Get Down
Pioneer of funk George Clinton looks back at his legacy in hip-hop.
Words Dan Rys
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of XXL Magazine featuring our 2015 XXL Freshman Class. Check out everything from our Freshman issue right here.

For true hip-hop heads, George Clinton needs no introduction. The funk innovator who brought Parliament and Funkadelic to the world’s ears in the 1960s and 1970s unexpectedly provided the basis for the Golden Age of hip-hop on both coasts decades later, via De La Soul and Public Enemy on the East Coast and Dr. Dre and the G-Funk era on the West. After five decades as one of the most important trailblazers in music, and with a memoir now on shelves and an appearance in Kendrick Lamar’s “i” video, XXL chopped it up with the Godfather of Funk about his long-term connection to hip-hop.

XXL: In your book you mentioned that one of the first hip-hop songs you heard that sampled Parliament / Funkadelic was De La Soul's "Me, Myself and I, right?
George Clinton: Oh yeah. I mean, I loved all of the samples and the way the music was used; to me, that’s just the way the new generation of people do things. When rock ’n’ roll came in the ’50s, people thought they was crazy. When we came along with funk in the ’60s and ’70s, people thought we was nuts. Hip-hop came along spittin’ the beat, they thought that was nuts. And now it’s done took over the world. And I feel like funk is the DNA right along with hip-hop.

What was your reaction when you first heard yourself sampled?
Well it seemed pretty natural because I had heard segues in clubs, how people would segue to get you onto the dance floor by playing one record and then immediately going into another. You started hearing that coming. So it wasn’t a complete shock when I heard that people were making records.

After all these years, what keeps you going?
The funk. When you love what you’re doing, you figure out your position and a way to keep doing it. It’s not hard when you like what you’re doing. I’m having fun being able to just be here. What gave me the energy this time was this fight again with the court [over my copyrights]. I vowed that I wouldn’t get sick or tired until I kicked they ass. The Mothership is going into the Smithsonian next year. For that music to be disrespected the way the record companies are trying to do—nuh uh. I’m not gonna stand by for that. I won’t be funkin’ in the name of that.

Check out our full interview with George Clinton right here.