WHAT IS SLOP?
It's rock n' roll rock funked up with soul.
WHO PLAYS IT?
The originals were Funkadelic, Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix and Prince.
WHAT HAPPENED TO IT?
The 80’s happened. The beat machine and DAT nearly killed the US Slop players. In the 90’s unemployed black guitarists relocated to the west coast to lay down funky guitar licks on G-Funk Hip Hop. Major labels turned their back on black musicians and sought low maintenance acts who had mastered the drum pattern. Any black artist caught wielding a lead guitar and playing Slop riffs was dismissed as “sounding like Prince”. In the mid nineties we had high hopes for shit hot recording artist Joi, who mixed the raunchy baadasss Slop of Betty Davis with Atlanta hip Hop. But her classic 2nd album Ameoba Cleansing Syndrome (a collaboration with black rockers Fishbone) to this day remains unreleased.
Slop And The American Dream.
It was in 1998 when a new Slop superhero first emerged, hidden away on the Scream 2 Soundtrack. D’angelo had already saved Soul, now he was about to do the same for Slop. The Prince cover She’s Always In My Hair is a rarity in that it blows the original away. It’s dark, claustrophobic and heavy. ?uestlove’s drums are funk, Raphael Saadiq’s guitars pour out a decades worth of Slop emotion and D’angelo’s Soul vocals are chillingly twisted. After the stunning success of Voodoo and the Slop anthem Untitled (How Does It Feel?), D’angelo took his band on the sloppy Voodoo tour (including the violent Shit, Damn, Motherfucker) but then disappeared. For the Slopadelic’s two killer tracks weren’t enough. But the rebirth of Slop had already begun. Cody ChesnuTT released his Slop filled debut The Headphone Masterpiece independently, reportedly turning down a $1 Million dollar major label contract. His song Looks Good In Leather will someday make him very rich. In fact, everyone was starting to go independent, encouraged by the perceived success of Prince in the internet age. The Underground was growing.
Enter Van Hunt
2004 and Dust the first cut from Van Hunt’s major label debut announced a taste for Slop right from the off, even if the rest of the album is a beautiful funky soul affair. Van’s manager and mentor is, somewhat surprisingly, American Idol judge Randy Jackson, who also looks after another Slop Starlet, Nikka Costa … that’s two Slop stripes. With Randy’s help Van Hunt received a Grammy nomination. The big push for the 2nd album On The Jungle Floor had begun. When it arrived, it blew every Slop devotee away. We’d been waiting for this ever since Ameoba Cleansing Syndrome was shelved. OTJF is diverse like all Slop albums, Slop isn’t a box, but amongst all the different styles is a core of killer Slop cuts, rock n' roll funked up with soul; Hot Stage Lights, the escapist rush Ride, Ride, Ride, the uncontrollable urge of If I Take You Home but my pick of the bunch is the excellent At the End of a Slow Dance , the sloppiest moment of 2006. Reminiscent of British indie luvvie Morrissey, it ends with a moment of pure slop. Fading out too quickly, the rolling fuzz bass and fatback beat suggest a Larry Graham vibe, something I ask Van personally, he sets me straight. “I was trying to make it sound as grimy as Gang of Four or something like that.”
So where does his desire to make this music come from? Is it directly from classic Slop?
“I think most people say my music reminds them of Prince or Curtis Mayfield, I do hear those similarities in my voice & musical leanings. I don’t get many comparisons to George Clinton or Funkadelic or even Jimi Hendrix, though Voodoo Chile is the only way to do a guitar solo (laughs). I grew up listening to Thelonious Monk, Prince & Richard Pryor; those influences come out in my own creativity. I never try to come from any aspect, what I do is unique unto itself.”
Given the individual style of Van’s sound I wondered if he had an identifiable audience. Who are the Slop crowd?
“My audience is anybody who is honest with themselves. It’s not something that’s esoteric. You have to make a decision about my music … It’s not going to let you off the hook. You can either say “Shit I really love this” or alternatively “I can’t stand Van Hunt, I think he’s gay. His music is awful, it don’t sound anything like 50 Cent! (Laughs)” Few will say “I’m not sure” and I like that, I want you to decide about my music. We did a show in Seattle and afterwards I went into the crowd and there was a 70 year old white couple in the front row, a Chinese couple and their teenage kids. There was also a black couple who were there to just hear Seconds of Pleasure”
The release date for Van’s latest album has been delayed due to the split from Blue Note Records, but Van reassured me that the album will come out soon*. Great news too because Popular, his 3rd album, is also his most satisfying work to date, combining the Slop star funk of OTJF with the soulful sincerity of his debut. The most notable Slop jams are the electric anthem Ur Personal Army , the funky Sarcasm of Turn My TV On and the urgent, sleazy The Lowest 1 Of My Desires [available now on The Popular Machine EP], a song Van describes as “the perfect description of intimacy.”
If Van Hunt is next in line for the throne and there’s only one Prince, then Joi has to be the Queen of Slop. After Amoeba Cleansing Syndrome came another major label project, Star Kitty’s Revenge. But despite funky as fuck, that project suffered from a lack of promotion. I asked Joi why she thought Slop hadn’t found its niche.
“I think major labels don’t associate spending money on Black Live music acts the same way they do white rock acts, which is a racial thing. The expense of sending an artist out on the road with an 8 member band meant singers were sent out on their own. Well hell, If I can’t be seen in my full splendour (with a live band) … I don’t want to be seen!” Joi put out her fantastic 4th album Tennessee Slim Is The Bomb (which includes the amazing Prince channelled Dance With Yesterday) on her own label Joilicious. And so far sales have been good from Joi’s committed fan base, 20,000 + no less, but she has also found that cult status can be a catch 22. “Some fans do all that they can to help promote, which I appreciate, whereas a lot of them just shut the fuck up (laughs). They want to keep us as their own private joy.”
