Leon Haywood’s 1975 Freaky Funk Would Light The Chronic (Audio)
Leon Haywood’s musical career extends more than 60 years. The Houston, Texas Soul singer and composer would spend part of the 1960s playing keyboards for Sam Cooke’s band. On the side, Haywood would ink deals with Decca and Imperial Records, and start cutting his own sides. Right from the onslaught, Leon’s music would enter the charts at the Top 100.
However, it would be 10 years into his career that Haywood would strike lasting success. 1975’s Come And Get Yourself Some would be Haywood’s third LP on 20th Century Records. The FOX-backed label was also home to Barry White and Love Unlimited, Edwin Starr, and Stephanie Mills. One year before things would really take off care of the Star Wars soundtrack, Leon Haywood would score a Top 15 hit with the extremely seductive “I Want’a Do Something Freaky To You.”
Like the song’s chorus suggested, the instrumental foreplay of the song dimmed the lights, sipped some liquor, and set the tone for pure sex. The record was suitable for dance-floors, Blaxploitation film montages, and clearly, slow-grind mixes.
Seventeen years later, Leon Haywood’s moment in the sun would get an access point to multiple new generations and audiences. In the previous five years, Dr. Dre’s productions had brought attention to records by Charles Wright & The 103rd Street Watts Band, Z.Z. Hill, and Rare Earth. The Compton, California producer/MC picked through crates different than his peers. Dre especially enjoyed moody melody, and Leon Haywood had just that. In trying to establish a sound for his weed-induced, sex-driven cruises through early 1990s South Central, California, “I Want’a Do Something Freaky To You” had just what the Doctor ordered.
Part sample, part replayed, Dr. Dre and his newly-established Death Row Records team would use Leon Haywood’s biggest solo hit as the sheer low-ridin’ inspiration for 1992’s “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang.” The record had the right vibes for intoxication, for lust, and for “creepin'” through the C-P-T and L-B-C. Dre and his white-hot MC protege Snoop Dogg pulled from the record’s ties to pimp culture, cinematic suspense, and just purebred Soul. Their own record (and The Chronic it was sprinkled into) would launch a Death Row canon different than “Deep Cover.” This was about party music, much subdued than the menacing trigger-finger anthems. The 1990s video, directed by Dre, would also set G-Funk to (three-wheel) motion. The rhythms of cruising, cooking out, and drinking malt liquor at South Central house-parties were all perfect complements to the sultry bassline.
In Dr. Dre’s career of booming beats, one could maintain that Leon Haywood’s baby is the most famous. As he would do with David McCallum, Labi Siffre, and George McCrae, Andre Young made it possible to play a Leon Haywood record at a party throughout the 1990s and 2000s, and get a crowd reaction. Moreover, while Cold 187um, DJ Quik, Warren G, and others were teasing out basslines and synth lines equally, D-R-E seemingly made the tallest monument of G-Funk would a record that time had not properly carried along.
Some may forget this, but Dre and Snoop even revisited additional elements of Haywood’s hit for “The Wash” less than a decade later:
Now 73 years old, Leon is carrying on strong, although it has been more than 20 years since he released an album.
BonusBeat: Notably, Leon Haywood co-wrote this 1981 hit, which was sampled by Foxy Brown and Dru Hill: