Funk the World

When they build Mt. Funkmore in Cincinnati, Ohio, Bootsy Collins will be one of its smiling faces. The latest album from the famed Parliament-Funkadelic and James Brown bassist, Tha Funk Capital of the World, is a star-studded tour de funk, a 17-song marathon showing the world how it’s still done.

Bootsy’s music is the definition of a good time, and it’s lyrically tinged with social commentary. “You know yesterday’s trash could very well be tomorrow’s fuel,” he says, possibly in a Back to the Future reference, on “Freedumb,” which features Cornel West. “And yesterday’s prisons could very well be tomorrow’s schools.”

Musicians and actors make appearances in spots, and Bay Area shredder Buckethead rips it up on a few songs, one of which seems particularly tailored to his dark, haunting, melancholy style. Unfortunately, he doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the album, while most other guests blend in with Bootsy’s crazy jams just fine.

In fact, spoken-word tracks make up a sizable bulk of the record. Samuel L. Jackson tells a story about growing up in Los Angeles and being a kid with music always around him; it’s not very interesting, but Jackson speaks so musically it doesn’t matter what he says. Snoop Dogg is in this category as well, and does his thing for half a song, saying nothing of consequence but sounding awesome doing it. The most unexpected guest star is banjo master Bela Fleck, plucking away on the R&B groove “If Looks Could Kill” with MC ZionPlanet-10 and drummer Dennis Chambers.

There are several tributes on the album. George Duke and Ron Carter combine the swing of jazz with a dance beat groove on “The Jazz Greats (A Tribute to Jazz).” George Clinton and Linda Shider appear on “Garry Shider Tribute.” And on “JB–Still the Man,” the Rev. Al Sharpton orates for two minutes about James Brown while some of the funkiest grooves this side of the Chocolate Nebula set the scene. “He changed music as we know it,” says the Reverend. “He changed the beat from a two-four to a one-three. He taught the world to be on the one.”

“The one” is a prevailing message throughout the album, referring to the musical term denoting the beginning (or, in this case, also the end) of a beat. Considering the reverence with which Bootsy speaks of the idea, though, it feels like more than just music. It feels like a spiritual message. It feels like an existential idea. And it’s all wrapped in star-shaped sunglasses and sparkly pants.