The thing about a band like Parliament Funkadelic is that their band name made it clear what kind of music they were making. Same goes for legendary rap group N.W.A. You pretty much know what you’re getting yourself into once you’re made aware of what those three letters stand for. No hidden meaning. No abstraction. Just cut and dry. Same goes for the production duo, The Funk League, on their newest effort, Funky As Usual, which is nothing but funky grooves. Go figure.
I take that back. It isn’t just funky grooves. It’s funky grooves laced by some of hip hop’s keystones like Sadat X, Large Professor, Diamond D, and Gift of Gab. This makes ‘Funky As Usual’ not only a sonically funky album, but also a nice respite from the radio and a momentary return to hip-hop of old, even if it is new. As a matter of fact, two of my favorite tracks on this album are “On & On,” featuring Sadat X, which is a horn punching, 70’s funk style track that I couldn’t help but feel like I had heard before, and “Through Good & Bad,” featuring Large Professor, which was reminiscent of old De La Soul and even old Gang Starr. Sadat rhymes about the inception and success of Brand Nubian, a group immersed in the fibers of the hip-hop music and culture, while Large Pro weaves a story about a tumultuous but addictive relationship – a topic that most can relate to. And the heat continues from “Why You…,” featuring Speech Defect, to “Humble Arrogance,” featuring Supa, all smattered in boom bap, to the disappointingly short, Dilla-esque “Epilogue.” The only way to describe these (and I rarely describe songs this way) is to call them, jams.
Funky As Usual, is just that – funky. And seeing as though it’s “As Usual,” I get the feeling that the Funk League just stays in their lane and makes the music they love as well as the music they are really good at making. The sound is effortless and the lyrical collaborators seem appropriate and in the pocket. These components ultimately make this a good album. The question I have for them is, will they ever delve into different kinds of funk? I know funk is almost always associated with American funk, but what about African funk, like Hugh Masekela when he was with Chisa? What about Tony Allen and Fela? How will The Funk League push themselves to even funkier levels?
- Jason Reynolds