Funk is a unique style of music that was advanced primarily by African-American artists like Sly and the Family Stone and James Brown in the late 1960s. This type of music was developed further in the 1970s by other distinguished performers like Parliament/Funkadelic, Koll, and the Gang as well as Stevie Wonder. The influence of funk music can be perceived in modern hip-hop and through a direct sampling of funk riffs or by utilizing the structures of funk sounds. Below is a brief overview of the transformation of funk music into the new generation music.
The Origin of Funk
The 1960s had many soul artists, but one stood out for having a very distinct sound. James Brown brought a strong voice that focused heavily on a bold, syncopated rhythm. While rhythm was originally the staple for African- American genres, James Brown’s sound proved to be different. His style was sharp and extremely dense, which was further accentuated by his magnificent performance and lyrics. The danceable rhythm coupled with his unapologetic attitude plus racial pride went on to become the cornerstone of the funk music.
James Brown’s sound was carried on By George Clinton who founded and led a doo-wop/soul band known as the Parliaments. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Clinton would later go on to initiate two influential funk bands, namely Parliament and Funkadelic. The two bands embraced a strong rhythmic attitude similar to James Brown’s but steered the style further and with a stronger groove. This style featured a rhythmic pulse that was evident in the traditional African-American musical tradition since the beginning of jazz. Clinton’s music also combined gospel, jazz, soul, blues as well as Rock and Roll.
Stripped down Funk
The instruments that were used for funk bands in the 1970s fell out in the subsequent decade. The complexity of funk was also significantly reduced, which eliminated one of the most enticing, consistent and innovative elements of the genre. The unique “slap bass”
technique gradually disappeared as drum machines grew into popularity. Queen, Rick James, and Prince were among the most vital 1980s practitioners of the stripped style. All three shunned horn sections as they were in favor of a typical setup of a rock band and sooner than later, funk was replaced by heavy metal.
Although funk had disappeared from the airwaves before the beginning of the 1990s, a new generation of rock bands began to incorporate its elements into their styles. The bands introduced new terms such as “funk metal” and “funk rock.” Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, Jane’s Addiction, Prince, Faith No More, and Primus propagated the style in different ways. Since then, funk has been utilized by numerous artists and performers especially via hip-hop, which significantly draws samples and inspiration from it. The two genres have a similar goal of getting people to dance. The work of James Brown and P-Funk has constantly inspired the performance of rappers such as Jay-Z and Outkast. Other successful musicians like Bruno Mars have also incorporated Funk into their songs.