George Clinton, the galactic arbiter of all that is funky, has been tearing roofs off with various permutations of his Parliament/ Funkadelic collective since the late 1960s. Over time, he has watched jazz, rock and alternative stylists absorb his teachings. But over the past few years he has become increasingly convinced that hip-hop artists are most qualified to pass the torch of funk to the next generation. That's why he recruited some of the top rappers in the game to contribute to a forthcoming album and TV special.
Outkast, Busta Rhymes, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Scarface, Too Short, JT Money and Jamal are some of the rappers who will lend a hand to the forthcoming P-Funk Allstars album, H.L.D.Y.H.T.B.B.Y.A. (How Late Do You Have to Be Before You're Absent). The LP is scheduled for release on Clinton's C-Conspiracy label in October and will include songs like "Snot and Booger" and "Yesterday Ja Vu." Rockers slated to contribute are Tommy Lee and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Anthony Kiedis and Flea; P-Funk alums like bassist Bootsy Collins, keyboardist Bernie Worrell and guitarist Michael Hampton are on board as well.
Clinton's relevance to hip-hop isn't just second-hand. He hung out in a Detroit studio with Eminem when the rapper was 15, and was at Dallas Austin's place in Atlanta when Goodie Mob and Outkast were recording in the early '90s. "When Outkast and Goodie Mob started happening, it was like watching my kids make it," Clinton said.
The last George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars album was 1996's T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. (The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Mothership). Since then, the group has toured regularly with various members, but legal disputes with Mammoth, their former label, caused them to remain in recording limbo for years. This month, the band was finally granted legal permission to release new material, a representative from Clinton's management said. Some of the songs on H.L.D.Y.H.T.B.B.Y.A. were recorded for an album Mammoth never released, and the rest were done over the last few years.
According to Clinton, one of the sessions' most amusing moments came when ODB contributed to a song that also features Busta Rhymes (Clinton declined to reveal the song's name). "ODB is clever like Sly Stone," he laughed. "He did his thing, and everybody was waiting for him [to finish], and he said, 'OK, I'll be right back.' He had wrote the words down on this wrinkled piece of paper. So, when he didn't come back, I picked up the paper — and he had said everything that was written on there." Clinton laughed, and continued, "He was so slick. He was finished and he knew he was finished. He wasn't planning on coming back."
But Clinton said his musical highlight was working with Prince on a track called "(Brother Can You) Pare a Dime?" Even though the pair didn't work in the same studio — they collaborated by phone and mail — Clinton said they vibed as if they were together. "We really connected on that one," he enthused. "It was the funkiest thing I ever heard him play. He took the stuff I had 'P'd on, and then he 'P'd on it, and it was spectacular."
On October 30 and 31, a galaxy of P-Funk alums — including Clinton, Collins, Worrell, Hampton, horn player Maceo Parker and others who have beamed in and out of the ranks over the years — will gather in Los Angeles to record a two-hour TV special called "P-Funk Nation Celebration: History of Parliament/ Funkadelic and Influences."
For the show, the funkmasters will again be surrounded by stars. Outkast, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Macy Gray, Snoop Dogg and Raphael Saadiq have already signed on to join the band for Parliament/ Funkadelic classics like "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker"), "P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)" and "Dr. Funkenstein." Other artists who agreed verbally but haven't yet signed contracts include Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Smokey Robinson, and Rolling Stones guitarists Ron Wood and Keith Richards, Clinton said. Clinton's management is currently in negotiations with several networks to air the program, which will be directed by Reggie Hudlin, who wrote and directed "House Party." "He said he went to Harvard just to learn how to do movies so he could actually film the P-Funk story," Clinton said. "We met him in the '80s, and we've been working on getting something like this together with him ever since."
After the TV special, Parliament/ Funkadelic will embark on a global trek they're calling the Final Landing of the Mothership Tour. It will be their first tour in 18 years to feature many of the original members, but don't call it a reunion. "This is something we planned to do a long time ago because of planned obsolescence," Clinton said. "We all wanted to go out and do other things, but the idea was always to do Parliament/ Funkadelic again together at some point. Now, the thing is to be able to put the show on with the technology of today and do all the songs of then and some of the songs we've had since then, and show people that it's all part of the Mothership story."
Clinton also said that, despite the tour's title, it won't be the last. "This is actually the beginning," he said. "All the rest of it has been rehearsals."