The more things change, the more they stay the same. One person who personifies that saying is funk legend George Clinton. This past weekend, the “Atomic Dog” creator came back home to Newark, New Jersey to perform his FunkFest at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Though the show was everything you’d imagine a George Clinton show to be, George himself has changed. Gone are the rainbow bright dreads and crazy costumes. Clinton now chooses to keep a closely cropped cut and dresses in the flyest suits you could imagine.
After his electrifying performance, The Urban Daily was invited backstage for a brief interview about his feelings about coming home, fighting to get possession of his masters, and the wild antics of groupies. Follow along as the original funk doctor leads nation under one groove.
TUD: We just saw you kill the show with hits upon hits. Are you working on any new music?
GC: Yeah, we’re in the studio now working on some stuff.
Wikipedia says you were born in North Carolina, but I always thought you were a Jersey Boy. Who’s right?
GC:I was born in North Carolina and raised in Newark, New Jersey. I had a barbershop in Plainfield, New Jersey.
What do you remember about being in the doo-wop groups back in the day?
GC:I was walking around Newark today and stopped at all of the corners we used to sing on and it just brought so many memories back. Man, we used to be on Avon Ave, Bergen Street School, Southside which is Shabazz now. We used to be all over around here.
How has Newark changed since you’ve been away?
GC: S**t, all of the projects gone. [laughs] When we were growing up, you couldn’t see from Bergen Street all the way downtown. You can damn near see Bergen Street from downtown now.
I’m going to throw out a song title of yours and you tell me what you remember about making that record. When I say, “Atomic Dog,’ what do you remember about making that?
GC:Oh, you don’t want to hear about that one. Ask another one. [laughs]
“Paint The Whitehouse Black”?
GC:That was lots of fun. I did that with Berry Gordy‘s son. I did it for Prince. It was on Prince’s label, you know. So all of Prince’s band was around. It’s a fun and interesting time.
You’ve been around for a while. So obviously you’ve seen the industry change. As you’ve gotten older have the groupies gotten older or is there a new crop of groupies?
GC: Well, there’s always a new crop of groupies. [laughs] I saw some groupies out there tonight that I knew and they are great grandmothers. They were still out in the audience.
It’s like you get on stage and do your thing. Then, the groupies come around. I just always wanted to know if they got older and still were out there in that life.
GC:Yeah, they get older, but then new ones come in and take their place. [laughs] Some of the older ones are still out here competing with the 17 and 18 year olds.
Why do you think contemporary artists don’t do straight funk music? Why do you think they treat funk like sacred ground?
GC: They do funk music now. Hip-Hop has got a lot of funk in it, s**t. You find a whole bunch of funk in hip-hop and gospel. A couple of years back, Ice Cube did a record called “Bop Gun.” Kirk Franklin used the same song to sample for his song “Stomp.”
You won a Grammy for that, right?
GC:Kirk Franklin got one and so did Ice Cube.
Do you win a Grammy if they win for Best Song, which is a song writer’s award, being that they sampled something you wrote originally?
GC:No. No. They try to keep us out of it. We would’ve been in too many Grammys. The Grammys started out by giving an award to the sample’s songwriter, but they don’t anymore. If a song wins that has a sample, you have to pay for it, but they’ll send you a gold plaque.
You have to pay for it?! That’s some bull!
GC:Somebody like Ice Cube will hit me up and ask for permission. He and I are pretty close. I’m pretty close with Shock G/Humpty.
Since you’re close with a lot of rappers, could you see yourself ever doing a collaborative album with a rapper like a “Best of Both Worlds’ type thing?
GC:Yeah! I’ve done a lot of records with Snoop. The first song he ever did, I was sampled and I did a record on his last album The Blue Carpet Treatment.
How do feel about kids being introduced to your music through hip-hop and never knowing the original is done by you?
GC:It’s cool. It don’t matter how they get to the dance floor. Just get your ass on the dance floor. Everything will work out. Sample, copy, loop it to stupid. [laughs]
What do you want your legacy to be after you’ve passed on?
GC: Hmmm…..I want to be known as the man who brought it to the attention of America about the copyright issues. That’s what I would like my legacy to be, to have turned people on to the fact they need to fight for the rights to their music. You have to fight a lot of people for your music. You have to fight the copyright company, like BMI. You have to fight these record companies because they really want to take it.
Right now, it’s time people start getting their music back. I’ll say from about 1978 to 2013, the first thirty-five years is when you’re allowed to get your music back. In 2013, this will be the first time they prove it. Next year, a lot of people are going to get their music back. I want to turn people on to the fight for getting your music back because they’re fighting me, trying not to give me my music back.
(story by Jonathan Hailey, Assistant Editor The Urban Daily)