#MNR: On The 1 (Long Live the Funk)
“I got soul. And I’m super bad.”
“Sometimes I feel so nice (good God), I jump back. I wanna kiss myself.”
Mr. James Brown, Godfather of Soul and Father of the Funk
Funk – A style of aggressive urban dance music driven by hard syncopated bass lines and drumbeats and accented by any number of instruments involved in rhythmic counterplay, all working toward a “groove”.
Funk Roll Call
James Brown, Clyde Stubblefield, Bobby Byrd, The J.B.’s, Sly Stone, Larry Graham, Jimi Hendrix (yes, Hendrix), George Clinton, Parliament, Funkadelic, Boosty Collins, Catfish Collins, Robert “P-Nut” Johnson, Gary “Mudbone” Cooper, Ohio Players, Average White Band, The Bar-Kays, B.T. Express, Brick, The Brothers Johnson, Cameo, Kleeer, Con Funk Shun, Dazz Band, Earth, Wind, & Fire, Fatback, Charlie Wilson, The Gap Band, Faze-O, Graham Central Station, Isaac Hayes, Leon Haywood, Heatwave, Rick James, Kool & The Gang, L.T.D., Mtume, Rufus, Chaka Khan, Slave, Stevie Arrington, Roger Troutman, Zapp, One Way
I didn’t include artists like Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, The Isley Brothers, The Temptations, and few others because they transcend genre.
This blog was indirectly birthed by my love for the renowned and infamous game GTA (Grand Theft Auto) V Online. The GTA series has received acclaim for its soundtracks, beginning with San Andreas in 2004. SA features in-game radio that can be tuned into eleven stations. The concept stuck. V features the station Space 103.2, DJ’d by the iconic Bootsy Collins and featuring his signature song “I’d Rather Be With You,” arguably the best funk song ever. I’ve found that when I’m riding out in my Insurgent, essentially an Oshkosh Sandcat on HCH (big ass armored SUV), I most enjoy listening to 103.2. I love cruising Los Santos listening to the funk. Keep that thought in mind.
There’s one certainty about music; it constantly evolves. Mr. James Brown and Sly Stone stretched the burgeoning R&B sound to new dimensions, but they wouldn’t have done so without their bandmates. The sound… What is the funk without the beat of the drum? No one did it better than Mr. James Brown’s drummer Clyde Stubblefield, whose drumbeats were heavily influential in early rap sampling (the boom bap). Young geniuses like Bootsy Collins (who first gained acclaim with Mr. James Brown) and Larry Graham (Sly’s bandmate and Aubrey Drake Graham’s uncle) drew a bit of influence on the electric bass guitar from the undisputed GOAT of guitar, Jimi Hendrix. Bootsy and his brother Catfish eventually parted ways with JB and linked up with the great George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic. They took a hit of Sly’s acid-laced genius and created a whole new lane. Those are the seeds. Needless to say, they reaped immense fruit.
