What The Ohio Players’ & P-Funk’s Junie Morrison Meant To Hip-Hop (Audio)

Yesterday (February 16) Rock & Roll Hall of Fame musician/producer Walter “Junie” Morrison died. The Dayton, Ohio native was a critical part of the Ohio Players band as keyboardist, vocalist, and producer. Joining the veteran outfit in 1970, he was on hand for some of the band’s most memorable work, especially according to Hip-Hop sampling. Later in the decade, he moved to Parliament-Funkadelic, after launching a solo career.

Believed to be in his early sixties at the time of his death, Morrison embraced those carrying his genre onward. Stones Throw Records artist Dam-Funk confirmed the news after speaking with Junie’s daughter. The collaborator of Snoop Dogg and Q-Tip noted that he’d been in regular contact with the ’70s music icon. They worked together on 2015’s Invite The Light. Additionally, the Ohio Players posted of Morrison’s passing on their Facebook page. While he was in the group less than four years, the band highlighted his great significance to their legacy:

With the Ohio Players, Junie was deeply instrumental to the band’s most embraced song by Hip-Hop producers. “Funky Worm,” a 1972 Pleasure track that’s keyboard synthesizer would be at the backbone of G-Funk (through Dr. Dre), would make profound impact on N.W.A.’s 1987 single “Dope Man” (and subsequent Straight Outta Compton remix). Others, including Kris Kross’ “Jump,” DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s “Boom! Shake The Room,” and DMX’s “Bug Out” would follow with variations based on the original. That Ohio Players song would break the Top 20 on the overall charts upon release.

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Dayton’s Ohio Players were at a great stride. Following Pleasure, the newly re-formed group released Ecstasy. That 1973 LP’s title track would become the basis for Jay Z and The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Brooklyn’s Finest.” In the DJ Clark Kent homage, the instrumentation and vocals were kept in tact for one of the centerpieces of Reasonable Doubt:

After joining Funkadelic (which evolved back to the name of George Clinton’s original group, Parliament) in the late 1970s, Morrison became the band’s Musical Director. His arrangement and playing was deeply on hand for 1979’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep.” That song played a heavy hand in De La Soul’s breakout single one decade later, “Me, Myself, and I”:

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Last year, Madlib (care of Kanye West) gave shine to one of Morrison’s solo tracks for the same Westbound Records he recorded with for Ohio Players. 1976’s “Suzie Thundertussy,” a song recorded between Junie’s movie from the Players to P-Funk, would be the basis for “No More Parties In L.A.” That song, featuring Kendrick Lamar, would be a focal point for the Grammy-nominated The Life of Pablo album:

Notably, Madlib and his JayLib partner J Dilla were strong advocates for Junie Morrison’s work through their sampling.

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In the mid-1990s, Morris rejoined George Clinton for his P-Funk All-Stars project. He would also work with Soul II Soul as well as James Ingram. Junie’s website features free streams of several of his solo works, and an annotated discography.

Less than one week ago, another prominently sampled artist in Hip-Hop, Jazz and R&B’s Al Jarreau, died.

Ambrosia For Heads extends condolences to the family, friends, and fans of Walter “Junie” Morrison.