The Ohio Players, Lakeside, Slave, Heatwave, Dazz Band, Faze-O, Zapp. The Midwest, and Ohio especially, has always been about the funk. Though, as of late, it’s been left coast artists like Mothership descendant Dam-Funk who have been Searchin’ 4 Funk’s Future (he also works with Steve Arrington of Slave). So it only make sense that artists in the Midwest would eventually jump back in the driver’s seat to take us on a funk odyssey of their own.
Marking the beginning of the Midwest funk resurgence, I offer you Ohio based MC/producer Ill Poetic’s Synesthesia: The Yellow Movement EP and Poitier’s Continue Reading. The funk hasn’t been back like this since The Diabolical Biz. (For the record, Biz still remains unbeaten).
The beats on Ill Poetic’s EP are smooth and funkier than your favorite Scotch. Unless you drink that shit you can’t get at Ralphs or the corner store. It’s six tracks if you disregard the opener (“Hey Asshole”) and equal parts solid. Yes, it’s sometimes too preachy, with spoken word raps combined with what sounds like the best of Badu-inspired backdrops. And, of course, there’s a little talk box thrown in for that extra funk (R.I.P. Sir Troutman).
On “Be Cool” Ill Poetic invokes the spirit of Starchild while clowning everyone from “status rappers” to politicians before the end of the track melts into the CJ the Cynic assisted “On My Way,” which may be the best cut on the EP. I have no idea what “Ghostface is my real estate agent” means, but it sounds good and I’ll be phoning Mr. Starks when my lease is up. CJ’s vocals hit my Maxwell and D’Angelo funky bone and ”Silhouette” (featuring Reggie B) might be the R&B/boom-bap 2012 sonic equivalent of “Computer Love.” Or something.
I’ll leave it there. This isn’t an album review. It’s an offering, an introduction. And in the spirit of introduction, Ill Poetic was kind enough to put us up on Poitier when he dropped off his new EP. Yes, I will continue to fanute the word funk at my own peril. Swerve?
Poitier consists of Milwaukee producer/vocalist J. Todd and Lawrence, Kansas Emcee, Approach. Their debut, Continue Reading, which features a remix from Ill Poetic, sounds a little like the funkiest and least distorted parts of TV on the Radio remixed and reworked collaboratively by Dam-Funk, The Ummah, and George Clinton. As for the similarity between J.Todd’s and Kyp Malone’s (TV on the Radio) voice I suggest checking “$$GIVEITUP$$.”
That’s not to say that Poitier are trying to Swag Dracula (for the uninitiated, listen to this). Their brand of Funk-laced R&B Electronic Hip-Hop Soul is a wholly original audible entity. The snyths aren’t kitschy, they’re epically undeniably funky (see “Love is Distortion”). The vocals are raw and the rhymes are, more often than not, on point. Or, at the very least, they’re better than your favorite rapper’s ghostwriter.
Ultimately, the titles of the tracks—”Love is Distortion,” “GHOSTOPERA,” “This Dark Turnt Heart,” and “XXANTICEREMONY”—give you some sense of what the album is about. But, if you’re asking me, the guys are invested in exercising the demons created by love lost and exposing the inescapable angst and frustration created in the pursuit of that new new (see “The Great Staredown” or “BAMBOO”). I’ve said too much.
So, enclosing, as Todd croons on “GHOSTOPERA,” ‘you might be a skeptic and you might be cynic, but you might be down with it.’ I suggest you get down. Because if Main Source and White Men Can’t Jump taught us anything, it’s that you can’t fake the funk. Word to Billy Hoyle.