I wasn’t around for its origin, but I was damn sure present for roll call when funk lowkey took over the sound of R&B for the first piece of the 1980s. This is evidenced by already established icons like Stevie Wonder, Ronald Isley and Brothers, and others making their forays into the subgenre. The funk never quite dominated the radio airwaves for a few reasons, namely its nonconformity to the norms of the three-minute radio single as well as its slick, esoteric, double entendre, and sexually themed lingo which made it harder to digest for the untrained ear (squares and unknowing white folk). Heavy use of the Moog synthesizer (which Stevie introduced to Black ears in the early ‘70s) and later models eventually made its way into the sound of popular music, notably R&B and New Wave. Funk took the synthesizer and ran with it. Funk artists and bands didn’t completely abandon the drums, electric bass, and horns that put it on the map. The sound merely evolved, letting the synthesizer imitate and innovate the sounds of other instruments. A kid named Roger Troutman (a George Clinton disciple) from out of Ohio (the unofficial home of the funk) took the Moog Minimoog and used a custom-made talkbox and blew the fucking hinges off the funk. His group Zapp and others shaped the sound of the early ‘80s, creating synth dominant grooves that made lowrider excursions feel like movie scenes and made basement parties indelible in the memories of folk from my mama dem era. There was also a generation of kids a bit younger than Shareon from out west and a few from NY that were too young to drive or attend the function yet were old enough to recognize that the sound pumping out the speakers in their neighborhoods was the shit. They weren’t in the running to be funk artists, but the sound they heard would soon influence them as rappers. Parliament and Zapp were Dr. Dre’s go-to, instrumental in the shaping of the G-Funk sound that led the west coast to rap supremacy in the early to mid ‘90s. George Clinton and Roger Troutman are both on Pac’s All Eyez On Me, on separate songs. Ice Cube (my third fav all time) and Beastie Boys member Mike D have interviews that talk on how the funk influenced their young and impressionable minds. There is a common misconception that the sounds from the talkbox and Auto-tune are one in the same. The talkbox actually uses the mouth while Auto-tune is a digital manipulation of sound. But artists like Lil Wayne and his subsequent generation of offspring in the rap game drew their entire love for Auto-tune from what they heard their parents, uncles, and aunties playing as children – funk tracks that featured Roger Troutman on talkbox. Debate all you want, or just go ask your auntie on the low to keep from being embarrassed by all the old folk. Slip her a J. She’ll happily verify the story.
Funk’s Influence on Monday
I live for the funk, word to Chief Rocka and New Jerusalem (IYKYK). I love it all, from the Godfather to Sly to Stevie Arrington to Charlie Wilson to Zapp to infinity. As a 42-year-old Black man, I can now fully appreciate why legendary DJ and radio personality Tom Joyner is strictly funk. It makes me love Steve Harvey even more (he lost me a couple years ago with his bougie shit, but we all make mistakes) for choosing to make Steve Hightower (lead character on The Steve Harvey Show) a teacher who was a former funk legend. He made sure the funk was mentioned in damn near every episode. My favorite funk song of all-time is “Superbad” by the Godfather Mr. James Brown. The aforementioned “I’d Rather Be With You” by Bootsy and his Rubber Band is a photo finish second. You’ve gotta see the YouTube of them performing it live in concert. It’ll be the best twelve minutes of your day. Seeing and listening to P-Nut and Mudbone singing their iconic parts as well as Bootsy slaying the electric bass is other worldly, truly. Stevie Arrington exploded on “Watching You.” Charlie Wilson and his brothers were so damn funky on “I Don’t Believe You Wanna Get Up and Dance (Oops!)” that I gotta jam out wherever I am whenever I hear it playing. “Flashlight,” “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” and “I’ve Been Watching You (Move Your Sexy Body)” aren’t just Parliament hits, they are staples in my funk catalog. “Cutie Pie” by One Way is the epitome of early ‘80s lowrider funk to me. So is “Riding High” by Faze-O and “More Bounce to the Ounce” by Zapp. Roger Troutman on production and talkbox alongside the lead vocals of Charlie Wilson and Shirley Murdock on “Computer Love” are as funky as it gets. There are so many songs that I consider to be my favorites, way too many to name. But I had to mention these tracks.
The funk will never die. Its influence is way too intertwined into popular music. My guess is that a few of the current Generation Z (or whatever the fuck sociologists named this era) music heads will grow older and seek to find the origins of their favorite music much like we did. And just like us, their odyssey will take them deeper and deeper into the sound until they one day arrive at the juncture of On The 1 Street and Funk Boulevard. And the beat goes on…
LONG LIVE THE FUNK
#MNR: 3 Gets You 2
“I love the hustle.”
Mitch, Paid in Full
The quote “war on drugs” may be one of the greatest misnomers we’ve ever known. The Wire said it best. You can’t call it a war because wars end. Drugs are forever. They cross all social and economic lines. Heroin ruins the lives of well-to-do white kids from Nassau County, Strong Island at the same rate as Black folk born and raised “down the hill” in Paterson, New Jerusalem. Famous politicians have been caught smoking crack under the eye of criminal probes. Opioids have further muddied the waters in ways we’ve never before seen. The entire world smokes reefa. Where does it begin? Where does it end? Those are rhetorical questions. But let’s talk about it.
