Sound of the Funky Drummer

Hip-hop owes Clyde Stubblefield a debt of gratitude–as well as millions in royalties.

It all started with a classic James Brown tune, a loose jam that sounded almost impromptu, but given Brown’s infamous perfectionism, was probably very well rehearsed. After a long series of nonsense lyrics and improvisations laid over a smooth, honeydew groove, Brown told his group to “lay out and let the drummer go,” which may have been music’s version of “let there be light.” For a brief moment, it was as if the waters of sound had parted to reveal the pure essence of funk. Even the Godfather himself was in awe. “The name of this tune is the Funky Drummer.”

About two decades later, the sound of the Funky Drummer would reemerge as the backbeat for hip-hop’s golden age. B-boys breaked (broke?) to the beat, MCs freestyled over it, and DJs sampled it over and over and over again. Run-DMC, Public Enemy, Eric B. and Rakim, N.W.A., Biz Markie, the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J–the list goes on for miles and includes just about every name in hip-hop’s hall of fame. The Funky Drummer break is one of if not the most sampled beat in music, and one could make the claim that it has been more important to the genre of hip-hop than any rapper or DJ.

But what of the Funky Drummer himself, Clyde Stubblefield? In the 44 years since he laid down his historic beat, Stubblefield has not received a penny from the myriad artists that have profited from it. This is not necessarily a legal matter–as a session drummer, Stubblefield was never entitled to royalties–but it is troubling nonetheless. Stubblefield has now lived in Madison for over 40 years; until recently, he had played weekly shows with his band at the Frequency. In 2009, Stubblefield was hospitalized with kidney failure, forcing him to go on dialysis. Although royalties would help pay his medical bills, Stubblefield has said that the lack of recognition hurts more than the money. One thing is certain: whether it comes in the form of a check or a shout-out, it’s about time that hip-hop gave the drummer some.

Here’s five examples of the Funky Drummer break in action:

“Funky Drummer”

The original James Brown number was first released as a single in 1970, but it wasn’t put on an album until 1986, shortly before it was rediscovered by the hip-hop community.

“South Bronx”

Boogie Down Productions made this foundational diss track as a counter to MC Shan’s “The Bridge.” One of the first of many important hip-hop tracks to employ Stubblefield’s break.

“Lyrics of Fury”

Probably the most conspicuous usage of the Funky Drummer came in this furious battle track from Eric B. and Rakim. The greatest rapper of all time goes toe-to-toe with the beat in a way that only he can.

“Fight the Power”

Chuck D evokes the “sound of the Funky Drummer” right from the start of this iconic track. Public Enemy was possessed by the break, also sampling it on “Bring the Noise” and “Rebel Without a Pause.”

“Mama Said Knock You Out”

LL Cool J’s ferocious don’t-call-it-a-comeback comeback track puts Stubblefield’s break into overdrive. Like Public Enemy, LL utilized the Funky Drummer multiple times; it also features on “The Boomin’ System,” another stellar track from the same album.


Remember, no matter what genre you’re into, WUD Music has you covered. Like us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter (@WUDmusic) to stay up to date on all the artists and bands playing the Rathskeller, the Terrace, or the Sett each week.

Tape Deck Tuesday Playlist: A Taste of New Orleans

Starting this Tuesday, every week we will bring you a fresh batch of songs revolving around a theme, available below.  This week, we are bringing a taste of New Orleans.  Starting at the earliest iterations of New Orleans funk, Professor Longhair and Buckwheat Zydeco show the foundation for the next generations of music.  Dr. John and The Meters followed, borrowing heavily from their fore bearers, and a song such as “Cissy Strut” exemplifies the progression towards a more guitar driven sound.  The next four songs are New Orleans standards performed by a range of modern artists ranging from the Jazzy quartet of Medeski Scofield Martin and Wood to the three trombone attack of Bonerama.  Big Freedia represents a new facet of music from New Orleans called “bounce” music.  Trombone Shorty represent the future of New Orleans music as he has quickly risen to national prominence, reestablishing New Orleans’ music in the national spotlight.

Charlie Brooks and The Way It Is on The Terrace

What’s up, Madtown? Let us explain why you should be on the Terrace this Friday. Charlie Brooks and The Way It Is will be performing an entire show, starting at 9:30 and in order to appreciate their R&B and soul music, you must be present.

Charlie Brooks and The Way It Is have certainly made an impression on every crowd they have performed for. Their classy dress and comedic banter with the crowd add to their already stellar R&B music. Even more impressive are the bands that they have opened and played with through the years, including Sly & The Family Stone, The Temptations, and even Ray Charles.

When they start playing their Motown sound songs such as classics “Brick House” and “Mustang Sally,” all that a person can do is get up and start dancing. Charlie Brooks’ voice is also not completely overpowering, meaning we can also enjoy the soul coming from the other members, which include Steve Skaggs, Joe Wickam, Dave Goblin, Nathan Merone K, Eric Koppa, Darren Sterud, and Mike Bowman.

So this Friday, come feel the soul in you as Charlie Brooks and The Way It Is takes over the Terrace stage. Check out their take on “Brick House” below.

Saturday on The Terrace: Steez

“Come and see why the Terrace is our absolute FAVORITE place to play in the whole wide world.” We couldn’t have pitched it better than Steez already did on their Facebook earlier this week. Let’s return the support by getting funky with their “creepfunk” music this Saturday night.

Steez has been gaining recognition through competitions that land them stages such as the 2008 Summer Camp and Rothbury Festival. They have even performed at the Mifflin Street Block Party of 2011, where saxophonist Andrzej Benkowski covered “Like a Prayer” by Madonna. Their debut album has also been recently nominated for Home Grown Music Network’s album of the year. With all of this praise, the music behind it must be worthy of a performance on The Terrace.

