Tuesday, February 22, 2011

330 In the Jungle Groove- Where hip hop was born.

Album: In the Jungle Groove
Artist: James Brown
Year: 1986
Genre: Funk


  1. It's a New Day
  2. Funky Drummer
  3. Give It Up or Turnit a Loose (Remix)
  4. I Got to Move
  5. Funky Drummer (Bonus Beat Reprise)
  6. Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing (Remix)
  7. Get Up, Get into It, Get Involved
  8. Soul Power
  9. Hot Pants (She Got to Use What She Got to Get What She Wants)

James Brown invented Soul music. He also invented Funk. It's also possible he invented stage antics, screaming in tune and massive hair cuts on men. Most of these things are well known by casual music fans. What's less appreciated is his role in the invention of hip-hop rhythms.

One of the undisputed candidates for most sampled songs ever is The Funky Drummer which isn't so much a song it's a band exercise. For it's 9 minute run time James leads his band through a funk outing and limits his vocals to a series of encouragements and Brownisms. There's the occasional screech and Woo but basically it's just a chance for his band to show off over the top of a funky rhythm. In amongst the soloing the drummer gets a chance to do his thing for a while. Even if you have never heard a James Brown song ever (and what are the chances of that?) it's a fair bet that you've heard these beats if you're a fan of hip hop. Producers who need drums to back rappers have turned to Funky Drummer more than any other song. The Beastie boys, De La Soul, Will Smith, Dr Dre, George Michael, Ice Cube, Ice T, LL Cool J, Nine Inch Nails, Prince, Public Enemy, Sinead O'Connor, Queen and Vanilla Ice are some of the bigger names (and Slick Rick, Sweet Tee, Tung Twista and Maestro Fresh Wes are some of the silliest) who have sampled its grooves. In the eighties it became such a standard choice that Brown and his production company decided that in order to cash in on the Funky Drummer's popularity they should release this compilation and publicise it as the place where Hip Hop Beats were born. In the Jungle Groove is a James Brown geared towards a mid-eighties crowd who wanted to hear where their heroes got their licks from.

On paper this album should be terrible. It's basically a quick cash-in full of already released tracks with a few remixes, there should be no reason why we're talking about it now. But Jungle Groove is frankly a fantastic album. It doesn't have many actual songs and none that you'd recognise from radio but it's proof that all Brown needs to get hips moving is a bunch of musicians who are nearly as talented as he is. It's full of long work-outs that get your head shaking and your booty moovin and it's just the bomb. It's funk and soul and groove and everything good. If you're a fan of Brown's hits (and why the hell wouldn't you be?) then there's nothing on Jungle Groove that will make you sing along in recognition. But if you love a good funky workout you might be happy to have this in your collection. And of course if you're a hip-hop producer you've already got it loaded onto your computer ready to pull out whenever you need some dope beats.

(500 horizons would like to apologise for all attempts to introduce hip hop terminology into this post and assures loyal readers it won't happen again)

Highlight: Funky drummer
Lowlight: Soul Power

Influenced by: The fear that Brown instilled in his musicians.
Influenced: Every Hip Hop Producer you care to name.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Qoute: "I expected this disc to be off the hook and boy was it, me being a musician I put this disc on pull out my instument and I'm in another world."

-What qualifies someone to be a musician? I can play a few chords on a guitar does that make me a musician? I've never understood this and I always treat anyone who feels the need to say their a musician in their amazon review with a degree of skepticism. For all I know it could have been written by Yo Yo Ma but I'm guessing it's just some guy playing with his instrument.

So are you in the Jungle Groove or would you have the jungle logged and the trees pulped? Let me know below.

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