Jheri curls, keytars and lashings of F.U.N.K – Snoopzilla and DâM-FunK come together for a new mothership connection
Taken from the January issue of Dazed & Confused
In 1978, Bootsy Collins, the flamboyant bespectacled bassist who rose to fame as part of George Clinton’s cosmic Parliament/Funkadelic collective, unleashed “Bootzilla”, a #1 R&B hit that introduced his new alter ego, “the world’s only rhinestone rock-star doll.” A key character in Clinton’s expansive and increasingly weird mothership musical opera, the cartoonish Bootzilla caught the attention of two young Los Angelenos, Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr and Damon G Riddick. Living 40 minutes away from each other in Long Beach and Pasadena respectively, their seven-year-old minds were blown open by Bootzilla’s off-kilter songs about “stereophonic funk-producin' disco-inducin' twin magnetic rock receptors."
Independently, both kids launched lifelong musical journeys. Riddick picked up the drums and started entertaining his school friends with covers of songs like Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up”, passing out tapes of his performances around the neighbourhood. He quickly moved on to other instruments, mastering the synthesiser, keytar and 808 drum machine. After graduating from college Riddick hooked up with producer Leon Sylvers III and started crafting a reputation as one of the west coast’s most revered session musicians. Going by the name of DâM-FunK, he injected his patented synth stabs and vocoded croons into cuts for The Sylvers, MC Eiht and Mack 10.
Around the same time, Broadus Jr emerged from jail and started causing a riot as Dr. Dre's protégé Snoop Doggy Dogg. Swiftly becoming the poster boy for Death Row Records and G-funk, an uncompromising amalgamation of murderous manifestos, stoner talk and P-funk-sampling instrumentals, his verses on Dre’s 1992 album, The Chronic, and IRL gangsta lifestyle turned Snoop into one of America’s most infamous rappers. The following year saw the arrival of Doggystyle, his solo debut, propelled by the single “Who Am I?(What's My Name?)", a pimp pop classic that paid homage to P-funk anthems “Atomic Dog", “Give Up the Funk" and “(Not Just) Knee Deep". Over the intervening two decades Snoop ploughed an ever deeper furrow into funk folklore, releasing 11 further albums and collaborating with Clinton, Collins and Rick James.
When their chemtrails finally crossed two years ago, the Dogg and DâM-FunK – whose solo album Toeachizown was released to critical acclaim by Stones Throw in 2009 – instantly bonded over their love for all things F.U.N.K. After taking time out for the rapper to undergo a spiritual reggae reincarnation as Snoop Lion, the duo regrouped in LA earlier this year and formed 7 Days of Funk. This month sees the release of their eponymous debut album, the first Snoop’s done with a single producer since Doggystyle. Buzzing with sunny electro-boogie beats and pop lock anthems, it’s held together by some of the best lyrical performances the 42-year-old hip hop iconoclast has given since his G-funk heyday. You can tell he’s excited by it all – he’s gone and changed his name again. Snoop Lion is dead. Long live Snoopzilla.
Dazed Digital: P-funk’s imagery and lyrics were quite fantastical and spaced-out, while G-Funk was all about the hardcore reality of life on the streets. Did that ever feel like a strange paradox to you?
Snoopzilla: I believe if you listen to the funk records they were speaking about all of that too. They just were talking in a language that most people didn’t understand: they spoke in funk code. We didn’t have a code, we just spoke from our hearts and learnt to have fun amid all the murdering and mayhem. We were people who were held back for so long and could never speak; we were always being spoken for. So when we were finally able to speak, we gave you our mind, heart and soul. The people who put down the funk before us wanted to say everything that we said but couldn’t. There’s no G without the P. George Clinton, James Brown, Zapp & Roger, the Ohio Players and all those funkateers who did it before us gave us the foundation on what it meant to be cool. It made us feel like we could do it too because it was soothing to our ears, and when we became musicians it naturally became a part of our music.
DD: Were Rick James, Bootsy Collins and George Clinton the gangstas of their era?
