” he said. “In Hip-Hop, everybody is a different personality, so it wouldn’t be successful for business.”
(40:00) While George Clinton has vivid memories, often times they are challenged by blurred lines. In this intimate setting, the icon spoke about his years of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as sobriety. “When I got ready to change, I did that. I got married. I wrote a book. I made an album with 33 songs. And I’m just getting started,” said George.
(45:00) The next topic of the interview talked about samples within the industry. As he tells it, the first act to pay him for sampling was actually De La Soul. George told Mao that the Long Island, New York trio gave him $100,000 for 1989’s “Me, Myself And I.” Clinton went on to say, “and thanks to Hip-Hop with sampling, it took the Funk into the next generation.” Keeping things Rap-focused, George openly states that Rakim is the best rapper, in his eyes. However, the P-Funk architect also praises Eminem. “I watched him since he was a baby, and all I gotta say is that you don’t want him to talk bad about you,” says one colorful artist of the other. Notably, both Rakim and Eminem are in Ambrosia For Heads’ user-generated “Finding The GOAT” competition. The nine-month, ballot-based event has endured, with Tupac Shakur defeating Rakim last night (May 20) to face Eminem in the finals.
(55:00) The last part of the interview capped off with George talking about his favorite songs. He cites “Atomic Dog,” “Knee Deep,” and “One Nation Under A Groove” as his top songs of his career. Clinton also admits to biting off David Bowie’s “Fame” on 1972’s “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off).”
For those looking to some Funk in the physical, the old Mothership prop from those legendary tours, is currently stationed at an exhibit of African American History at the Smithsonian Museum. Never tired, George spoke of a new Mothership gearing for lift, with plans of a new world tour in support for a new Parliament album in the making.
Is George Clinton the most influential figure to Hip-Hop that was releasing music before the culture’s inception?