Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The funk phenomenon

"It has already been recognised that the individuals behind this music wouldn't meet the requirements of entry at an event aimed at the mature raver due to age, and these tracks, even the ones receiving appeal from the public, are not favoured by those who would.

This therefore means that the age group of producer and listeners of the 'Nursery Grime' category fit into same demographic. However this isn't a demographic on a low scale of overall capacity within the scene. So there has become a divide.

Those that appreciate the enjoyment found within the fun and games of the music, and those that feel that an environment that serves alcohol in freefall is not the correct place to relive childhood games and rhymes."

-- Makeda Wilson, Itsalot Mag

Funky seems to be at the same time both exploding and tearing itself apart, whether it's DJs battling for the ownership of certain sounds, key players renaming offshots or what kind of MC tracks are acceptable. The sheer amount of activity can be overwhelming, so I caught up with blogger Queen of Sheba, writer for Itsalot mag, the digital Deuce mag for the funky generation.

Blackdown: There seems to be a big internal battle going on right now for what "house and funky" is or isn't, do it feel like that to you? Who to your mind, are the key players involved right now?

Queen of Sheba: It definitely is like that at the moment. It’s a very political subject that many members of the scene are voicing their opinions on. Marcus Nasty and Tippa (from Circle) are being pinpointed at the moment, but that’s because some fast person posted Marcus’s Facebook status in a forum, but it’s actually been a major topic ever since Heads Shoulders Knees & Toes [HSK&T] first unearthed on the circuit. Everyone has an opinion when it comes to one to one conversation, but not everybody can be asked to get involved in the public politics.For this reason, to me, there are no key players involved. What is said publicly by one may be a repeat of what another said behind closed doors.

B: For people that don't know, can you try and describe the main different types of styles in house and funky right now and why some of them are so controvertial?

QoS: WOW! The different styles.... the genre is so diverse! We have vocal which is more towards soulful, tribal, but there’s a darker kind of tribal which is deeper and darker. Kinda like Grimey. There’s broken, afrobeat and we also have MC tracks and skank tracks. The MC and skank tracks are the ones that are most controversial. MC tracks have been around for a while with Versatile’s funky anthem getting airplay on the major music channels and there was also a track made by Dubplate Wonder a while back that not many people seem to know about but the more controversial ones are the recent ones.

The controversy mainly comes from the fact that the tribal and broken instrumental tracks are being taken by budding MCs who are then applying bars to them and then passing them off as their own. Some of the tracks being taken haven’t even been able to get their own sufficient amount of airplay so the producer is getting cut out of the deal. What makes it worse is the producer hasn’t been approached for consent first so it’s causing conflict.

B: I see what you mean about tracks being vocalled without permission but it also seems to me that there's a fear within house and funky that MCs, especially grime MCs, might "take over" funky, kinda like they did to UK garage. Do you think people in funky are concerned about this and if so, why?

QoS: For some it may be a concern, but for me personally I think it’s a good thing as it can help to push the sound. I don’t really think people fear it taking over, I think their more upset about people jumping into Funky to get a quick dollar or buck as opposed to those who have been there from the beginning cultivating the sound to what it is today. There are a lot of new faces in Funky that are obviously not here for passion. That goes further than the MCs though and spreads into DJs and club promoters. There are a lot of people abusing the genre in hope of personal gain and recognition. Nah I wouldn’t call it fear at all, I would more call it and anger due to lack of authenticity. That’s something I can identify, emphasise and agree with.

B: OK. I see that and I can understand the position of the heads who have built funky up only for it to get popular but to me part of the appeal of funky to its core fans was that it wasnt grime ie obsessed by violence, dominated by MCs and better to watch than to dress up and dance to. So it seemed logical that they might be worried about an influx of grime youngers...

