Belated Parliafunkadelicment Thangday! (Earholin’ Pillagin’ Pioneers)

With the weather unfitting for late August, the Funk is needed more than ever. Funk, like rich, dark hot cocoa, provides warmth for the mind, body, and soul. Space(bass) heater! This Parliafunkadelicment Thangday. Capable of melting Mr. Freeze, Digital Underground championed the fun side of west coast hip hop.

The most famous purveyor of the P-Funk sound, Dr. Dre, certainly embraced the aural aspect of P-Funk. Too $hort was also fond of P-Funk’s riffs, but rapped mostly about pimpin’ and sex. Digital Underground truly embodied the principles of the P-Funk Army. Dr. Dre & Death Row Records packaged P-Funk inspired beats with gangsta rap lyrical and visual content. Thus creating the G-Funk sound. Digital Underground’s embraced more than just the sound aspect of the P-Funk aesthetic.

Mixing samples with musical re-interpolations, Digital Underground’s sound was funky, raw, and live. Inspired by the concepts found in the lyrics and P-Funk album artwork, DU’s raps were filled with P-Funk references, Bootsy-esque puns, pointed commentary, sci-fi concepts, all around hilarity, and praise of the Funk. Sons of the P to the subatomic level, passers of the funkadelictric kool-aid acid tests.

Spreading the unkut Funk, and P-Funk ethos, to a new generation before going under to the castrated funk of G-Funk Army, DU prefigured Outkast’s space-funk hop by several years. Originally a member of the legendary Tommy Boy label, Digital Underground was also responsible for introducing the hip hop world to Tupac Shakur, who would become much more popular than DU ever was and probably ever will be. For example, number of times I have seen Shock G’s image in public (0) vs. number of times for Tupac (much higher than 0). But this has no bearing on the funkiness of Digital Underground.

Other than introducing Tupac, DU is most remembered for the infectious goofy fun of “The Humpty Dance” and futuristic hedonistic sexual paradise realized through the invention of “Sex Packets.” “The Humpty Dance” was Groucho Marx on the crazy wack funky and a chart-topping hit. For about a month, an old school walkman, albeit a nice one with an equalizer, was my sole portable music listening device. Listening to the same few tapes on repeat, one longs for fresh sounds. The only saving grace was having a quality cassettes, including Digital Underground’s The Humpty Dance 12″.

Open up your nostrils. Inhale deep. Funky fresh smells guaranteed to clear congestion. Something stink and I want some. Smell the world through bbq colored olfactory sensory neurons.

People say “Yo, Humpty, you’re really funny lookin'”
that’s all right ’cause I get things cookin’

Sex Packets, released in 1990, was their debut album. Featuring the previously mentioned “The Humpty Dance” and “Sex Packets,” Sex Packets imagines a world where sex has been liberated, vanity vanquished, puritanical somber sobriety subjugated. DU’s message seems to have been heard by the hyphy movement. Is there any difference between Doin’ the Hump and Gettin’ Dumb? Is there a difference between human and animal feces? The former involve convulsing your body like an epileptic, while flies hover around the latter. Everybody’s butt stank! The multitudes of all there is contain Funk, the fundamental element of being.

“Doowutchyalike,” DU’s third single was the song that first exposed DU to the wider world even making its’ way to New York, which was not a small feat in the late 1980s. Sampling “Atomic Dog” and “Flash Light” Digital’s basic libertarian message, of tolerance and acceptance is encapsulated in “Doowutchyalike.”


Their ridiculous sense of humor is also evident in “Doowutchyalike.”

Now if you wear corrective shoes and you got big bunyons,
Toenails smell and look like onions,
Don’t doowutchyalike–
Go see a foot doctor tonight!

“Freaks of the Industry” capsulizes DU’s sexual rawness. Digital Underground did not hide their love of doing the freaknasty. They express their desire to not be cured if a cure for nymphomania did exist. Their sense of humor translated over to the bedroom, making carnal endeavors It should be noted that “Freaks” promotes the use of contraception. In fact, sex packets are the ultimate contraceptive and marriage saver.