Certainly their sound is full of funk, but with the addition of electronic instruments, their music has a psychedelic twist. This intriguing combination can be heard in songs “Three Man Weave” or “Brown Lights.” To add to their great music, they also have quirky personalities which are interwined into their songs. For instance, the first video that pops up on their website is “S my D” (Scott Walker remix). It’s a protest song with a groove.

When seen live, Steez has moments where the band is purely enjoying the music they are creating- especially when each instrument goes solo. Witness their tantalizing, funky beats this Saturday starting at 9:30. I’ll leave you with a fun fact: The word “Steez” is defined as the combination of style & ease by Urbandictionary. What a perfect description of the band themselves.

Download or preview Steez’s “Three Man Weave” below. It comes from their latest album KRONOS, which you can download for the price of your choosing over at their bandcamp.

Download>> Steez – “Three Man Weave”

Saturday Night on the Terrace: Phat Phunktion

Renowned Madison funk band Phat Phunktion is revisiting the Terrace this Saturday, June 9th at 9:30! The nine-piece band with jazz and soul influences has been gracing the Midwest with their musicianship since 1996. More recently, the band has gained a following spreading both nation and worldwide. Phat Phunktion has self-released four albums, their latest being Real Life .:. High Fidelity in 2009. Produced by band members Tim Whalen and Al Falaschi, the band’s fourth creation shows advanced levels of phunkiness as well as deep lyrics and excellent writing that reveal the band’s growth and overall maturity from previous work.  In the past, the band has performed alongside groups such as The Temptations, WAR and Cameo.

Phat Phunktion has proven to entice their audiences, not only with their music, but with their groovy stage shows as well. They’ll undoubtedly be funking up the Terrace this Saturday night, bringing out both first-rate jam and a loyal “phathead” following, so don’t miss out.

DTF: Steez this Friday

Steez, by definition, means style with ease. Is there a better way to describe Madison’s very own self-defined Creepfunk band? I think not. Steez started up in 2003 and consists of five members: Matt Williams (keyboards/ synthesizers/ accordion), Steve Neary (guitar and vocals), Rob Bessert (drums), Chris Sell (bass), and Andrzej Benkowski (sax, oboe, and violion). Over the past few years, the band has gained national recognition, having performed at some of the finest music festivals in the country, such as Summer Camp, Summerfest, Electric Forest, and we can’t forget Mifflin last spring, where they played a most excellent cover of Madonna’s Like a Prayer (now that’s pretty steezy!). If you haven’t had a chance to hear them play yet, the quintet is a combination jam-dance-funk band (with a twang of something unearthly) that bleeds both personality and originality… So, they’re pretty much nothing short of mind-blowing.

Oh, and guess what? In an effort to spread their lovely music to the masses, the band is touring the Midwest this winter and spring in their exquisite bus “Big Brown” (you can’t miss it) and is offering free electronic copies of their albums released this year, including KRONOS- their first new album in three years- due in the spring.

So, come check them out in our DTF (Dance This Friday) series at midnight at Union South fo’ free, because opportunities like this are just too good to pass up!

Download a live version of Steez’s “Duderfunk” below as a preview of what you’re in for tomorrow!

Download Steez’s “Duderfunk (live)”

Tonight in The Sett: Charlie Brooks and The Way It Is, DMF With Nick Nice

Were you born in the wrong era? Do you long to live in the days where you could take a stroll in Motown and run into Barry Gordy, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, or Diana Ross? How about the 70’s – do you find wish you could have seen Lou Rawls live or have a strong urge to “stay together” with Al Green? Charlie Brooks and The Way It Is are the answer to your prayers, and lucky for you their home is in Madtown rather than Motown. Soulful guitar solos, horn sections, and hammond organs are still alive, and this band is evidence.

Charlie Brooks has established himself amongst the finest names of his Motown and soul, having shared bills with Sly and the Family Stone, Percy Sledge, Chicago, Ray Charles, The Supremes, and The Temptations. You know he’s got to have soul to find himself in that kind of company. He’s proof that there are those of us that know the best way to keep our feet warm in this town known for its frigid weather is to dance.

The dancing doesn’t end with Charlie Brooks and Co., either, as Nick Nice will be back yet again to spin songs of a more contemporary nature at DNCE MTHR FCKR at midnight. It’ll be a cool opportunity to witness the evolution of dance music, all while burning some calories. So get yourself to The Sett on Friday to see some local legends do what they do best: get you out of your seats and having a good time.

Tani Diakite and the Afrofunkstars

The weather’s starting to get colder and right about now you’re thinking,yea this is nice but  I could really use some great music to put me back in that summer state of mind. We feel the same, so this Saturday we bring you Tani Diakite and the Afrofunkstars.

Tani Diakite is a master kamale n’goni player from Wasulu, Mali. If you’re not familiar with the n’goni instrument family, the donso n’goni is an older six string instrument that was traditionally used for ceremonial purposes. The smaller version is the kamale n’goni and is characteristic of a popular style of music from Mali called Wasulu.

The music is unique but yet so familiar with its jam band-esque feel; the n’goni is thought to be the predecessor to the banjo and there’s definitely a hint of bluegrass mixed in with the dance/funk/blues sound. Check out this video from Wisconsin Public Television and around the 8 minute mark notice how the electric guitar comes to the forefront to tie everything together and produce maximum enjoyability.

*Photo Credit AfroCubanLatinJazz/c.