QoS: Yeah I get you. Most of the new youngsters who are coming over from grime are into these skank tracks though, which I guess just adds to more conflict. The new MCs are irritating the new ones who are more about one liners or hooks and the new ravers are irritating the old ones who aren’t into getting instructions about how to dance to a particular track at a given time. The funny thing though is the new ravers think Funky is all about dances, but that’s something more associated to Bashment rather than Grime so although the new MCs are making a transition from Grime to Funky, the followers aren’t realising that the trend has really been birthed from one person’s or group’s desired trademark within the Funky circuit. A lot of people within the original UK Funky circuit came from Grime, that isn’t what created this influx. When KIG Family made HSK&T, that was their rendition within the genre. Because it was so simple, it made a lot of people think they could do the same. If that track wasn’t signed within a major bidding war of record labels, I don’t think half of the people that have been turned on by funky in the last 6 months would’ve been interested. But the Bashment dance track thing was due to be there trend, if they hadn’t publicised that on national commercial radio, we’d probably still be waiting on the second or third of its kind.

B: These kinds of generational conflicts remind me of UKG garage all over again. Old school garage DJs storming out of photoshoots because they dont like cheap novelty tracks like "I Don't Smoke Da Reefah". Is there a tension between the youngers and olders right now, and would you say that before the HSK&T, funky was generally an older scene rather than full of youngers?

QoS: Nah there’s not any tension at all. Mainly because the older club promoters cater for the older ravers, and the younger promoters who tend to be university students cater for ravers their age. The commercial events however is where you find an amalgamation of the ages, new ravers and old so there is always an event or two to provide for whatever it is your preference.

Because of that there isn’t a need for any hostility. Everyone gets on with their own. This has been the case from before HSK&T and the influx that has followed hasn’t been confined to the younger generation either. So I think that would be an unfair judgement if I’m honest.

B: Do you ever think that there's a risk that the vocal funky tunes - whether novelty tunes or grime MCs over funky instrumentals - could begin to be more about something you listen to with MCs on and less something you dance to?

QoS: I don’t think that is possible within the more mature side of the scene as that side of things hasn’t changed. The host still perform the same without an overload of bars so it’s the same as always. The only difference in those areas is that they no longer willing to address the music as funky. The younger and more commercial areas of the scene are in danger of heading that way though without a doubt. It’s already happening in some areas.

B: There's various "Nursery Grime" tracks like "Heads, Shoulders Knees and Toes" and "Ring-A-Rosy" - all using songs from the playground. Plus you mentioned there's funky versions of kids classics "I Spy" and "Wheels on the Bus." With the nursery rhyme tunes, it seems uncanny to me that there's these fun MC tunes in funky, whereas grime is trying so hard to be road, raw and aggressive, it rarely lets itself be funny or silly. Do you think its possible that there's a link between MCs in one scene being serious and the other being fun?

QoS: I don’t know if there is any element of truth in those tracks being around. I haven’t researched it. A lot of people are making jokes about these tracks so it’s possible to be another joke. The fact that its believed shows how much people aren’t taking these tracks seriously though. If MCs are using Grime to be serious and Funky to be silly it really just highlights that the artists who are producing the music are as serious about the music as the people who are listening to it. Another reason why the connoisseurs aren’t willing to take it on as they on the other hand are very passionate about their music and the scene as a whole.

B: Lemme plays devil's advocate here: if funky goes back towards house, what is it that makes it unique? London has a long history of taking sounds and making it ours (jungle, grime, dubstep, funky), but if funky DJs go back to playing mainstream house, will they truly be able to make their mark in that long-established scene?

QoS: I don’t think it means they’ll revert back to mainstream only. There are still ‘Funky’ producers making music ie Fuzzy Logik, D-Malice, Roska, MA-1 to name a few. They will just stop using the name Funky to disassociate themselves from the current trend that is getting into the mainstream. The skank/MC tracks are pushing the Funky name into the commercial market, but these people aren’t willing to sell their souls to the devil in order to achieve fame. As fame and success are different things. So it will just get referred to as UK House, as these people will tell you that House is the sound they are trying to achieve within their production above anything else. On the other hand, these tracks are getting called ‘Skank’ music too, so there may not be a need for name filtering after all. Who knows?

B: What do you think about the terms "dubbage" and "tribal" and do you think they are a clear sounds or offshoots that are developing?