Gettin’ back to my mission, break out the
whipped cream and the cherries,
Then I go through all the fly positions:
My head under her leg under my arm under her toe.

This Is an EP Release (1991) featured the debut of Tupac on “Same Song.” A nasty organ carries the song in the second half while a bowel moving bass synth deconstipates throughout. This Is an EP Release saw DU continuing in the same vein as Sex Packets.

Digital Underground also released Sons of the P in 1991. As P-Funked out as their previous releases were, Sons of the P somehow was even more saturated in the Cosmic Slop. Embracing the Funk even more, George appeared on and endorsed this album. Working with the maggot overlord on “Kiss You Back”, DU display their sweet, sensitive side while utilizing “Knee Deep.”

If you pinch my nose I’ll play with your toes

“Tales of the Funky” features a throbbing, octopulsating bassline, plenty of P-Funk vocal samples, and an insane amount of P-Funk references. An ode to the P-Funk that might top Ice Cube’s “Bop Gun,” “Tales” makes woofers woof.

And don’t forget that the funk Mob is everywhere
Don’t be Standing On the Verge of Gettin It On
And George’ll be the first to tell you when the funk’s gone
There’s funk in everything you do so don’t be stupid

And if it ain’t gots the P it ain’t down

“Sons of the P” explicitly connects DU to P-Funk. George appears and endorses DU. Mothership Connectivity!

Endowed with the flow and the destinies to grow
Into what you’ve come to be, and only you can be sons of the P

The Body-Hat Syndrome (1993) was DU’s last album for Tommy Boy Records. While a solid effort, Body Hat was unable to reach the easy exuberance of previous albums. “Bran Nu Swetta” contains a tasty interaction between the bass and piano.

1996’s Future Rhythm saw DU attempting to fuse hip hop and funk yet again. Looking to the future, Digital stayed within a familiar soundscape. “Glooty-Us-Maximus” features expected DU humor and the use of one of my favorite P-Funk vocal chants, the Space People refrain. “Future Rhythm” finds DU looking into the technological abyss.

(In the future) It’s gonna be a rhythm divine
A paradise peace of mind vibe for every kind
Text to the sexless, dollars to the needy
Power to the people but DEATH to the greedy

Digital Underground returned with Who Got the Gravy in 1998. A strong effort featuring appearances by KRS-One and Biz Markie, Who Got the Gravy saw a fruitful, peaceful meeting between East and West. The East Coast-West Coast hip hop battle was fruitless and self-defeating. “Wind Me Up” channels one of my favorite Bootsy tracks’ “Bootzilla.” KRS-One leads off the album on “I Shall Return.”


The Lost Files (2001) is the weakest DU release. Still a weak DU album is better than most. “Strawberry Number 23” is Digital’s interpretation of a classic soul track. “I’ve Been Watchin’ You” is a modern take on “I’ve Been Watching You (Move Your Sexy Body).”

Certainly inspired by Parliament Funkadelic, Digital Underground were Sons of the P. But they were not P-Funk biters, pillaging from P-Funk to make up for a lack of talent and creativity. Much like Return of the Living Dead using Night of the Living Dead as a springboard, DU used P-Funk as a jumping off point for funkploration. Thus, Digital Underground is part of the Parliafunkadelicment Thang canon rather than a funk fugazi.

The Coup, Del and Sly Stone are also from the Bay Area. Finding the unkut Funk out west is rare, which is one of my biggest problems with Seattle. But the Bay Area brings it strong and will be featured again on Parliafunkadelicment Thangday.

Humpty makes the rhymes come out.

making ya dance/making ya sing/wiggling your glooty-us-maximus like it ain’t thang/girl i want to suck on ya like a chicken wing/climb aboard my rocketship/time to do the wild thang

Show ’em your P!


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