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times. Ain’t no cocaine or poppy fields in the South Bronx, Compton, Englewood (Chicago OR Jersey), the Fifth Ward in Houston, Highland Park in Richmond (VA), Carol City in Miami, West Birmingham, Alabama, South Boston, VA, Roxbury in Boston, West Baltimore, U. City in St. Louis, the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, South Dallas, TX…you get the point. We don’t grow the shit. We don’t process the shit. We don’t ship or fly the shit into our corners, gas station convenience store lots, project staircases, trailer parks, ‘partment complexes, etc. How does it get from Mexico, South America, the Mediterranean, or Middle East to the American Ghetto? Hint: it ain’t us on this one either. That’s why this song will never stop playing. This is a rich man’s game, and the money trickles down stream. But think about it: if your local corner boy with a dream can become a millionaire off that same corner, how much does the MF that owns the fields and processes the yay or dog food make? And who is he doing business with? Because that MF is able to get it off a boat, plane, or trucks and transport it to the wholesalers who put it in the hands of the kingpins who sell it to the trap legends who flood the hood. And everybody gets rich as fuck. In the words of the great, late Guru, it’s a daily operation. For all this to happen, it’s common sense that people in high places are complicit participants. They call the shots that make sure those drugs get from the fields into your system. Billions are made annually. And that money ain’t going no damn where.
We all know that the cocaine and heroin games have been heavy plays in this country since the ‘60s. But this opioid epidemic – these ‘scripts, they’re a whole other monster. Oxycodone and Percocet, mostly, but strong consideration to Xanax and a few others as well. I can candidly say that I had a front row seat to the festivities. Between my two OG’s whom I shared an apartment with in Highbridge, #BXNYC and my big cousin in my home projects in Spanish Harlem, I watched how easy it was to “legally” gain access to prescription narcotics, and how easy it also was to get them off. One of my OG’s had a pharmacist at the end of our block on Jesup and another on the west side of Harlem. My cousin had his home pharmacist on the Eastside and another in Queens. My OG received well over a band and a half worth monthly when all ‘scripts were accounted for. In his prime, Cuzzo received over two stacks worth of ‘scripts monthly. Of course, they didn’t see those exact numbers in translation, but they still made a good penny when they didn’t get dicked (pause). Everyone in the 100 and 200 blocks knew about the Dominicans in the 170s by Amsterdam, who bought ‘scripts like Kev and I bought baseball cards back when. This went on for years, beginning in the mid 2000s . Matter of fact, it was so commonplace that I didn’t even consider the magnitude of it all until well over a half decade later when I saw a special on the opioid crisis crippling middle and upper middle class white kids on Long Island, NY. A year or two after that, it made its way into professional development training on the day job in the school system. And it wasn’t a generic training. It came from Bergen County PIGS. It was more than obvious that it was crisis mode.
Oh, the irony. I’d become quite familiar with dope fiends from the Barrio to Highbridge and had seen the carnage in Paterson since I’d moved back up top. I even knew a money-getting dope girl from P-Town. Outside those streets and the newspapers that covered them, the epidemic largely fell on deaf years. It only became an issue when it crossed demographics. That’s some bullshit. No one gave a half a fuck when it “only” affected Blacks, Hispanics, and white trash. We can argue ethics until we pass out, but it doesn’t affect the final score. The reality is that this epidemic is bigger than who and where. This shit can’t be stopped.
