Out of all of R&B's subgenres over the years, Funk is one of the most underrated. Funk may have fallen out of vogue in the 1980s, but it's contributions to the music scene still reverberate today. Hip-Hop's g-funk sound, which was popular with West Coast artists in the early-to-mid 1990s is based on Funk, and acts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers have carried the Funk sound forward in this decade. And on that note, your Guide to R&B presents his picks for the best Funk artists of all time.
George Clinton is known as the Godfather of Funk and is one of the longest-lasting artists ever in any
music genre. In the 1970s he was the mastermind behind the innovative, groundbreaking bands Parliament and Funkadelic and played a significant part in the creation of numerous hit Funk songs, including "Flashlight" and "One Nation Under a Groove." He has also had success as a solo artist and is still an active performer today.
Essential song (as a solo artist): "Atomic Dog" (1982).
Essential album: Computer Games (1982).
During their late 1960s to early 1970s heyday, Sly Stone's group was one of the most popular Soul-Funk bands on the planet thanks to catchy hit songs like "Family Affair" and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)."
Essential songs: "Everyday People" (1968); "Hot Fun in the Summertime" and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" (both 1969).
Parliament and it's sister (or cousin) band, Funkadelic, is (are) arguably the best Funk ensemble ever. The collective was two bands led by George Clinton and made up of the same members recording for different labels. The band is still active and tours and records under the names George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars and George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic.
Essential songs: Include "Flashlight," (by Parliament) and "Get Off Your Ass and Jam" (by Funkadelic).
Essential albums: Funkadelic (Funkadelic, 1970); Mothership Connection (Parliament, 1976);
Rick James was the biggest Funk star of the 1980s and is known for such hits as "Super Freak," "Cold Blooded" and "Give It to Me Baby." He's also just as well known for his non-musical adventures, such as kidnapping and torturing a woman during a week-long drug binge and being parodied by comedian Dave Chappelle. He died of a heart attack in August 2004.
Essential songs: "Mary Jane" (1978); "Super Freak" (1981); and "Ebony Eyes" (featuring Smokey Robinson) (1983);
Essential album: Street Songs (1981), which includes "Give It to Me Baby," "Super Freak" and "Fire and Desire," a duet with Teena Marie.
Although William "Bootsy" Collins is probably best-known for his outrageous costumes and crazy, star-shaped sunglasses, he's also a Funk bass pioneer and was a prominent member, along with George Clinton, of the Parliament-Funkadelic music ensemble.
Essential song: "Bootzilla" (1978).
Zapp (aka The Zapp Band) was formed by the Troutman brothers (Roger, Larry, Lester, Tony and Terry aka "Zapp") in the late 1970s. The band was best-known for it's massive hit "More Bounce to the Ounce." The group's lead singer, Roger Troutman, was a pioneer of usage of the talkbox, a device that's connected to a keyboard or other instrument to create different vocal effects. Troutman, who later had a solo career, was murdered in 1999.
Essential songs: "More Bounce to the Ounce" (1980); "Computer Love" (1982).
Essential album: Zapp (1980).
Part acid jazz, part R&B, part Funk, The Brand New Heavies are one of the most versatile Funk-related bands out there. For a sample of their best Funk music, check out their Allabouthefunk
The Meters were a New Orleans-based band that was active from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s. They were never a big mainstream success, but were highly influental to the Funk movement. The band reunited in 1989 and performs occasionally. Their music has been sampled by numerous hip-hop artists over the years, most notably Public Enemy in the late '80s/early '90s.
Essential songs: "Sophisticated Cissy" and "Cissy Strut" (both released in 1969) and "Look-Ka Py Py" and "Chicken Strut," 1970.
Essential album: Funkify Your Life: The Meters Anthology, a two-CD best-of compilation that features a whopping 43 songs.
James Brown may be the Godfather of Soul, but his 1965 hit "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" is widely regarded as one of the first Funk songs. JB's also recorded a multitude of Funk tracks during his career, including "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)," and "I Got the Feelin'."
Like James Brown, Prince is more known for his R&B work, but he's more than dabbled in the Funk all his career. Some of his more notable Funk tracks include "Musicology," 'Black Sweat" and "Housequake."