Snoopzilla: They were gangstas, they just didn’t have the guns and the outfits we had. If they didn’t have singing they would have had the gangsta lifestyle. A lot of them came from pimping and being involved in lightweight gangs from that era. After the Black Panther party was broken up, black-on-black crime escalated, which in turn created negativity in the hip hop realm, all because they broke up our structure. And when they broke that up, they created gangs, Bloods and Crips. If the funk singers weren’t singing they would probably be fucking a nigga up too.
DâM-FunK: Yeah, funk and hip hop have always been anti-establishment. Music is always the soundtrack to what’s really going on. Some people can’t even understand Gucci Mane, but when you really listen to it you experience what’s going on in his world and the culture adapts accordingly. What we’re doing just came from our heart, and from the forefathers who gave us a new perspective on music.
Snoopzilla: It’s dope – when I listen to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, it’s like, ‘What the fuck was he thinking when he was writing that?’ He was thinking about everything that was affecting his life, how his brother went to the war, how America was treating black people, and how everything was fucked up. He wrote about what was on his mind, what affected him as a musician. When James Brown sang ‘Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud’ he wasn’t being disrespectful, he was just representing and letting us know that we could represent as a culture and as a people and stand tall. We are black and we are proud. Our music is representative of who we are, what’s affecting us now and how we feel like speaking to today’s generation.
DD: For a long time ‘funk’ was a dirty word. Do you think the performers’ outlandish fashion sense put some people off?
Snoopzilla: I don’t think it was the look, it just wasn’t the normal. It wasn’t what everybody else was doing, and that scared people. George Clinton had everybody wearing what the fuck they wanted to wear. They were on every drug in the book and could dress how they wanted to dress. You could wear a diaper, you could wear a Pinocchio nose. You didn’t have to wear shit, you just needed to come out and have a good time and funk.
DD: Snoopzilla, In the video for ‘Faden Away’ you rock a serious Jheri curl. Is fabulous hair an essential funk ingredient?
Snoopzilla: Hair is a criterion of the funk. We have a lot of bald-headed funkateers, but the hair gives you an extra criteria mark-up in the funk gang. Especially if you’ve got a perm, a dip, a whip, a flick or a curl.
DâM-FunK: Only certain cats can do this, like me and Snoop. In the 80s, when we grew up, there were some hard curls. That was what we lived for.
Snoopzilla: Yeah, if you could just get $50 to get you a Jheri curl then you were the motherfucker back then.
DâM-FunK: Yep, your life would change in 24 hours...
Snoopzilla: It would change immediately. I remember giving my homeboy (Lil’) 1/2 Dead an optimum. That shit started bouncing like a motherfucker and he immediately started doing the running man he was so happy. Then they created something called the snap back. If your shit was dead you just put that snap in and it would bring it right back to life. In the video for ‘Faden Away’ I had on some Afro Sheen and a piece from World of Curls.
“Without the funk I wouldn’t be a rapper, I wouldn’t be Snoop Dogg. I wouldn’t be strong, I wouldn’t be poised. Funk has kept me alive” - Snoopzilla
DD: It’s been two decades since you and Dre made Doggystyle. Why did you wait 20 years to do another record with a single producer?
Snoopzilla: DâM-FunK was worthy. After we did our first song as 7 Days of Funk, ‘Hit Da Pavement’, it made me feel like I was back on my shit again with somebody who knew how to get me on my shit again. He had the title right, he had the music right and all I had to do was step to it, get my shit together and put it on point. We added Bootsy to it and turned it into a motherfucking monster jam. That made me want to do an entire record with DâM, not one song but a whole record. The timing was impeccable, I don’t even know how it happened. We ain’t even been knowing each other that long, but our connection is so raw and so genuine that every time we see each other we want to make it more than what it is.
DD: It’s also got the DPG (Dogg Pound Gangstaz) rapping on it. Do you see this as a sequel to Doggystyle?
