Electrified Funk: The 1980's

The 1980's signaled the end of an era in which funky music was at its high peak of popularity. Bell bottom pants, gold chains, and sequined jumpsuits were replaced by Member's-Only jackets, spike-covered leather bracelets, and parachute pants. The drug of choice became cocaine, instead of cherry wine. The advent of synthesizers brought us electrified, New Wave music.

Indeed, Funk was a troubled scene in the 80's. The entire musical spectrum could be summed up in one word... SIMPLE. Up and coming digital technology was to blame. Horns, Hammond organs, and even drums were replaced by synthesizers. Yet the essence of funk was highly dependant upon the very variations which simply cannot be recreated by a keyboard. A skilled horn player can play a single note 200 times in a row, and by controlling the pitch, vibrato, dynamics, and many other subtle elements, it will NEVER sound the same twice. Conversely, no matter how many times you plunk that same note on a keyboard, it will ALWAYS sound exactly the same.

As such, many funksters were subject to, as Dr. Funkenstein puts it, "the Pimping of the Pleasure Principle", forced to compromise their sounds in a funk-unfriendly environment in order to make it.

Some say this was darkly bad. Others really get into the new sounds that were spawned. The point is that funk didn't disappear; it simply trickled down into new forms.


I'm not quite certain how rap got started, though I believe it evolved from street corners in urban areas across the United States. I recall watching the boys rap in my Junior High locker room. They'd stand in a large circle, one guy in the center rapping while another guy beatboxed. Just as the rapper was finished, he'd point to someone else in the circle who would jump in rapping with a smooth, non-stop transition.

This interplay of rapper, beatbox, and a DJ who would spin beats and scratch made its way into an industry. Rap has been criticized by those not in-the-know as being a talent-less avocation. Not true. Rap is very poetic and syncopated, a kind of spoken-word mixed with funk, performed best by those with quick, slippery lips and a keen mental thesaurus.

THE BEAT BOX: Now virtually extinct, it was popularized by The Human Beat Box of "The Fat Boys", Doug E. Fresh of "The Get Fresh Crew", and to a lesser extent, Ready Rock C of "DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince". A good beatbox would spit, gasp, pant, and pluck his cheeks to create a seamless beat... a beat that often will rival any drum machine.
SCRATCHING: Scratching is still heard in modern hiphop, but not nearly to the extent that it was heard in rap. Scratching in old-school rap is the equivalent to the guitar in your basic rock song. A number of raps have no rapping in them whatsoever... only one long scratching solo. A good DJ would spin the record back and forth, move the fader up and down, crossfade from one record to the next at riduculous speeds. Several prominent DJ's include Jam Master Jay from "Run DMC", Cut Creator from "LL Cool J", and DJ Jazzy Jeff.
SAMPLING: Sampling is still a key feature in hiphop, and is the most direct connection of rap to funk. Though raps such as MC Hammer's "You Can't Touch This" consist of a loop that persists throughout the entire song (in this case, "SuperFreak" by Rick James), many old-schoolers used a variety of short samples punched in here and there. LL Cool J uses James Brown on "BAD". Run DMC uses Trouble Funk on "Raisin'Hell". The Beastie Boys throw in all sorts of samples, including the Meters, Tower of Power, and Barry White.

Although rap became increasingly more political into the 90's, 80's rap was generally whimsical...silly and adolescent, covering themes such as escapades with freaks and skeezers, fashion, and of course, the assertion of being THE BADDEST RAPPER AROUND.


NO LINKS HERE YET... Please send me links to Web pages dealing with 80's rap.


Go Go

Go Go is non-stop, interactive funk straight from the original Chocolate City... Washington, D.C. It came along in the late seventies with Chuck Brown, the "Godfather of Go Go" (although Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers have been around since the late 60's) and saw its heyday in the mid 80's. Go Go features a high level of percussion, breaks and bridges, spontaneous chants from the audience, and a montage of lyrics and chants headed up by a quick-lipped MC, which by the grace of FUNK flows together seamlessly into a three hour, non-stop jam. The improvisational interplay of audience and band does not lend itself well to studio recording; the best recordings are found on live releases and bootlegs.


The GoGo Page
The GoGo Homepage
The Rhythm Section
Big Moe's Page


Electro-Funk (or "Naked Funk")


Radio Electro
-- Electro Funk mixes in RealAudio.


what is funk? -- where is funk?
funky links -- funky trader's list
bones in motion
The Artists of Funk:
classic funk - the 70's -- electrified funk - the 80's
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