As a kid growing up in the 1990s, My mother made it her personal mission to expose me to different soundscapes. Many of my earliest memories were ones of me and her jamming and dancing to Parliament Funkadelic and a host of other Funk/Soul acts from the 70s. You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t a 5 year old robot when “Flashlight” or “Bop Gun” came on. Even though I was supposed to be sweeping or vacuuming, once the music began to echo throughout the house, it was over. For every rap song I heard during that time, My mother made sure I knew the original composition that it came from, which allowed me to have a greater appreciation for every genre I was exposed to.
Once my mother saw that I was taking a real liking to the music, she soon began to explain the meaning behind many of the album covers that piqued my interest. Imagine seeing a man hanging out of a flying saucer (Mothership Connection) or being mesmerized by a Black Man who was later explained to me as Atlas holding up the globe (Slave). Being a visual learner, seeing and absorbing the cover art was equally important as the music itself. Earth, Wind, and Fire, Slave, and Parliament/Funkadelic each captured my imagination early on with their coded messaging in the music.
All throughout the music of the aforementioned acts, laid certain ideals and perspectives that allowed me to grow into a sense of consciousness that I’m sure I was far too young to understand at that time. I feel as if my mother knew that once I got older, I would return to each of these albums with more knowledge that I gained throughout my experience of just being a black boy living. As a kid, hearing “Get Up for the Down Stroke” sounds like it’s just a heavy bassline and fun grooves, until you turn 18 and register to vote and it hits you. Seeing pyramids and glyphs mixed with space technology( EWF’s Raise!) introduced me to the early concepts of Afro-Futurism that is just now becoming mainstream.
Funk music on the surface seemed like fun music with infectious grooves, and kinetic energy pulsating throughout it all, but that was indeed the candy. The ideals of being self-conscious, socially aware, fearless and uncompromising were and still are the medicine. Much of today’s music cannot be fully appreciated until you take that trip to the past and discover what the artists of today and yesterday are really trying to impart to us. Everything that you’ve learned about music as a tool is true. What you do with that information will make you a better artist/creative in the long run…If you so choose.