Snoopzilla: I think it’s an extension of it. If you listen to Doggystyle it’s got a lot of the funk elements in it, and now that I’m seasoned and I’m more grown I’m able to have more control over what I’m delivering. On my first album I wanted to sing some of the hooks, but I didn’t know how to sing – but with this record, I said ‘fuck it’! I’m doing the singing, the backgrounds, the lead, just as if I was in a funk band. I can do anything with my vocals. I wanted that to be my main goal on this – to have more control over my melodic vocals, not just the rapping. For me, rapping is easy, that’s what I’m known for. I wanted to do something that was an extension. I’ve always wanted to put on a tight one-piece suit with the zipper and shove my holy rod on the left side like Rick James did and perform on stage with a keytar.
“Funk gave me something to believe in” - DâM-FunK
DD: I see similarities to what you did with ‘Sensual Seduction’ (2007) and the vibe of this record. Was that song the blueprint?
Snoopzilla: Did you ever listen to ‘Sensual Seduction’, DâM?
DâM-FunK: Yeah, of course, it’s a great joint...
Snoopzilla: When I made that record it was a leap of faith, because when Shawty Redd gave it to me it was just him singing. I put the Auto-Tune on and said, ‘Damn, should I call T-Pain? What should I do? Fuck it, I’m going to do it myself.’ That shit was an extension of me trying to get here. It was ahead of its time, people loved it and enjoyed it, but now I’m able to do it fully with a real producer who produces funk. Now it’s me and him just taking off and having fun with it, so I’m anxious to see what people are going to feel about the project.
DD: The videos for ‘Faden Away’ and ‘Sensual Seduction’ are pretty funny. Is it important to have an element of humour to what you do?
Snoopzilla: When we make music we laugh and we smile and we have fun. We don’t ever be in that motherfucker mad, like, ‘Fuck you, DâM, give me a beat,’ or, ‘Fuck you, Dogg, rap on this motherfucking song and you’d better be good!’ We’re motherfucking happy. If he makes a beat that’s dope as fuck, I’m smiling, I’m turnt up and I get right on it. If I give him some vocals that are dope as fuck he hits me back and says, ‘That was special.’ That’s the vibe that we giving off, that we want people to get what we get off this music. It’s a happy vibe.
DD: It’s like P-funk’s mothership connection all over again.
DâM-FunK: It is the mothership connection. It’s very natural and very cool to be able to make music with somebody without all those things they have in some studios, where you have some fucking mentor or somebody giving advice who’s not even supposed to be there saying some shit. For this one it was just Snoop and me.
DD: Snoopzilla, how do you compare this recording experience with that of The Chronic and Doggystyle?
Snoopzilla: Back then I was a diamond in the rough and Dr. Dre knew how to shine that diamond up. I was very shy of the camera but in the studio I was never shy. If you listen to The Chronic, the first voice you hear is mine the minute it comes on. I took off from the beginning, with the intro through to organising the songs and bringing all the people in. That’s how I was in the studio, I was a leader, a young soldier, but I didn’t know how to lead, so Dr. Dre was the one who showed me how. At the same time, he let me be me; he didn’t try to change me, or ask me to wear my hair or clothes a certain way. It was already there when I got to him, he just helped me bring it to life.
DD: So has funk saved your lives?
Snoopzilla: Funk saved my life in so many ways. Without the funk I wouldn’t be a rapper, I wouldn’t be Snoop Dogg. I wouldn’t be strong, I wouldn’t be poised. All the funk forefathers I’ve had relationships with, Rick James, James Brown, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Charlie Wilson, all of these guys helped me become a better person. They have all been a part of my life not only when I’ve been successful and happy and selling out records, but when I’ve been down trying to get my life right. Charlie Wilson was the one who kept me and my wife together; he helped me become a better husband and a better father, so without his love through the funk I wouldn’t have the love that I have. So funk has definitely kept me alive.
DâM-FunK: It saved my life by giving me a purpose. It made me want to stand for something. Funk gave me something to believe in.
7 Days of Funk is out now on Stones Throw