special disco mention #5: Snoop zilla
Growing up in the 80s and early 90s, West Coast Hip Hop was a big thing. NWA were virtually pop stars to me and many like me – kids in school whod overcome the flaccid hysteria of Vanilla Ice and were looking for something a bit cooler to get their ears around. In amongst all the mania of NWA and Ice T/Cubes murderous, menacing music was a standout character that appealed more than any of the others – Snoop Dogg. With the cartoon sleeve of his debut LP Doggystyle matching his stoner drawl and Dres funk indebted productions, it felt like it was made for us pre-teens careering around on our bmxs. There was a child like joy to the whole thing, which helped submerge a lot of the misogyny and harshness of the lyrical content. G-Funk was the thing, with the Doggs Snoop and Nate leading the way.
Throughout the 80s, the west coast had been basking in the boogie, led undoubtedly by Zapp, whos leader, Mr Roger Troutman, was a key figure in passing the baton to the new generation of musicians and vocalists coming through. Troutmans talk box sound (derived from pushing his vox through a Yamaha DX100 which, trivia fans, is also arguably The early house-bass synthesizer) was a staple of G-Funk, wether emulated or sampled – it was a key part of the sound palette. So, boogie, specifically of the bumpy, more-funk-than-disco – (sometimes referred to as Cali Bounce, as opposed to the harder, clubbier sound more normally associated with the clubs of New York) was a godmother of west coast hip hop.
Those early flourishes from Snoop and his crew were brilliant – swashbuckling musical explosions that captured the imaginations of people the world over. Ever since, it been a downward spiral for Snoop, save the occasional moment of brilliance such as his early noughties Pharrell colabs Drop it Like Its Hot and Lets Get Blown. Did we really need his Euro Dance mix? His re-invention as a kids Baseball coach? No. What those Pharrel produced tracks reminded people of, was the fact that Snoop Dogg works best when hes steeped in funk – gloopy, sonic addictiveness with everything surrendered to the groove. The latest nadir seemed like the final nail in the coffin – Snoops deduction that major weed habit = Rastafarianism, and his reinvention as Snoop Lion was excruciating to behold and seemed to signal the end for a man whod ideas well had run dry.
But then, step forward Dam Funk. Since his breakthrough release on Stones Throw, Dam Funk has steadily put forward a manifesto in keeping synthesizer/drum machine funk alive. Running Funkmosphere in LA for years (a regular Tuesday night shindig that single handedly repped the boogie funk sound when it was enjoying a particularly unfashionable moment in the region) and re-connecting with original boogie pioneers (such as Slave/One Ways Steve Arrington on their recent colab LP), Dam has done his fair share for the music hes so enamored with. Now labels like PPU in Washington, Dopeness Galore in the Netherlands and countless other independent imprints the globe over are pushing the sound of Boogie again. Dam Funk arsenal of synths and drum machines reflects his long standing commitment to the game – with a collection of Linn Drums, Oberheims, Prophets and Junos to drool over.
The announcement that Snoop Dogg was joining forces with Dam Funk (to be known collectively as 7 Days of Funk) to put out an LP on Stones Throw (which is another great thing – Snoop releasing on an independent Hip Hop label) which will be out later this year, is great news. Its a completion of the circle: Snoop Doggs going back to his roots and hes chosen the perfect ally for the job. Lets be honest, theres a high chance that half the material will be guff – as much as I like Dam Funk, some of his more conscious stuff verges on unlistenable and we all know Snoop is as capable of utter clangers as he is moments of genius. Nevertheless, this isnt a moment to nit pick – this is a moment to bask in the odd glory of a surreal piece of news. So, for finding himself after a long time out in the cold, Snoop Zilla/Dogg/Lion we salute you, welcome back to the Mothership…
7 Days of Funk’s LP will be released on Stone’s Throw in December.