Where, exactly, do we go with the drug epidemic? Should we treat it like Al Giardello from Homicide: Life on the Street or Bunny Colson from The Wire (both David Simon productions) and legalize or ignore it? Do police (or the alphabet boys) continue to take down a kingpin here and there, sweep corners once a week, or give a kid football numbers for a G-pack? There really isn’t a steadfast answer. Drugs are like syphilis; they are forever. Feel free to debate. I welcome the verbal intercourse. Better yet, come up with a plan. Until then…
Few outside the NYC megalopolis are aware of the dilapidated state of a good portion of the region’s infrastructure. At the top of the list are Penn Station (Manhattan) and the Hudson River Train Tunnel. Penn Station is the busiest ground transportation hub in the entire country, and is in dire need of repair, from the train tracks (the tracks as well as their technology) to the edifice itself to…the Hudson River Train Tunnel. Well over 100 years old (108 to be exact), it links Penn Station to North New Jersey, home to another 3.5M potential commuters. The tunnel barely withstood the ravaging force of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Shit, the tunnel was fucked up even before Sandy, truth be told, yet it’s still standing. But for how much longer? Former president Donald Chump, a native New Yorker, was big on the idea of a new tunnel before he took 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue by siege. During his campaign and even in his victory speech election night, he pledged to rebuild highways, bridges, and tunnels. The process, dubbed the “Gateway Project,” was reportedly at the top of former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s agenda. Yet, tRump and his administration mysteriously went from salivating over “the most important infrastructure project in the country” to complete abandonment. Why? Many theorize that Cheesy’s only reason for talking big noise on the project was to gain favor from his (former) home state’s senior senator, Chuck Shumer in wake of the now infamous tax cuts that made the rich richer. In retrospect, the fact that the tax laws were passed through reconciliation and without a single Dem vote probably (no, definitely, dickheads) meant that 45 never had any intention to pull the trigger on a much-needed national infrastructure initiative, outside of it sounding “totally fucking cool” deep within his gelatin mass of a brain and him getting the “sole” credit for “rebuilding” this great nation. Anyway…I digress.
The jury is still out on the national infrastructure project (tunnel included). I, myself, have delved deep into the topic of infrastructure. I’ve studied China and how they are poised to dominate the global economy in upcoming years, chiefly due to their efforts in advancing infrastructure. They, like I, are big on the use of high-speed rail. I’ll skip all the technology and get to what you want to hear: many high-speed rails can travel in excess of 190 mph (300 km/hr). China isn’t the only nation that uses high-speed rail. There are plenty, from France to Russia to South Korea to Turkey to…you get the point. They weren’t the first to implement the technology, either. Japan was, in 1964. But what China is doing with high-speed rail is way more ambitious than any other country. They use high-speed rail most extensively, with over 23,550 miles (37,900 km) of track. They have designs for the HSR network, which boasts speeds of 120-220 mph (200-350 km/h). They also have strategically used the rails to interface diverse regions, linking technological, cultural, agricultural, industrial, and financial districts. The purpose of transportation is accessibility. By linking these areas, China can put a good dent in their perpetual population problem (say that 3 times consecutive for a prize). The renminbi can stretch a bit further for the person who makes a good yuan working in Beijing or Hong Kong but can’t quite afford to live in either city. Unskilled laborers can easily commute from the countryside to industrial districts to work factory jobs. Those living far away from the big cities can take day trips to see what all the fuss is about; little kids from nowhere can see what the lights of Hong Kong look like and become inspired to ascend to greatness from nothingness. Cargo can more easily be transported from the agricultural and industrial districts to other areas. Imagine living 150 miles away from your job but being able to make it in by 9:00 am after leaving the crib at 7:30 am, front doorstep to office/place of business front steps…
Before you get all upset and say, “damn, why can’t we…,” I’ll fill you in on a secret – we already have an initiative in place. The great state of Texas (home of the playas so there’ll never be no Plexus) is nearing go-status on high-speed rail, despite a handful of lawsuits from private landowners (the project has already received federal approval). Their high-speed rail plans to link Houston (SE Texas for the geographically challenged) to Dallas (Northern Texas). At operating speeds of 186-205 mph (299-330 km/h), it will make the 240-mile (390 km) trip from Houston to Dallas a 90-minute trip. Simple math says that trims what would be a car “day trip” by AT LEAST 2.5 hours. Now, I’ve never been to Texas outside catching a connecting flight at DFW (infinite love to big bro Skeet in H-Town and my bro Melvin Patterson, also a Houston native), but I’m pretty sure the traffic is a beeeaaahitch. I gotta ask my home girl Tiff for the scoop on Dallas traffic. So, in real time, we may be talking about a five or six-hour car trip. Now it’s time to make sure y’all strapped in because I’m about to take this blog high-speed. Ride witcha kinfolk…
We all know traffic is a dirty, dirty whore all around the country…but it’s especially shitty in high populated areas. So, let’s do some theorizing with high-speed rail…what if Sleepy Joe and Pete Buttigieg (Secretary of Transportation) pulled the trigger on a national infrastructure project that included extensive high-speed rail? Well, it would look something like this:
Let’s finish the Texas triangle off. Link Dallas to San Antonio/Austin (they’re in proximity) and SA/Austin to Houston. That would make the 274-mile car trip from Dallas to San Antonio by rail about the same length of time as the rail trip from Houston to Dallas. The rail trip from San Antonio to Houston would be even shorter, as the length is 197 miles by car. Imagine doing the Texas Triangle in slightly over FOUR HOURS! Let’s keep this going.
