When you have a memoir from an artist whose career spans over basically five decades, and just as many genres, you are automatically in for a great read. George Clinton the front man to the legendary bands ‘Funkadelic’ and ‘Parliament’ is one of musics most eccentric, confusing, wild, and enigmatic figures. Mr. Clinton who is the brains not only behind those two iconic bands but also all their offshoots and side projects, producing and arranging for Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Bernie Worrell’s solo projects, Eddie ‘ Maggot Brain’ Hazel, The Brides of Funkenstein and many more. With the P-Funk’s captain foreseeing the two main collectives releases, which usually looks like a steady release of twin albums every year, and the side projects and band members solo projects the reader is set to digest about ten years worth of music in this book if every project the P-Funk collective made were to play back to back continuously. The story, like all autobiographies, begins with George growing up and discovering music and how he got started in the industry and contrary to all the wild antics and what seems like unstructured behavior George quite ironically shows how much thought and planning went into every aspect of his art early on in the memoir. Do not let the strange titles and costume confuse you, this book is deep. From detailing the rigorous process of writing and arranging a song, one of Mr. Clinton’s true strong suits as he cannot play any instruments and as he says can’t sing either just “has the ability to make you think he can sing”, to exposing the true cut throat nature of the business and other conspiracies he has witnessed. This book is layered with knowledge from space exploration, spiritual depth and realization, conspiracy theories, mysterious deaths of great musical figures, to down right straight forward political funk all ingeniously delivered with classic P-Funk wit, humor and insight. There are stories of run ins with plenty of who’s-who’s in the industry and great behind the scenes tales of the two funk legends George and Sly (Sly Stone) kicking back, working on music, fishing and getting high. All the way up until current day and current albums, which feature s the title track -of this book- a track/title that almost seems like it is written incorrectly, George gives a detailed description of everything you need to know about life and the industry up to his current legal cases from greedy managers and lawyers who are solely out to make money off an artist whose catalog and publishing is so vast, and ever expanding due to Hip-Hop’s sampling, that the total sum of money owed to him could quite possibly reach the billions. Along with other things Mr. Clinton also reveals he is an avid reader and advocates the importance of knowledge constantly in this book and how it positively effected his art and creativity, perhaps it’s just the ‘placebo effect’ but maybe it truly helped expand his mind (along with the drugs), a great way for readers to start their own personal expansion is to read this book for yourself and truly free your mind (…and your ass will follow!)
As another installment of the 33 1/3 music book series Toronto freelance culture writer Jordan Ferguson delves in the mysterious classic instrumental album Donuts by legendary music producer J Dilla. Not only is this book a great peek inside of Donuts and the making of the album, it is also a rare glimpse inside the life of one of Hip Hop’s most mythical figures. This aspect is only approached through the angle of trying to uncover the hidden gems left in the famed producer’s last work, with the intent to find why these gems were left and what correlation it has to J Dilla consciously knowing his time on earth is ending soon. Layered with ancient Greek mythology and Western philosophy Ferguson gives his opinion on the more layered aspects to Donuts and how they relate to what the man producing, what he most likely knew was his last work, was going through. The author successfully convinces the reader that Donuts is a spiritual journey more than an instrumental album, and even unearths some almost eerie ‘hidden gems’ found in the album. From sample choices in another language that when translated deal with death, that Dilla more than likely would not have even known what they were saying, to the 5 stages of mourning or acknowledgement of impeding death located throughout the entire album. This book does give a short but detailed history of Dilla but with the producer’s cult like following most serious “Dilla Heads” will immediately recognize all the source material. No knew interviews or quotes are presented in this book, and most “Heads” probably have the original interviews saved in the favorites online as all of the source material for this book can be found on the internet. But this book’s purpose isn’t to give the untold story of Dilla but to ask the philosophical questions we all wonder in our heads that surround this mysterious final project. Ferguson is sure to make it known that this is just his opinion on a person and their art, and perhaps there is no true meaning embedded in this particular piece of art, but after re-listening to Donuts after this book, I am pretty sure there may be more gems than we think we know in this album.
Legendary drummer and musical monk Questlove has recently stepped into the field of literature. Stepping from behind the drum set and turntables the Roots drummer gives his fans an in depth look into the life of one of today’s most acclaimed musicians. “Mo Meta’ Blues” is Thompson’s memoir and it doesn’t necessarily follow the standard path, there are breaks in the story, tidbits from the co-writer, dialogue, and the very special end-of-chapter “yearly” album shout out section. This section is the place where Questo stops the story to quickly break down each album that came out that year in his life during the story and pay homage to some of the music that helped influence this ground breaking musician. All and all this is a great read for any Hip-Hop or Roots fan but more importantly any fan of music should pick this book up. Like most memoirs it is filled with celebrity run-ins and encounters, and is a true honest glimpse into the brain of a musical genius.
Dan Charnas- The Big Payback (The History of the Business of Hip-Hop)
This bible sized book is literally a chronological tale of the growth and evolution of Hip-Hop from conception to full fledged global cultural tidal wave. With a topic this vast a book this big will always to tell to much and not enough at the same exact time simply due to its length. The grand detail and overall story arc covers so much and at the same time may leave the reader wanting more or wonder why in such great detail their favorite obscure artist was overlooked or skimmed past. This is a great book for any true fan of the culture; it may be too much for someone who is just learning about the rich history of Hip-Hop. If the reader doesn’t know who the Beastie Boys are then the detailed story of their discovery and signing to famed Def Jam label may seem like excess. Perhaps the origins of the Wu-Tang Clan may not appeal to fans born in the mid 90’s and raised on “old school” acts like G-Unit (something new comer Chief Keef actually said before about G-Unit). Stories of Ed Lover and the earlier days of Yo MTV Raps and Hip-Hop’s commercial break through to mainstream American television may almost seem like fiction to a younger audience. The entire book is broken up into albums, side A and B included for authentic vinyl heads, and runs all the way up to the present Kanye West days. For those who want to get a better grasp of how Hip-Hop got to become the global force that it is today I definitely recommend this book.