For the our third installment of our monthly all-vinyl residency at Den of Thieves we present Respect the Architects: A Vinyl Odyssey Mapping Future Funk featuring two of DC’s most prolific and ubiquitous selectors: Jahsonic & John Murph. We issued the DJs a challenge to take listeners and dancers on a sonic odyssey mapping the family-tree of “Future Funk” using their extensive vinyl collections to map the course.
Funk is like an apple and there are tens of thousands of varieties of an apple. Enter “Future Funk.” Who is its daddy? How does one define it? Ask any funk expert and you will receive a variety of answers based on subjective tastes. Certainly you could get an academic ethnomusicologist to explain it but how fun would that be? The musical genre called “Future Funk” is so vast and means so many things to different people that it’s hard to pinpoint the mouth of the river from which it springs. So, for our purposes we turn to our topographic DJs—Jahsonic and John Murph—who will map our course at Den of Thieves this Thursday.
There was a plethora of technical innovation for keyboards and guitar effects in the ’60s and lots of musicians jumped right in. I often hear that Sly Stone sits near the source of “Future Funk” with his early ’70s output, specifically on There’s a Riot Going On and later on Fresh. Is it the drum machines? Miles Davis was supposedly inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s wah-wah pedal and put it to use on much of his funk/jazz explorations. Herbie Hancock never shied away from electronic gadgetry and synthesizers but always kept it funky. Noted jazz musician Eddie Harris spawned hits playing his sax with a Varitone effects unit in the late ’60s, but rather than playing bop he was definitely blowing a more groovy funk sound.
If someone were to ask me what an example of “Future Funk” is, I’d probably point to Stevie Wonder’s Clavinet-drenched mega hit, “Superstition” and the futuristic aesthetics of Funkadelic and Sun Ra. Where does “future funk” begin for you?
Murph: I think funk began well before we called it “funk.” You can hear traces of it in black American blues, gospel, and jazz. And certainly in a lot of Afro-Latin and West African music. Just listen to Johnny Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillun,” Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy,” Bessie Smith’s “Gimme a Pigfoot” to hear clear evidence. Then there’s the inherent funkiness of compositions by Count Basie, Fats Waller, Mario Bauza, Sun Ra, Machito, Charles Mingus, and many others.
Jahsonic: Like most people, I’m going to have to say at the twin poles of Sun Ra and Parliament Funkadelic.