The Funky Four

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Words By Andy DeVilbiss


I know. This used to be The Funky Five. Now it's going to be The Funky Four. I could say it's because of some mystical cosmic crap like The Funk is, rhythmically, primarily a four-beat per measure affair that forms The One, allowing mankind to create multidimensional harmonic synergy for maximum universal awareness. I could say it's because MusicMarauders can't afford #5 until we lock up our lucrative glowstick and frenchbread pizza advertising deal. But... No. Five is just too many for me. To put it in boxing terms, I've got to punch my weight. Especially when the hot, humid Baltimore summer is melting my brain.

I've never understood why the month of June is such a big month for weddings. Thermometer's creeping around 90. The air is so muggy you need a scuba tank. Yeah buddy, that's the perfect time for dressing up to sit under the sun in rows of tightly packed folding chairs. I'm all about celebrating your love, but don't ask me why there's a section of frizz and pit-stains in the dance floor photos when you're flipping through your wedding album down the road. That's actually a decent band name. Frizz and the Pit-Stains... Coming to a wedding reception near you. FaPS (as the kids call them) would certainly be an improvement over your usual DJ.

The last wedding I went to was really a good time. It was. But here's my beef with the "DJ." He wasn't even trying to do anything even remotely disc jockey-esque, hence my derisive quotes around "DJ." There was no equipment. No turntable, vinyl or CD. No mixer to be seen either. He brought a laptop with iTunes on it for his invisible mixer, and I guess the speakers. If that's now the low bar we've set as a people to be able to qualify as a "DJ," then call me "DJ A-Dawg" on the ones and twos. I'm familiar with how a mouse works. I can make a playlist of popular songs and hit shuffle, even. I'll start lining up my own gigs. Heck, I won't even have to wait for somebody (I'm not saying who exactly) to request James Brown, I'd just use my keen "DJ" sense and know that playing James Brown at a wedding is a good idea. I'm not sayin'... I'm just sayin'.

Consider this Funky Four a showcase of my mad "DJ" skillz. I'm available for all your wedding reception needs. I might even do it for free if you have a mashed potato bar (perhaps the coolest thing I've ever seen at a reception). I'll even play crap your grandmother gets down to like "The Hokey-Pokey" and "The Electric Slide."

1. Something Old

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe- "Fallin'"



This is the studio version of "Fallin'" AKA "The BBQ Song" from the Tiny Universe's self-titled 1999 album, the debut of Diesel's second, funkier, solo career so to speak. Interesting line-up note- Soulive's Alan Evans mans the drum kit. 1999's not so long ago, so why is this filed under "Something Old?" Because I've been re-organizing my digital music collection and I was unable to google an image of the album cover bigger than a thumbnail. That means, in today's interwebz-driven world, this album has become a fossil.

2. Something New

Ikebe Shakedown - Ikebe Shakedown



There must be something in Brooklyn, NY, that breeds funky-as-hell bands with an Afrobeat twist. Bands like Antibalas, the Budos Band and now Ikebe Shakedown, who just released their self-titled, full-length debut on Ubiquity Records. The tracks range from scorchers that sound like the soundtrack to a blaxploitation film car chase to more mellow and traditional Afrobeat tones. The rhythm section is tight and the horn players prove to be thoughtful soloists who can instantly lock in together as a unit for some heavy licks. If you're a deep funk or Afrobeat fan, this is one you need to check out. Here's hoping they do some touring.

3. Something Borrowed

Lord Finesse & DJ Mike Smooth - "Track The Movement"



Consider this another edition of our fabulous game show, "These Are The Breaks." We're going old school, NYC underground style with Lord Finesse and this gem from Funky Technician. Sure, these days the beats and flow might sound a bit dated, but bragadocious gems like "Keep the crowd listenin' / I'm so magnificent / It even says finesse on my birth certificate" from the album's title track never go out of style (Finesse then goes on to elaborate about his bravery, skill and chicanery and that he gets the ladies 'cause he uses his brain you see). Where do the DJ Premier-produced beats on "Track The Movement" come from? The piano tinkle and basis for the drum beat are from here, and the horns (particularly the lick used in the scratch breaks) are from here.

4. Something Blue

Johnny "Guitar" Watson - "Ain't That A Bitch"



You could easily file this one under "Something Old" as well. The pimpaliciously-styled Watson is the artist most often credited for fusing the stylistic elements of traditional blues with The Funk. He had a string of pretty successful albums in the mid-70s, fueled in large part by the success this radio-unfriendly title track from 1976's Ain't That A Bitch and another cut from the album, the slightly more romantic "Superman Lover." Although, it's 35 years old and we might have to update Johnny's reference of Kareem Abdul Jabbar's skyhook to something about LeBron choking, the story's still the same. It's hard times out there in America, and sometimes you just gotta say it... Ain't that a bitch.

All the more reason to hit that open bar and dance your ass off at the next wedding you get to. I'm thinking "DJ A-Dawg” might be too funky for your average nuptials. Let me give you the number for the Frizz and the Pit-Stains, and, if you're interested, I got a line on a good mashed potato bar guy, too.

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