Parliament-Funkadelic icon George Clinton is now 75 years old. He boasts such accolades as membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; steering boogie classics like “Flashlight” and “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Rook Off the Sucker)”; and leading a kaleidoscopic collective whose conceptual style strived to look like, according to Clinton, “pimps from outer space.”
These attributes are more than enough to make a memorable imprint on music, then recede into exaggerated historical mention. But for Clinton, there’s no end in sight. Not only is he scheduled to bring his current Parliament-Funkadelic lineup’s Mardi Gras Madness Tour to UB’s Center for the Arts on Feb. 26, he is still creating music amid a changing landscape he both inspired and continues to influence.
“Some of these (newer artists) come up to me and say they’re here to save the funk, but most of them don’t know nothing about the funk,” said Clinton, reached by phone while on tour through Pittsburgh last week.
Over the years, a thankful amount of inventive musicians, hip-hop MCs or shirtless funk magicians have exerted expert execution to the cause Clinton has championed. As a solo artist or with the sprawling operations of Parliament, Funkadelic and their hybrid operations, he's presided over a decades-long run of thumping party revues and soul-flavored escapades.
With influential albums like the Washington, D.C.-inspired “Chocolate City” or 1975’s horn section-infused “Mothership Connection,” Clinton joined former James Brown bassist Bootsy Collins to ignite the origination of interplanetary funk, as well as engineer live performances that replicated an intergalactic-themed Halloween party on hallucinogenics.
But within his varied catalog rests handfuls of the most fruitful seeds of hip-hop. Samples from songs like “(Not Just) Knee Deep” and “Mothership Connection (Star Child)” provided the threads for classic hits like De La Soul’s “Me, Myself and I” and Warren G’s “Regulate.” Clinton’s panting “Atomic Dog” has been sampled dozens of times (most appropriately by Snoop Dogg). Such current luminaries as Sleigh Bells, Thundercat and Flying Lotus — who plans to work with Clinton on his next solo album — continue to look for guidance from the man known reverently as Dr. Funkenstein.
“Kendrick Lamar asked me to come do something with him,” said Clinton, who worked with the rapper on Funkadelic’s 2014 triple LP “First Ya Got to Shake the Gate” before contributing to Lamar's critically acclaimed "To Pimp a Butterfly" the next year. “And when you’re wide open to learning like he is, it seems that, throughout history—whether with Snoop or Dre or the East Coast with Rakim and Public Enemy—it all comes back to the funk. They all pick up on it on their own.”
That's true of a host of other Parliament-inspired acts, from Primus to Fishbone to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who worked with Clinton as producer on 1985’s “Freaky Styley” before launching into rock royalty less than a decade later.
“And they’ve been doing it ever since,” Clinton said of the Chili Peppers. “And anybody that knows the funk is going to stay around—because the funk stays with you.”
More than five decades after arriving on the international music scene, the funk’s still with Clinton, too. Later this year, he'll release a new Parliament album, the solo album with electro producer Flying Lotus, and continue the enduring brand of on-stage lunacy that has made Parliament-Funkadelic shows a rite of passage for generations of concertgoers.
Sure, the nights of bassist Collins joining Clinton as his on-stage alter ego “Casper the Funky Ghost” are gone. So are his genre’s evolutionary days with the likes of Sly Stone, Prince and Buffalo's own Rick James, who unsuccessfully auditioned for Parliament in the early '70s.
But for Clinton, the beat goes on—and it’s only getting better.
“I’m having more fun now than ever, and it’s all brand new to me,” said Clinton. “I’m having fun now for the fun of it. Or, for the funk of it.”
Who: George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26
Where: University at Buffalo Center for the Arts, Amherst