Godfather of funk George Clinton continues to bring the funk to the old and new school
The feeling Millenials get when they hear the soulful rhythm of Childish Gambino’s “Redbone,” and how timeless this record will be is like a sense of deja vu for some. That sound heard in today’s music comes from the funk era. Sampling has created some of this generation’s most praised music, and one of the legends who presented the opportunity for this to happen is the great Funkadelic and Parliament lead George Clinton. At the golden age of 76, Clinton looks forward to a year worth of touring and keeping his ear to the streets. Keeping up with today’s new acts including Cardi B and Migos, Clinton is the ultimate hip-hop connoisseur to chat with.
Clinton has witnessed all the ups and downs the music business has to offer through his over-30-year career. But that career was marked by frequent drug abuse and royalty troubles, both of which plagued his success. He refers to both as his reasons for sobering up eight years ago and deciding to fight for his art.
“People don’t believe you when you in that frame of mind,” Clinton said, reflecting on getting clean. “You don’t even believe yourself.”
The business side of sampling music forced him to have more awareness about the commercial use of his music. Clinton says he was paid directly by the artists for his samples when they first released. These works include De La Soul’s 1989 “Me Myself and I” which took parts from Clinton’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” and Ice Cube’s 1993 “Bop Gun (One Nation),” which samples Clinton’s song under the same name. Usually, when artists allow samples they receive payments from the sales of the second song. However, according to Clinton, he has not received payments from the record company.
For Clinton, the fight to receive royalties has been long and hard. He says has been fighting the record companies for over half a billion dollars, and blames the struggle for his lack of an invitation to this years’ Grammy Awards. For three years he has been credited as a writer on various hit songs and he says he has not received an invitation. “They don’t want me to show up because they’re afraid I’m a say something,” Clinton says.
So far, Clinton has gotten the rights back for his song “Atomic Dog” and some earlier works. According to Clinton, music companies are just now starting to show how an artist can get their rights back. Clinton is working on getting the album “Mothership Connection” back in his ownership. He is also working on a documentary that highlights this experience that will release later this year. “It’s going to be entertaining to people when they see just how much I had to go [through] just to get it all back,” Clinton says.
Clinton says samples have brought him closer to a younger audience and have kept him relevant. Artists he has worked with include Tupac, Dr. Dre, Prince, and Kendrick Lamar. Clinton describes working with Lamar as working with an old soul. “It’s like working with Prince,” Clinton says, “Wesley’s Theory,” Clinton’s sample and feature on Lamar’s 2015 sophomore album “To Pimp A Butterfly” proved his ability to still reach a younger audience.
From artists he has worked with to acts he can see himself collaborating with like Childish Gambino and Migos, Clinton likes it all. “I think I gravitate to music that gets on parents’ nerves,” Clinton says.
Clinton has plans to tour with newer acts and wants to include them in his future music. He would like to see Future sample him. “Future is like a Funkadelic man already,” Clinton says. He has plans to work with Childish Gambino, tour in Japan with Flying Lotus and hopes to do something with Cardi B. “I like her style,” Clinton says. “I like all the people that come around with new stuff like that.”
With new collaborations also comes new music. Clinton has big things coming from his new album “Medicaid Fraud Dog.” According to him, the album is expected to release in April. Until then, fans can listen to his new single, “I’m Gon Make U Sick O’Me.” With prescription drug abuse rising, this project will be highlighting issues in the food and drug industry. “I’m a make you sick and then I’m a give you the antidote,” Clinton says.
According to Clinton, the prescription industry is worse than drug dealers. As a recovering drug user, Clinton does not want to preach to the youth. According to him, all he can say is to replace the negative substance with something positive. For him, there is no need for any of that when you have music.
“I can get high as hell just getting in that groove,” he says.
George Clinton and the band Parliament-Funkadelic will be in Portland, OR at the Roseland Theatre, March 21 at 8 P.M. Fans can purchase tickets at the Roseland website or through a local Safeway.
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