Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Chris Frantz is a founding member of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club with his wife Tina Weymouth. He has produced albums by Happy Mondays, Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers, and Shirley Manson. Chris also hosts a radio show on Connecticut’s WPKN.
I’ve got to say it’s a thang of beauty, this new 7 Days of Funk LP. Dâm-Funk and Snoopzilla are the new keepers of the funky flame. They have gone directly to that lovely spot where, when you hear it, you either want to make love or dance or both at the same time. Of course, the source is purely Parliament-Funkadelic circa 1976, but that’s a cool source. Snoopzilla — aka Snoop Dogg and Snoop Lion — was five years old back then, a very impressionable age. He has always had a highly melodic and laid-back style which works perfectly here. In fact, there is some really silky singing delivered by Snoopzilla himself. The guy has the soul and style of some of the most sensational artists from the golden age of rhythm & blues, yet he also has his own thang and always has. I tell you, some rappers sound to me like they’re giving you directions from the tollbooth of the Holland Tunnel. Not Snoop, baby. His flow is smooth and mellow but most of all, it’s musical. When he raps it sounds like sax.
His musical partner Dâm-Funk is clearly a child of the P-Funk thang or, more specifically, the musical offspring of Bernie Worrell. How do I know this? I played alongside Bernie with Talking Heads on many a world tour culminating with the film Stop Making Sense. I know Bernie’s influence when I hear it. Still, there’s much lip service paid to Bootsy Collins on this record but none to Bernie. I’m not sure what to make of that but whatever. Dâm-Funk is younger than Snoop but he has done his funky homework and Dâm-Funk can really play. I also enjoy the vintage keyboards and drum machines he uses. The real machines sound better than their digital plug-in counterparts — the keyboards sound deeper and more resonant. The drum machines are programmed in mostly slower tempos without any cluttered-up parts; in other words, the grooves have plenty of air in them. You can feel the pulse and the push and pull. If it’s going to be funky, you have to feel that. Dâm-Funk has albums of his own that are worthy of your attention, but when he teams up with Snoop they really compliment each other. Together they go off to that place where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a groovy partnership.
Snoop Dogg has been in the spotlight for over twenty years now. That’s saying something in any field of endeavor, but in hip-hop, that’s like a million years. When I travel the world I see and hear about Snoop almost everywhere on TV, on the radio and on the international festival circuit. He crosses over to the rock crowd with ease. Even though he claims to be a pimp, women seem to love him and his Lothario schtick. His hairdos are impeccable. His herb consumption is legendary, yet he keeps himself together and doesn’t get stupid.
You might ask yourself why a man my age would decide to write a piece about Dâm-Funk and Snoopzilla’s new record? Well, why not? I’ve been a devotee of funky music for many, many years. In my collection I have the Meters, the Ohio Players, Sly and the Family Stone, Booker T. and the MG’s, Zapp, the Staple Singers, Mtume, Chaka Kahn, Herbie Hancock, Parliament-Funkadelic and James Brown — all on vinyl! But these cats, if they are still alive, are not getting any younger and I, for one, do not want to see real funk music retire and die. There are a lot of lesser lights claiming to play funk these days and they sort of play it but they don’t really play it, if you know what I mean. Some players overplay because they want to show you what great chops they have so they play really complicated parts way too fast to ever be truly funky.
Then there are some players who are stuck inside of some imaginary Meters groove and sound more like the Grateful Dead than the real thang. Some so-called funk bands think that popping a slap bass into the mix makes them funky. Ugh. I lot of bad funk bands seem to be copycats who bring nothing of themselves to the party… so it’s not a good party. It’s OK to emulate your musical heroes — we all do that — but you have to bring something additional that is unique unto yourself.
This brings us back to 7 Days of Funk by Dâm-Funk and Snoopzilla. Dâm-Funk’s rhythm beds and synth parts are raw and uncut. He leaves plenty of space for the track to pulse and breathe and he leaves space for Snoopzilla to do his thang. And boy, does Snoopzilla do his thang with great personal emotion and finesse. I have to say that I’m intellectually uncomfortable with Snoop’s frequent use of the N-word. I’m also emotionally uncomfortable with it. I spent much of my youth in the southern U.S. and I know what kind of white people use that word, but Snoopzilla lives in a different world from me where niggas, bitches and ho’s are seemingly part of the vernacular. I’m sure he didn’t think twice about recording them for posterity on his new LP. I guess you can’t have everything.
I won’t do a blow-by-blow of all the different tracks. They’re all good. Some official videos are already on Youtube and you can check them out. If you’re in the mood to party, I suggest you buy this record: play it loud and the party will come to you.