Published on March 20th, 2016 | by Jerry Doby0
First time GRAMMY Award winner George Clinton talks music and copyright struggle
During one of his appearances in Austin, TX during SXSW, The Hype Magazine caught up with brand new GRAMMY award winner and funk pioneer George Clinton and his crew. Clinton was on a press run at KAZI FM radio station, talking about his new Parliament album, as well as further projects with 5x GRAMMY winner Kendrick Lamar along with West Coast Hip-Hop star Ice Cube.
After 40 years of impacting music on an epically global scale, Clinton received his very first ever GRAMMY award as part of Kendrick’s Rap Album of the Year, To Pimp A Butterfly. He is featured on the track entitled Wesley’s Theory.
We caught a few moments with the busy veteran to talk about the win and his continuing fight to recover and collect past due royalties owed him for the use of music created by Clinton and his bands Funkadelic and Parliament.
Congratulations on your first ever Grammy award win. Forty years in the game, and finally you made it to the dance.
Thanks, man. I want to be happy enough from winning that, because I am very happy from winning that, but know my fight with this copyright *ish is still going on. Something has happened since I won the GRAMMY that makes it kind of sad, because now I’ve got to enter a fight for that song because these people that stole all my other music, still are trying to steal, they actually put their name on the copyright of the Wesley’s Theory since we won the Grammy. So, I’m kind of perplexed. I’m happy as hell, but at the same time sad. Now I got to go do some more, some of the brand new songs that have nothing to do with these people, they’re still stealing the songs, and they support music.
You’ve been fighting with them, what, 20 –
30 years. Almost 30 years, yes. Brand new record that has nothing to do with them, and they did it with this record [Wesley’s Theory]. They didn’t expect me to find out so soon, but I really searched through the copyright office because they do it and hide it. We just found a copyright where they actually went in there, changed it from my name to theirs and said that I did it; that I signed it over to them. I wouldn’t have found it if I hadn’t been checking, because I know them so well. Once they do that with the copyright office, then they have a piece of paper with which they can go right to BMI, which we left three years ago, and collect the money. As I said we haven’t been able to collect from anything of the Wesley’s Theory or any of my music because of this. So I’m still out here, like I said I got a brand new one out with Kendrick and Ice Cube on it with me. That’ll be out this coming week.
Find out more about George Clinton’s decades old copyright fight via his official Flashlight 2013 website.
Okay, what’s the name of that joint?
Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You. The video will be out Thursday. It’s a whole new remix of it with Kendrick and Cube on it.
I think the last time we talked you were going to LA to film that video.
It came out beautiful. You know Cube, he’s on one right now. Everything he’s doing is bad nowadays. With the help of them two, and Funkadelic who’s always got my back, this one is really something to pay attention to.
It was great to see Clinton out at the Rock The Yacht Experience in LA. It was also inspiring to see how good the reception for him was, the young people, and young journalists who rushed to the red carpet to get to him.
I know the Grammy win is bittersweet, but at the same time, 40 years in the game. You more than earned it, and the youngster that you co-signed, Kendrick Lamar, helped you make that happen. (George Clinton passes Funk Torch to Kendrick Lamar)
Oh yeah, he came in with the right conversation. I told him if he’s doing music about this subject matter that he was talking to me about, which he did, I knew that it was going to be big. I know people thought, “Damn he owned this kid’s ability before the record ever came out.” If you saw the intensity of his conversation, his conviction, and his knowledge about what he wanted to put on the record. He could not have done anything but what he did. The people that he chose, the work with the project, his own ability, it was all the right stuff that you need to do what that record did. It’s critically acclaimed.
In a previous interview with The Hype Magazine in September of 2015, Clinton stated about Kendrick Lamar, “Kendrick Lamar is the real deal, he’s special.” His predictions came true as Lamar brought home five wins from 11 nominations at the 58th GRAMMY awards, including “Rap Album of the Year” which, as mentioned previously, gave Clinton his first ever win.
Your reaction to the GRAMMY nomination and win?
