#363: Mothership Connection, Parliament
It may be poor listmaking methodology, but I always like when the RS 500 list puts two albums from the same band (or basically the same band) close together. And in this case it’s fitting: this album predated sister band Funkadelic’s One Nation Under A Groove by only three years.
The concept of Mothership Connection is far-out: space and sci-fi. George Clinton was a Star Trek fan, and said this of the album: “We had put black people in situations nobody ever thought they would be in, like the White House. I figured another place you wouldn’t think black people would be was in outer space.” I love that sentiment — one of my favorite things about sci-fi is how democratic it can be. Anyone can be anything in sci-fi! But not all sci-fi creators take advantage of that in the way they are capable of.
Parliament’s vision of sci-fi is about as democratic as it can get — he addresses his listeners as Citizens of the universe, so everyone’s invited to this spaceship dance party. He balks at the idea of people refusing to share in the groove on “Unfunky UFO,” where he chastises that You could feel so much better if you would show me how to funk like you do. There’s something ecstatic about the way they play with language, too. See “Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication (The Bumps Bump).”
The influence of this album can’t be understated. In fact, I clocked a sample as soon as the album started, with “P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up).” “That’s from The Chronic outro!” I shouted to myself in my car. (Make my bud the Chronic/ I wants to get f***ed up.) Dre also interpolates parts of “Mothership Connection (Star Child)” — which in turn uses parts of “Swing Down, Sweet Chariot” — on “Let Me Ride.”
And Snoop Dogg himself samples this album’s mega hit on “Who Am I (What’s My Name).” You know that song, everybody knows that song: We want the funk!/ Gotta have that funk! That’s partly because Clinton licensed out “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)” like nobody’s business, making appearances on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Glee, and about a million commercials. The big group chorus is styled more like Funkadelic than Parliament, and is the climax of the intergalactic party that Clinton is throwing. (Also shout-out to Jeffrey Harvey for letting me know that the bass voice in Clinton’s ensemble was Ray Davis, who also opens up this song with his delightful drone.)
By the time this record gets to its end, “Night of the Thumpasorus Peoples,” it doesn’t need to say much to get its funky message across. The chorus is simply Gaga googa ga ga googa. If that doesn’t speak for itself, I don’t know what does.
Least Favorite Song: That would be “Handcuffs,” the song about keeping your woman in line so she doesn’t cheat on you. Look, if you have to do that, just break up.