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"To me, that's my favorite thing to do," Clinton says about the link between old and new in a recent phone conversation with XXL. "If you notice, rock'n'roll in the '60s, they looked all the way back to Muddy Waters and Lightnin' Hopkins; even Jimi Hendrix, they took from 25 years prior to them. That works good when music is referred back to. I don't care what the new generation is in, if they can remember to reach back to some of their roots—because the root is still in the music somewhere. If people are shakin' their ass, there's some funk in there somewhere. You may not be able to find it, but it's in there. [Laughs] That's why I have no problem with, like right now, electronic music is on the rise. That's what era we're in. You just gotta find a way to make that muthafucka funky."
Clinton's influence should be well-known to hip-hop fans. His songs have been lifted and sampled by the likes of Dr. Dre ("Let Me Ride," "Fuck Wit' Dre Day," "Bitches Ain't Shit"), Snoop Dogg ("Who Am I (What's My Name)?"), Warren G ("Regulate"), Digital Underground ("The Humpty Dance"), Ice Cube ("Steady Mobbin'"), De La Soul ("Me Myself And I"), Eric B. and Rakim ("I Know You Got Soul") and seemingly countless others. But he's also been featured on a slew of rap tracks by the likes of 2Pac, OutKast, Too $hort and plenty more, all in the spirit of keeping things funky.
"If you see people dancing, funk is alive," he says. "I don't care if you callin' it disco, funk, hip-hop, bebop, rock—if they dancin' and they shakin' their butt, it's alive."
XXL spoke to the Godfather of Funk about his work with Dr. Dre and 2Pac, why Digital Underground was like the Funkadelic of its time, and the "gang" of records he made with OutKast in the mid-1990s that have yet to see the light of day. Tear the roof off the sucka. —Dan Rys
George Clinton: I love Kendrick Lamar; his version of hip-hop is like the Isley Brothers revival with a P-Funk feel to it. He is really good. [Laughs] That [cameo in the "i" video] was the best thing we could do. I mean, the song was so good there wasn't anything for me to do in the song. So I was just like, I'll sit here, and Ronnie Isley was there. And I was like, I can just sit here and observe. And they started off with "We Are One Nation Under A Groove," and that to me is the best thing; the whole video is new school, old school, young school, all got to know that they need each other. 'Cause if you're lucky then you'll be old school one day. You know it's funny, I see Snoop nowadays; they used to call me "Dad" or "Uncle" or "Old School," and now, look around, they're old school and I'm laughing at them. "Wow, you got grey hair!" [Laughs] He's the Uncle Snoop. [Laughs]
I mean, they were jammin', those kids were jammin' [at the video shoot]. I had just heard the song, and I couldn't do nothing anyway, but I was jammin'. There was just so much going on and they was groovin' to no end. Even for me, I remember looking at the Isley Brothers saying, I wanted to be like that, when they was doing "Shout." That was fitting, because even Kendrick doesn't realize that I admired Ronnie and them, 'cause they hit maybe seven, eight years prior to when we did. So I was looking at him like, "Ah, man, that's Uncle Ronnie!" [Laughs]
Source Hip Hop Music Awards 2000
George Clinton: It's always fun working with Ice Cube. I've worked with him a number of times. It's always fun because you get to work with him, and it's not the managers bringing it in, or the engineer, you get to trade ideas and kick it. Same with Humpty and them with Digital Underground, 'Pac and them. They were like Funkadelic before they ever got to be Digital Underground. They were a band first. They were up there trying to be a band before they ever sounded like the Sugar Hill Gang. And then they got the hit record ["The Humpty Dance"] and it took a long time before 'Pac even came out of the dancing part of it and actually started to do his thing. But he was an actor right from the get-go. He understood the drama in it and all that other stuff. Same way with Humpty—they were really some of the smartest. This business is disheartening to a lot of people. But that "Humpty" record was one of the biggest records ever in hip-hop.
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George Clinton: I knew them with Dallas Austin before they were OutKast, before there was Goodie Mob, before it was Organized Noize; they were all one big group, Dungeon Family. They all used to hang out and they didn't have a contract yet. So by the time OutKast was the first one out of that crew to get a record deal, then Goodie Mob, Organized Noize was doing all of their records. So I watched them grow out of just being around the studio just waiting for their turn until they got to be as big as they got to be. I've always been working with them; I did Big Boi's last record the year before last, "Fo Yo Sorrows."
I've done so many things with them, if they put out some of the stuff I did with them... I did a gang of stuff with them. Unreleased, yeah. We just had tracks and we would just go over the tracks, just brilliant bullshit. [Laughs] That would have been starting in '95, '94, all right up until '99. I used to go to Rico [Wade]'s house—he was producing all of them at the time—and we would just be kickin' it, up to no good. Me, I'd be up to no good. [Laughs] But that was the place the music was being made. Myself, Too $hort, Scarface, we all would just end up at somebody's house putting tracks down, babbling over them, clowning.
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George Clinton: A lot of the stuff I did with Too $hort [and Organized Noize] came out over the years. There was one [that stuck out], our whole group sang on it ["I've Been Watching You"]. That was one of the cuts. I just know the whole band was in the video with him. And it was Too $hort's first record that he did that actually got on the radio. And he's still the granddaddy. [Laughs] And he still sounds like Too $hort.
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