We gotta bring it to the beast, err umm, east coast, the Northeast Corridor to be exact. The first real segment of I-95 to be precise. Let’s link Boston to Providence, RI to New Haven CT, to NYC to Newark, NJ to Philly to Wilmington, DE to Baltimore to DC. That’s a total distance of over 450 miles (724 km). Amtrak Acela Express and other subsidiary services are already in place, but the lines only (only – lol) see speeds at a max of 150 mph (240 km/h), and that’s only in certain areas. Most US trains can only travel a max of 79 mph (127km/h). In addition, these services are limited. Very limited. But with complete high-speed rail? That’s a light 2.5 hours. No traffic. No traffic accidents. No lights. Just high speed. Y’all still not fucking with me? Ok. Let’s take it to killer Cali…
The last high-speed rail would link Northern and Southern California. It would begin in Sacramento and end in San Diego. In between stops would likely include Fresno, San Francisco, Oakland/Berkeley, San Jose, LA, and San Diego. I won’t even begin to do the city-to-city breakdown, I’ll simply mention the length in duration between the northernmost and southernmost points. Sacramento is about 504 miles away from San Diego by car. That’s well within range of a hotel/auntie or old college roommate house stay to break the trip up, considering traffic and meal/bathroom stoppage along the way. A high-speed rail trip would make it an under three-hour trip. I rest my case.
Traffic is still an evil bitch, gas and emissions are killing the environment, and patience is ultra-thin with everything under the sun these days. High-speed rail makes all types of sense in America. I’m guessing that a lot is riding on the Texas project. If it is indeed a go and is successful, it will put a lot of pressure on the national government to step up and make this a national endeavor. I plan to champion the cause when I’m elected to Congress in 4-6 years. Until then, keep reading my blogs. They’re the shiznahee.
The Weather Channel didn’t miss on this one. They called it last week. Snow, snow, and more snow. It’s a vacation day, bitches! And I could care less if you work at home or virtually. Ditto for school. It’s a vacation day!!!
