Thursday, November 26, 2009

Where'd Schoolly Get That Funk From?

"Where'd You Get That Funk From" is the lead single off of Schoolly D's 1991, How a Black Man Feels. It's possibly his most commercial single ever... which for Schoolly D, means it's really not very commercial at all (only Schoolly would throw the words "junkie," "cocaine," "crackhead" and "8-Ballin" in his bid for MTV airtime... which he got). This was during Schoolly's brief stint at Capital Records, where he also released the singles "Original Gangster" (chosen surely because it was guest produced by Krs-One) and his famous movie tie-in, "King of New York."

It's commercial in the sense that the lyrics are relatively non-confrontational, his flow isn't as free-form as it sometimes is, the scratching's kept pretty soft in the mix (though Code Money is name-checked twice) and the instrumental is entirely indebted to P-funk: a tidal wave that was rising but had yet to turn into the g-funk tsunami that nearly drowned hip-hop a few years later. This is more in the mode of the classic, harder-sounding uses of P-funk (a la X-Clan)... Y'know, the good kind. 8)

Really, the instrumental (produced by Schoolly himself) is essentially a mash-up of two classic P-Funk records, with some tweaking (including an ultra-deep, rolling thunder-style bassline). You've got your basic "Atomic Dog" percussion... a foundation which has been used a thousand times, but you've gotta admit it hits hard. Then you've got the sample that this song really owes the bulk of it's success to, "Funkentelechy." That's where the sung hook comes from, as well as all the funky horn sounds and such. Just isolating that sample and laying it on top of some hip-hop drums practically guaranteed you a fresh song no matter what else you did or didn't do.

Now, this 12" features a bunch of versions, but none of them fuck with the winning formula of "Funkentelechy" + "Atomic Dog." But there are a bunch of differences... Some versions include additional samples (for example, most of the remixes put some "Theme from SWAT" bassline behind the second verse throw and in a little guitar from "I Know You Got Soul" here and there)... Some have extra cuts (the "Funky Funky Dub Mix" adds a nice stutter scratch to the hook, "where-er'd you-g-get that f-funk fr-uh-uh-uh-uhm?")... Some start with Schoolly's opening lines being repeated instead of the traditional P-funk samples, and include extended breakdowns where the beat rides and Schoolly's lines are played back. There's definitely an overload here, hitting us with more versions with more minor distinctions than anybody could really want, but some of the changes do make the remixes worth your time and improve on the original. Spend some time with it, pick a favorite.

The last thing to note about this song is the second verse, since it's not by Schoolly but an uncredited guest MC. Neither the 12" credits or the album liner notes name him, but it's definitely not Schoolly. Lyrically, his verse isn't as compelling (basically he's just saying "this song will make you dance"), but his deeper voice is a nice counter-point to School's. He appeared in the music video, too (along with former Ruthless Records recording artist Tairrie B, vamping around a record store), but I can't call it.

Update! I got in contact with Schoolly himself, and the featured MC is Brew from Mass 187. Thanks for clearing that up - definitely a dope song!

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