Bootsy Collins: Tha Funk Capital of the World
Guests Galore, But P-Funky to Its Core
Words By Andy DeVilbiss
Since the moment he first donned his signature, star-shaped shades, it seems like everybody wants to party with Bootsy Collins. Can you blame them? Through his elastic bass virtuosity, his playful lyrical double-entendres, his indomitable fashion sense, and his positive spirit, Bootsy's always been a groovalicious pied piper, urging funkateers (a term he invented in the "Pinocchio Theory," donchaknow) to unfurl their freak flags and get down on the get down. Whether with James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic or in his own solo work, his personality and his playing are so damn infectious, it's no surprise that Bootsy has been one of greatest ambassadors of The Funk.
These days, he's more. The guy who seems to have spent the entire decade of the 70s tripping his nuts off in the sweaty, sparkly P-Funk mob has become a respected elder statesman who is at once teacher (see his Funk University), preacher (see his new Funkateers Love-Vibe-Line), and preservationist, fanning the flames of funk to keep them burning for the next generation. On Tha Funk Capital of the World, Bootsy Collins has embraced this dignified role with amazing gusto, and he and his incredible roster of guest performers have crafted an album that is a history lesson, a thought-provoking call to action, and a joyous celebration of the power of music.
The guests might make you scratch your head a bit due to their incredible diversity. It's a wild party, man. You've got hip-hop legends like Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Chuck D rubbing elbows with African-American academic and social leaders like Dr. Cornel West, Tom Joyner, and the Reverend Al Sharpton over the finger food. Old school funk masters George Clinton and Bobby Womack are in a corner talking soul with young guns like Musiq Soulchild. Over by the hi-fi, you'll see Dennis Chambers, George Duke, Ron Carter and Bela Fleck, no doubt discussing jazz concepts too esoteric for most to comprehend. Meanwhile, Buckethead's scarfing down some chicken at a table, Samuel L. Jackson is, as usual, screaming about something ("I've had it up to here with these funkin' snakes on this funkin' album!"), and Sheila E's giddy just that someone remembered she's alive. As if it couldn't get any stranger, suddenly a trio of ghostly guitarists - Jimi Hendrix, Bootsy's brother, Phelps "Catfish" Collins, and P-Funk's Garry "Diaperman/Starchild" Shider - materialize from the ether and head to the bar for a drink. It's a veritable circus, but Bootsy proves equal to the task as ringmaster, melding each guest’s contribution into the signature, rubbery, P-Funk vibe that permeates the entire album.
It's obvious Bootsy wants the world to know where he got his funk from. He pays immediate tribute to both the Godfather and Dr. Funkenstein in album's introduction, "Spreading Hope Like Dope," and speaks to The Funk's history as an under-the-radar, countercultural musical force. Bootsy's adoration and reverence for Brown spills over into an entire track, "JB- Still The Man," where Sharpton provides spoken word about Brown's lasting impact, musically and culturally. Beyond Brown and Clinton, Hendrix was also a profound influence on Bootsy's music and style. On "Mirrors Tell Lies," Hendrix's own words from archived interviews are combined with a groove straight out of Jimi's Band of Gypsies bag to pay fitting tribute to the most celebrated guitarist of all time. Later, Clinton and the Starchild's wife, Linda, join forces on vocals for the simply but appropriately titled "Garry Shider Tribute," which is immediately followed by Bootsy's loving downtempo homage to his brother Catfish and all those who are dearly departed in "Stars Have No Names." That track also demonstrates Bootsy's solid foundation in Christian faith, when "God" answers the question of "why did he have to go?" with "Son, you perform on the stage... while I run the show."
Bootsy also expresses his appreciation for other musical genres. On "The Jazz Greats" Bootsy gives, as the kids say, mad props to jazz legends with assistance from George Duke and Ron Carter. He picks up Olvido Ruiz and Ouiwey and steers into latin territory on "Siento Bombo." In a nod to his more avant garde work on Bill Laswell's projects, he teams up with Buckethead, who absolutely shreds it on "Minds Under Construction." No surprise as Buckethead was put on this planet for the sole purpose of shredding. That's one phenomenal player, right there.
While the album contains more than healthy dose of tribute and nostalgia, Bootsy obviously has an eye towards and an appreciation for the evolution of funk, specifically through its beautiful baby, hip-hop. The heretofore unknown to me Phil Ade lends punchy rhymes to "Kool Whip," but the inherent connection between those two genres is best expressed on "Hip-Hop @ Funk U," which features three hall of fame MCs in Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg (who Bootsy often refers to as his nephew), and Chuck D. It's the first real track after the intro, and it's a full-on party jam.
Bootsy also taps into traditional funk themes of intellectual freedom, individual responsibility, and a healthy distrust of The Man. On "Freedumb," he teams with Dr. West, referencing luminaries Martin Luther King, James Baldwin, and (once again) Brown and Clinton to produce an empowering musical advice column to do and be your best for yourself and your community and to pass it on down the line because "If you want to be free, you can't be dumb." Throughout the track, Bootsy interjects his signature, snarky humor with lines like "You know yesterday's trash could very well be tomorrow's fuel." He also provides ample slow-jam material, like the gooey "Chocolate Caramel Angel" and "Yummy, I got The Munchies," which I'm assuming is an updated take on his classic "Munchies For Your Love."
Throughout all the myriad guests and musical styles, it always stays firmly anchored by The Funk. While the music industry might consider funk a genre that is fading, on "Don't Take My Funk Away," it's obvious Bootsy will hear none of that nonsense, teaming with Bobby Womack for a joyous, bouncy love letter to his chosen musical style, a genre that fundamentally changed rhythm and culture. In fact, that's what this entire album is, a love letter to The Funk, past, present and future. The tunes crackle and cook, delivered with the authority and authenticity that only someone like Bootsy can bring to the proceedings. If he's funk's elder statesman, we funkateers are in good hands, and, after you give Tha Funk Capital of the World a listen, if you didn't already, you'll want to party with Bootsy, too.