QoS: Dubbage, Tribal..... I don’t really want to comment on either as I’m not deep within either but they are developing so things are still to be seen. I’d personally class them as the same thing though, but really I think Dubbage is a UK spin off of Deep House as Funky is a spin off from Soulful House. If you get what I’m saying?

B: You said on Dissensus...

"What I hate about [funky tunes with MCs] is that they're flung together with no form of foresight. When I first got into the genre in mid 05 this would've never been accepted. The genre's effect in Aiya Napa last year has led to this huge change over of artists and listeners so many of the new influx are unaware what this genre is really about."

B: Could you elaborate on what you feel the genre is truly about?

QoS: Funky to me is our adaptation of the more recognised House producers such as Karizma, Kerri Chandler, Dennis Ferrer and an amalgamation of all their different sounds. However as there is also influence from Garage and Grime due to the individual backrounds the overall sound is very diverse. However, you’ll find none of these, including Garage where there was MC tracks, included any dances. Which is why Funky Anthem is as acceptable in Funky as Do You Really Like it and Good Rhymes was in Garage. The songs are about the vybe so everybody relates to them.

Queen of Sheba's top 5 tracks

1. Mystery ft Miss Bree – Worth Much More
2. MA-1 - Waterfalls
3. Darkus Beat Project (Roska Remix) - Promise
4. Fuzzy Logik ft Egypt – In the Morning
5. Geeneus ft Katy B – As I

· Queen of Sheba's blog is here. You can read or download Itsalot Magazine here. Check the Itsalot Magazine podcasts here.


Elijah said...

Like with every emerging scene, everyone has their own visions for what it should be.

Mine personally wouldn't be to follow in Kerri Chandlers footsteps, it would be to pick up where Grime has failed.

Make energetic, edgy music that's danceable.

In the same vain as Hard House - Sirens and Lil Silva - Seasons rather then the standard house route that 'In The Air' and the Crazi Cousins tunes are taking. That stuff isn't as exciting to me. How can I forget how good the african warrior instrumental is!

A lot of the vocals just seem to be begging for acceptance, and it will be sad if producers just take route one, getting a girl they find in a club to sing over a rebore Karizma beat. That formula will get stale pretty quickly.

What do I know though, im just a Grime Dj :)

Anonymous said...

I thought I understood what funky was, but these "skank" tracks confused me. They seem totally different to the funky that seem to take a direct route from original funky house, garage and soca. Now there is so much under the funky name its impossible for me to follow. The "skank" tracks with there dances I don't see as very much related to grime, unless you mean its bad mcin by unsuccessful former grime mcs. I think maybe we need to not call HSN&T funky before people are put off by the wider sound

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous. you sound worried mate.. and i agree, there does seem to be lots to worry about what with the 'necessary' incubation of the 2step groove template, an unlistenable fonky/wanky diaspora, socagrime this, afrohouse that, cockneyf uck BRNG MNML, drugparty nuum generalzzz, next next hype, remix void, eskidonk, vip for daays...

Me said...

Now where have I heard all this before?

Yep, you mentioned DJ Dee-Kline vs. Dreem Team, but there was also...

-General Levy vs. The Junglist Regulatory Committee
-So Solid Crew vs. Dreem Team
-'Intelligent' jazz-funk drum 'n' bass vs. 'stupid' headbanger d'n'b

And surely the novelty samples in The Prodigy's 'Charly' and that SesamE Street track outraged the rave purists?

In any case, Eskidonk will be the fresh sound of 2011. Mark my words.

Ivan said...

Me said:
'And surely the novelty samples in The Prodigy's 'Charly' and that SesamE Street track outraged the rave purists?'

I also thought about these tracks when I read this interview.

And I agree with Elijah, edgy and energetic are two adjectives I would like to see applied to funky more often.

Anonymous said...

It all boils down to the use of vocals, for me

Instrumentals = great, much preferred

Soulful lyrics e.g. As I, In The Air et al = good, soulful lyrics all add to the vibe

Terrible lyrics e.g. African Warrior, Funky Anthem, HSK&T = utter dross. Turns what is a Great British scene into a circus