Listening to Funkadelic is one of the most worthwhile things you can do with your life — which makes it utterly tragic that at a certain point, you're bound to run out of Funkadelic albums to listen to. Sure, once you've listened to the fourteen official Funkadelic albums, there are some odds and ends you can hunt down. The four other original vocalists released a Funkadelic album called Connections & Disconnections without George Clinton in 1980-ish. And there's a live album from 1971, plus a collection of outtakes called Toys. And a recently-released early-1970s offshoot called U.S. Music with Funkadelic. But that's still only like eighteen albums.
What do you listen to when you've just RUN OUT OF FUNKADELIC? (Besides starting over from the very beginning, of course.)
Worry not. I've got you covered — here's a list of P-Funk side projects you can listen to if you've listened to every Funkadelic album a hundred times, and you're craving something new.
Jeffrey Bowen was a producer with Motown, as well as the Motown offshoot label HDH/Invictus, in the 1970s. And pretty much every album he produced, he hired at least some of the original Funkadelic lineup as session musicians: Billy "Bass" Nelson, Eddie Hazel, Ramon "Tiki" Fulwood, Bernie Worrell, etc. I'm so not kidding. Check out the two albums by Bowen's then-wife Ruth Copeland, featuring some very classic Funkadelic grooves as well as Eddie Hazel soloing endlessly on Puccini's "Madame Butterfly." Also, Skin I'm In by Chairmen of the Board, A Song For You and Wings of Love by the Temptations, and a few others. And finally, the first solo album by Bonnie Pointer, Bowen's then-wife, features Eddie Hazel playing guitar and bass on almost every track — and Hazel plays a ripping banjo solo (!) on the kink-themed "Free Me From My Freedom (Tie Me To a Tree)". (There is a UK reissue of this Bonnie Pointer album by Cherry Red Records that's worth hunting down.)
And as a side note, I sometimes just sit and think about the sheer amount of talent that played as part of Parliament/Funkadelic. Just think about bass players. Any band would be lucky to have a bass player who slaps as hard as Billy "Bass" Nelson, Lige Curry, Cordell "Boogie" Mosson, Rodney "Skeet" Curtis, etc. etc., and then you add bass god Bootsy Collins to the mix? It's hard to wrap your mind around.
Most P-Funk fans probably know that Eddie Hazel released a solo album in 1977 called Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs. There's also a CD of outtakes from the Game, Dame sessions, which is available either as Rest in P or Jams From the Heart, and Hazel worked with a group called Krunchy which put out two archival recordings recently: At Home With Family, and a live Jimi Hendrix tribute called A Night for Jimi Hendrix. But also! Michael "Kidd Funkadelic" Hampton put out a mostly-instrumental album called Heavy Metal Funkasson (which was only released in Japan, sorry) and he has an instructional VHS tape called The Scales of Kidd Funkadelic. And last but definitely not least, Dewayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight put out a solo album called 'Bout Funkin' Time which is on iTunes, and it's devastatingly awesome. Of all the aforementioned solo albums, 'Bout Funkin' Time feels like a great lost Funkadelic album.
Back in the late 1990s, some of the members of the P-Funk All Stars split off to form a side group called the 420 Funk Mob, which played concerts in smaller clubs in between PFAS gigs. Spearheaded by Mike Clip Payne, the group usually included folks like bass wizard Lige Curry and guitar genius Michael Hampton, with guest spots by original Funkadelic bassist Billy "Bass" Nelson, and George Clinton himself. Where the PFAS were playing the greatest hits of Parliament, Funkadelic, George Clinton and others (alongside some deep cuts sometimes), the 420 Funk Mob has focused on playing the more obscure songs — and mostly they played the early Funkadelic tracks. To listen to a 420 Funk Mob show is to hear a band having the time of their life playing music they love and feeling free from the need to be free. There's a 420 Funk Mob live album, Live on the Off Days, available on iTunes (featuring Toshi Reagon and George Clinton!). If you google a bit, you can also find their first ever concert from Trammps in 1998 on Soundcloud. And the best news? The 420 Funk Mob are still doing shows here and there.
(Also if you can track down a 1984 concert by the Electric Warbabies, a P-Funk offshoot band, at Club Lingerie in L.A., it's worth checking out. It's almost all early Funkadelic songs from the Westbound era, performed by Hampton, McKnight, Nelson and a ton of others.)
In the late 1980s and 1990s, producer Bill Laswell got heavily involved in putting out new P-Funk, working a lot with folks like Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell and putting out records on Rykodisc. I'm not even sure how many records they put out, but they're all worth hunting down, especially the Axiom Funk compilation, Bootsy's side project Zillatron, the Last Poets album Holy Terror, and a ton of others. (And of course, Laswell, Collins and Worrell also collaborated on the first Praxis album, Mutatis Mutandis.)
But there was one project in particular which seemed aimed squarely at Funkadelic aficionados: O.G. Funk, a solo project by Billy "Bass" Nelson, the aforementioned original Funkadelic bass player. The Out of the Dark album includes a couple of loose cover versions of songs like "I Wanna Know If It's Good To You" and "You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks," featuring rapping by folks like Melle Mel, but there are also some totally original compositions that feel very Funkadelic. Warning: The song "Funkadelic Groupie" is about as sexist as most songs about groupies.