It’s crazy that it actually snowed this much. If my memory serves me correctly, this is the most snow this region has seen since the 1996 blizzard. That was a special year for your boy (c/o ’96 & forever). Fortunately/unfortunately, I was in VA. My NYC time was limited to the summer. But err umm, I don’t think two plus feet of snow in any metro area is that pleasurable. But hey…
Every time there is a snowstorm of any significance in the North Jerz/NYC metro area, I’m painfully reminded of the pop-up blizzard on November 16, 2018. Oh, you MF remember. It was the day a few inches of snow crippled and damn near shut down the busiest region in the country. Six fucking inches. This area handles a half foot of snow like most people handle a damn hangnail. But nooooooo (John Witherspoon voice). Not that day. For some unbeknownst reason, this entire region (both sides of the Hudson) decided to collectively act like this was Southwest VA. And by that, I mean three inches of snow cancels school for the week. It’s much more difficult for many reasons. But none of the hurdles rural Virginia faces are anywhere on the radar of NYC metro. It should never have happened. The lowlights? Oh, I’ll mention a few. The largest transportation hub in America, Port Authority, was in essence shut down for about eight hours. Nothing moved in or out. My girl Nique was trapped in that shit hole with a few thousand other commuters for the longest. Fortunately, she was able to stay the night in the city with a friend. It took my uncle five hours to make it home in Hackensack from work in Newark. That’s less than a half hour car trip, traffic pending. It took my queen an hour and a half to make it from Rock Creek to Grieco Elementary, a trip that usually takes about ten minutes. Picture that. And me? Well, I was stranded at a bus stop in Bergenfield for THREE hours. Smmfh. I rushed off Dwight Morrow campus after work in a Lyft to the Bergenfield municipal building. I needed a TB skin test for a lucrative new job. I didn’t have health insurance at the time (smh), and the test cost like $35 at the Englewood Health Department. In contrast, it only cost like $8 in Bergenfield, and their nurse is a very kind lady. I look forward to seeing her once a year. I failed to mention that as I left DM, the snowflakes were coming down the size of a good loogie after it splatters. I had a feeling trouble was on the horizon, but this is North Jerz, damn it. I didn’t hear mention of any type of crazy snowfall, just a few inches. Wrong. By the time I left the health department, it was already getting crazy. Brandi was on her way to get me after she scooped baby girl, but she was caught up in her aforementioned 1.5-hour odyssey. Damn. I tried Uber and Lyft. They were talking about $65 for a ride home. That ticket is usually about $12 at the most. Fuck it. I just wanna go home. But…there were no cars available. An hour into it, I gave up hope on car service and decided to wait for the normally ubiquitous 166 Bus. Within the next hour my dark brown leather Florsheim’s were completely soaked through. My toes began to freeze. I reached out to my uncle and a couple other folk. Everyone was stuck in some type of traffic. Another hour passed. Still no bus. Sometime after that I cried out to my deceased mother for the only time since she passed over three years ago. I cried like a baby for about five good minutes. I got my shit together about a half hour after that. I wrapped my pity party up. I decided to walk to the now closed Subway and at least sit down and let my toes defrost. I’m lying. Kinda. I went to Subway to sit down, let my toes defrost, AND order a footlong steak and cheese, chips, three chocolate chip cookies, and water. I ate slower than I have since I was a child. I charged my devices. I probably stayed about an hour before regaining the confidence to go to the nearest bus stop and try to wait out another 166. No luck. Then I called the CEO. He told me to sit still. A half hour later he scooped me. We went to see the nearby medicine man (an old friend), and he took me to the crib. It took an hour and some change, but I made it home. I immediately called out from work. Fuck that. I got out those socks, laid back, and enjoyed my evening. Fuck that snowstorm. Big ups to the CEO.
Yesterday, I saw disturbing footage of a family of four, a mom and her three children (I don’t recall the state), cuffed and belly down on the pavement. Apparently, the PIGS had reason to believe the vehicle was stolen, yet all the paperwork matched up. I then learned that weapons were drawn on the children. So, you pilgrims mean to tell me that y’all can stand down as thousands of seditionists storm the Capitol, but you draw weapons on a single Black mother and her kids, cuff them, and keep them face down for TWO HOURS on a bogus apprehension? Get the fuck outta here. Fuck all you bitch ass pigs. Suck 100,000 sick dicks. The entire Frank stand.
BONUS FUCKERY FROM THE PIGS
Today, I saw the clip of a nine-year-old girl from Rochester, NY, cuffed and pepper sprayed, in the back of a police squatter. I read that the initial call to the PIGS made it known that the young girl had mental health issues. Yet, the PIGS showed no compassion. Again, there were female PIGS involved. I pray they aren’t mothers. Moreover, I pray their children are never subjected to the things they did to that little girl. My love is extended to EVERY child. Color makes no difference.
NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE. Until next time, y’all. Stay woke, stay blessed, and stay paid.