Why G-Funk Is So Damn Important..
A Traveler's Guide To G-Funk
A quick note on why G-Funk served as an important piece of Hip-Hop’s culture. Pictured above, headed by the illustrious George Clinton, his bands Parliament and Funkadelic took whatever people thought funk and rock would become and crafted he 70s into something of its own. Both bands (and their list of offshoot groups and solo acts) pulled in elements from the furthest reaches of their own genre and beyond. From the humour from Frank Zappa & The Coasters to the amplified sounds of Jimi Hendrix, Funkadelic took Psychedelic Rock into new territory.
By the end of the 1970s, Clinton had a lot of the same musicians playing for both groups (under two different labels) without much more than their aesthetic separating them. With a rotating cast of musicians (including Bootsy Collins, The Brides of Funkenstein, among others) both Parliament and Funkadelic have produced roughly 25 albums to date that span across a few decades.
Now: you may be asking how a 1970s psychedelic/R&B collective like Parliament/Funkadelic would relate to and shape Hip-Hop almost 20 years later?
Technology is the answer at its most basic. The more we looked towards manipulating the sounds that technology can produce, the further into the unknown we can explore. The 90s showed this in crafting G-Funk; relying heavily on synthesizers, heavy bass, and of course typically using P-Funk samples (or artists in the same era). Now there is always a debate about who pioneered the style (which isn’t uncommon in history), but it quickly became what the West Coast was known for after Dr. Dre released The Chronic in 1992. G-funk rose to new heights and had all eyes on the West Coast.
Characterized by gangsta storytelling, laidback delivery, and old-school grooves, G-Funk brought an image of California that still remains in some capacity. Artists like Dre, Snoop, and 2Pac thrived in building their image taking any chance to show off any and every lowrider available in the city.
At the height of its popularity, after working with Dr. Dre on The Chronic, Snoop Dogg continued to push the West Coast sound and had Dr. Dre exclusively produce his debut album, Doggystyle. While G-funk isn’t limited to exclusively Parliament/Funkadelic sampling, Doggystyle hosted a Parliament or Funkadelic sample on almost every album track. His laid back drawl and fluidity put him in a top tier early on and made him so everlasting.
“Writing my rhyme, trying to get intellectual/Directing the weather, makin’ my negative records more intellectual”
— Think About It
One of the most important debuts within that decade, its quickly became crowned a classic because it is a snapshot that captures that Golden Age of Hip-Hop. It helped define what West Coast Hip-Hop actually looked like.
Balm, Bool & Bollective
G-funk eventually lost its footing and appeal as we moved to the early 2000s (which is an entirely larger piece to write about). The occasional callback to some of those g-funk era artists found its way to more modern audiences but lay dormant for the most part.
As we moved to almost 20 years since the sub-genre was created, a desire for that sound was brought forward. YG is an artist that deserves a lot more recognition for helping bring the G-Funk sound back to people’s attention. Being a rapper from Compton holds a lot of weight and expectations given what the city produced all throughout the 90s and more recently (re: TDE). In a landscape where authenticity isn’t essential to thrive, YG wears it proudly.
The spotlight that put gang culture at the forefront is passed off as something ancient that we revisit from time to time. While a few Compton rappers have produced a few G-funk inspired tracks, YG molded his sound to embody the era of G-funk again. His second album, Still Brazy, released in 2016, brought an album that contained those core elements and presented the more 20+ years removed from its original production.
All these maybe maybe maybe maybe’s
I’m about to say fuck it and start squeezing without aiming
I got trust issues if I don’t fuck with dude
My body language gon tell him I don’t fuck with you
I can’t sleep at night this shit unbomfortable
— Still Brazy
Keeping some of his titles as a true to the letter Blood of changing ‘C’s to ‘B’s, YG released tracks like ‘Balm, Bool & Bollective’ and ‘Still Brazy’. Even something simple as letter changes differentiates him and ties the culture he draws from:
Some might find a problem with reviving a sub-genre like this, where I ask: why is it a problem? Isn’t this what a lot of Hip-Hop is based on? Using what we know to create something different?
And just like the Golden Age, Hip-Hop still has room to grow..
One thing that I will always love Hip-Hop is its overt effort of utilizing what’s been done before in a different form. The foundations of Clinton and Funkadelic/Parliament haven’t been lost to the history books, but actually still holds some weight.
We hold a great power from being able to create a sound that defines a geographical region. I don’t think we really know how much impact that has for us. Songs like Tha Shiznit’, ‘Gin & Juice’ or ‘California Love’ still get similar reactions if it somehow ends up on your Spotify playlist.
And that’s the thing; G-funk as a genre hasn’t stuck around since its peak. People aren’t clammering in the streets for its return. The songs and style, however, (whether you recognize it as G-funk or not) cemented themselves in Hip-Hop’s history books and can still guide it to new territory.