Jimi Hendrix's influence on Funkadelic is pretty obvious, and in the 1990s, various P-Funk musicians and satellite acts got together to release two tribute albums under the name P-Funk Guitar Army. These two CDs, which I think were only released in Japan, feature people like George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, alongside Hampton, McKnight and others. There are some Hendrix covers alongside some original songs, and a few tracks that also appear elsewhere. It's a bit of a mixed bag, but the best parts are worth hunting down, including Andre Foxxe's song "Crash and Burn." And Hampton's weird-ass song "Funky Kazoo."
Here's another satellite act that I love — PFAS drummer Gabe Gonzalez founded his own group called Enemy Squad, which released a couple of albums in the late 1990s that are out of print but worth searching for. Their debut album, United State of Mind, features some great guitar work and some pretty heavy rock grooves, with an obvious love for early Funkadelic on every track — including one song that borrows its melody from "Miss Lucifer's Love." My favorite is "Return of the Swamp Thang," which has a very swampy sound with lots of guitars layered on top of each other.
Also, Andre Foxxe's 2002 solo album Myllennium has a total Funkadelic feel, including the utterly devastating song "Laughin'." (And I just now found out that Foxxe released a new project on Bandcamp in 2015, called Andre Foxxe & The Psychedelic Ghetto Pimpz. Pardon me while I go purchase that!)
Parliament/Funkadelic leader George Clinton finally went solo in the 1980s (after a shelved 1973 solo album called The Black Vampire that nobody has ever gotten to hear. I would give someone else's kidney for a copy of that record.) I love most of Clinton's solo albums, but Dope Dogs has a special place in my heart, and it feels more like a classic Funkadelic album than any of his other releases, mixed with hip hop. Dope Dogs is also one of the more political and lyrically cohesive P-Funk projects, commenting on the war on drugs through the lens of one of Clinton's major obsessions: the "pimping of the pleasure principle." Dope Dogs tells the story of a dog who is genetically engineered to be able to sniff out drugs, and subjected to a series of mad science experiments, only to become addicted to the drugs that he's sniffing. As Clinton says in the title track, "There's more profit in pretending that we're stopping it than selling it." The opening track, "Dog Star," is a pure showcase for Blackbyrd McKnight's excellence.
Oh, also — there's a John Lennon tribute album called Working Class Hero, where George Clinton contributes a cover version of "Mind Games" that absolutely sounds like it could have been a track on America Eats Its Young. And if you can find the instrumental mix of the song "Man's Best Friend" from Clinton's first solo album Computer Games, it's basically just one long Eddie Hazel guitar solo.
Honestly, I am just scratching the surface here — the countless members of the P-Funk mob have released so many awesome side projects, and worked on so many things as session musicians, that we could be here all day. What's your favorite P-Funk side project?
Also, here's a reminder to support all of the aforementioned artists in any way you can. Some of the stuff I'm mentioning here is long since out of print and impossible to purchase in a way that gives these artists royalties, but you'd be amazed what you can find on iTunes or Bandcamp, and there are other ways to shower many of these artists with cash.
I bought a month of Peacock so I could watch They/Them, and then I realized there's a second season of Rutherford Falls, one of the best TV comedies of the past decade. And at least based on the first three or four episodes, Rutherford Falls is even better the second time around — this time, it feels like more of a true ensemble show, in which Ed Helms' Nathan Rutherford is allowed to be just another struggling weirdo. Season one revolved round Nathan's struggle to preserve the dubious history of the small town that bears his name, which brings him into conflict with Terry (Michael Greyeyes), a local indigenous leader who runs a casino. In season two, Terry is having some problems of his own, and Reagan (Jana Schmieding) is stepping up and seizing her power, only to find that she's facing a lot of challenges along the way. And the character of Bobbie (Jesse Leigh) really blossoms in season two. This is a comedy that's firing on all cylinders, and it's truly something incredible to see.
Ummm... let's see...
The final (for now) Writers With Drinks is happening on Saturday at 7:30 at the Make Out Room, featuring Shelley Wong, Tim Pratt, Lio Min and Kate Greene. It's a fundraiser for Walk SF.
The following Saturday (9/17) at 5:30, I'm reading as part of the Babylon Salon at The Sycamore, with Vanessa Hua, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Jonathan Escoffery and Zoe Young.
The final book in my young adult trilogy, Promises Stronger Than Darkness, comes out on April 13, 2023, and you can pre-order it wherever books are available. (And if you pre-order from Folio Books, you'll get it signed *and* personalized — plus Folio will donate 10 percent of the proceeds to the Transgender Gender-Variant & Intersex Justice Project, and I'll match their donations!
Also, I'm working hard on some scripts for upcoming issues of New Mutants, starting with issue 31. If you wanna pre-order these from your local comic book store, I'd be super grateful. And just look at the covers of issue 31 and 32!