To be nominated for the album of the year in hip-hop is a hell of a feat. I mean because they don’t really care how good the record is, and they’re not really trying to let that happen. It will, but he did it twice in a row, and this is a critically acclaimed record. He don’t even have to get the numbers on the charts, but that’s the stuff that make way for him to be an artist for a long time.
You’ve said early on that Kendrick Lamar, officially, is capable of carrying the banner of the funk, plus Hip-Hop.
Oh yes. He’s representing Hip-Hop, Compton, and he’s got a good taste of all the stuff that he needs to help him do what he do. He got a great team and all the people that he chose, Ronnie Isley, myself, he got all of the right elements. The musicians are excellent, it’s like brand new music for Hip-Hop. So he can carry the Funk banner, and I notice all his partners, all the other rappers he has around are bad too. Like I said my grandkids keep me posted on who’s what in the youngsters, and by the time they showed me all the people that he runs with, dam* they got a whole crew.
I see you leading the charge with getting in with the youngsters who are making a difference. You said to me once that you had to pay attention to the ones that are going to replace you.
You have to pay attention to them. Anyone that pisses you off, you can use that as a parameter that is probably the next *ish. Whenever you see an artist that just gets on your nerves, like you don’t know what they’re doing, and it still seems to be working, they’re the ones you really want to pay attention to. That’s your own psychic telling you, they’re getting ready to move you out and there’s a change coming on. If you can cop to that, it’s easier to learn what’s coming up next. Your ego usually wants you to not to like them, but I have to take it one step further. I take it as my sign to pick up on what are they doing. Hipsters right now, usually sounds so stupid, I mean you’re just getting old and out of the game, but if you pay attention you can catch on a start all over again.
Another one of your picks, Robert Glasper, is making a huge impact and crossing over.
Oh yeah, it’s a whole bunch of them. It’s a whole bunch. Those right there, they’re the ones that got everybody’s ear. They got people talking about them and I’m trying to pick up on what else is coming out.
You out at SXSW on a scouting trip?
Oh yeah, my grandson hipped me to the, Alabama Shakes. I was just getting it and then I look up and they’re on the GRAMMYs too. Everybody that the kids, you know, kinda bend my ear too, I pay attention to them because they play on the pulse of whatever their generation listens to.
After all these year in music, can you still just enjoy listening to the music or do you find yourself dissecting songs all the time?
I can still enjoy, I got Sirius radio in the car and I can switch channels to 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and I do that all day long. I get everybody. What’s happening today, what happened yesterday.
The ones that interest me, that I like, I will dissect it. The ones that I really do like, because I do enjoy it before I realize, what is it that I like. Or if I don’t like it, I’m really paying attention to that too. The ones where I catch myself, “Man, what the hell is that?” Then if I hear it two or three more times, let me sit up saying, “What the hell is it”, I have to listen and figure it out because it shouldn’t bother you if it’s nothing. If it’s a normal bad record. Ain’t no good. That won’t bother you that much, but if it’s getting on a special nerve, your business is in that one too. Of course the ones you really like, of course you definitely pay attention to those. I can enjoy, especially after I realize they got something that’s working, then all of the sudden you realize what is working. You can tell what they wanted to do, then you say, “Oh yeah that is right. It worked for them too.” Are we going to see anything else big from you, and Parliament, and Funkadelic?
What’s on the storyboard for you now?
Oh we’re working on Parliament record right now. Medicate Fraud Dog is the album, and of course the record we got out now with Funkadelic. There are 33 songs on that album with Kendrick Lamar and Ice Cube on First You Got to Shake the Gate.
I’m excited, and everything drops next week?
Next week, the video with Cube and Kendrick, will be out next Thursday. The single is out now. We just played it for the first time on the radio (KAZI FM, Austin, TX) just now.
Watch out for the new Funkadelic. They got my grand kid, my son, and the Funkadelic musicians. They have the new show. You’ll see, believe me, it’s a whole new look, whole new sound. Of course the musicians are still playing that Funkadelic music but a brand new show.
Interview by Jerry Doby