Has the urban market generally embraced black rock?
“They have not, but musicians are different. I never have any trouble getting a high calibre of musician because they know with me they can get wild and play some rock shit. Black rock music is the musicians’ wet dream” In 2005, Joi got a call from funk legend George Clinton.
The Children of Production All-Stars.
Clinton put together a Slop supergroup to play on the bill along with the P-Funk All Stars @ the Fillmore in San Francisco Sept’ 05. The Children Of Production received rave reviews and featured the finest Slop musicians from across the US. The band played Funkadelic classics including cuts like Who Says A Funk Band Can’t Play Rock?, Friday Night August 14th & March To The Witches Castle. The movement had been re-born. The players were Amp Fiddler, Raphael Saadiq, Martin Luther, drummer CatDaddy, singer Keisha Jackson (daughter of Millie) (“She’s the muthafucking bomb” says Joi). Also bassist Preston Crump and music director/lead guitarist Rob ‘Fonkstarr’ Bacon “He’s a baadasss” Joi proclaimed.
Fonkstarr is sloppier than your standard funkateer. His long-awaited debut Earth Smells Funny is set to be a Slop monster (including the Eddie Hazel homage of Let It Go). Session pro Bacon - it was he who convinced Van Hunt to include the title track Popular on his new album - is 1st and foremost the funk, he told me so. “Funk is everything. It’s a religion to me man” He also broke down Slop. “People forget Funkadelic with Eddie Hazel that shit was out at the same time as Hendrix! Eddie Hazel was the ghetto; he was the back alley version of what Hendrix was doing. Jimi was playing more blues but Eddie Hazel was coming from a doo wop attitude. You can hear Doo Wop in his phrasing and mine. Eddie was making you feel exactly what was going on in his head at the time”
The Movement: Slop in 2008
Out on the majors this year: Lenny Kravitz, NERD, Rowdy newcomer Novel & D’angelo too … possibly. Everybody’s waiting to see what Raphael Saadiq, an architect of Slop, will release on Sony (New Day a track played on his Myspace page hints at a Slop direction).
The Underground by area; in the West there’s Slop duo J*Davey whose music Bacon describes as “sounding like having sex on Saturn”, Martin Luther, the X-rated Damn Fulz & Legally Blynd fronted by guitarist John ‘Jubu’ Smith, whose gospel influenced Slop cut Nina Brown is a gem (Van Hunt said “I wish Jubu would do a gospel quartet album and stop playing around”). In the East there’s New Yorker Giovanni James and his popslop cut OOO, Shelley Nicole’s BlakBushe with Black Girls, The Family Stand & across the river Franklin Bridge (featuring Curt Chambers & producer Adam Blackstone) Staying strong in the South, Joi, the merciless Slop of Rahbi and his live set Raw, Miss Rose by Coupe De Ville Theory, spaced out grooviness of Far by the Preston Crump Project, the bluesy Jermaine Rand & Curtis Whitehead with the V. Huntish River of Pride. You know the northern boys; Prince, Mint Condition & Rob ‘Fonkstarr’ Bacon.
In the UK, hope lies in Britslop brummie singer Bryn Christopher, signed to Polydor. In Gone Gone Gone he has a song with the potential to lead the UK charge in 2008. Appearing on Amy Winehouse’s ill fated tour last year (I heard his band went down well with the Soulheds). And lastly, white-skinned Slop genius Lewis Taylor, currently in semi-retirement, but still re-issuing records in the US through Hacktone. It’s criminal that Bittersweet and Positively Beautiful aren’t pub jukebox favourites. Lewis has had to deal with a different set of problems to black artists. The UK rock press just can’t get its head round a white guy, with a lead guitar, laying down double tracked falsetto/tenor vocals over the fonk.
Who says a Soul band can’t play Slop?
It doesn’t stop there; you may have noticed Slop creeping onto the albums of your favourite Soul artists too. Rahsaan Patterson slipped in the heavy Anna Stesia like Pitch Black onto his latest album. Jill Scott also got Sloppy on the title track of her new CD Words & Sounds Vol. 3: The Real Thing. In fact her label, Hidden Beach Records, have previous. Two of their last releases both feature Slop tracks. This you’d expect from the look of Keite Young but maybe not from gospel singer Sunny Hawkins, the angelic wife of producer Jamie Hawkins. She is responsible for the most surprising heavy Slop track of the year; the excellent clavinet laced More Of You. Singing to the lord, Sunny demands “Show me, more, more, more of you” Listening to the devotion and power in the song, you can understand how holy war’s start. In the UK there has been a mixed reaction to the subtle fusion of Slop from Soul fans/purists. For instance, last year, at an Eric Roberson Jazz Café gig, his fan favourite Rock With You met with resistance when he changed the arrangement to include heavy fuzzed out lead guitar riffs. One well known UK Soul DJ sat on the floor in protest, covering his ears with his hands. For him Roberson had gone too far. Contrastingly, In the US it’s an accepted part of the live performance. Though truth is, the Soul crowd generally are not the target audience, for that matter neither are Rockers. Slop is its own scene.
And there’s a world of it out there, you just need to know where to look. A good place to start would be to hit Van Hunt. With a track like Ur Personal Army, Van would appeal to a large percentage of the 500,000 fans that witnessed Prince’s sell out gigs at the 02 last summer, after all Prince does “sound like Van Hunt.” For the underground artists that are driving the scene just keep checking back. When you do stop by, please bring a bottle, something to smoke and some chocolates and let’s Slop out.