Certain music genres are as essential to summer as iced tea or BBQ. We like to think of funk as one of those genres and as the musical equivalent of iced tea and BBQ (cool n' saucy). Here’s our list of top summer funk jams that are hotter than a parked car with the windows rolled up.
Parliament, “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)”
This song’s bouncy groove and singalong chorus (“We need the funk/Gotta have that funk”) make it inconceivably fun to listen to. Even if you just watched an entire season of “Battlestar Galactica,” you can put this track on and feel like the coolest kid on the block. Which you are—because, as this video proves, sci-fi IS funky.
Funkadelic, “One Nation Under a Groove”
Since George Clinton was the leader of Funkadelic and the aforementioned Parliament, the two groups shared a rotating lineup of 15-plus musicians. The focal point was the P-Funk style: space-age synths, Hendrix-esque guitar solos and vocals that involved most everyone. “One Nation Under a Groove” gives us the group’s mission statement: “Getting down just for the funk of it.”
James Brown, “Cold Sweat”
No funk playlist would be complete without the dude who started it all: James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. Brown was a great soul singer, but more significantly, he and his band invented funk, changing the focus of their music from melody to the groove of the bass guitar and drums. This eventually lead to hip-hop, which sounds a lot like soul these days… full circle! “Cold Sweat” is a prime cut of early funk with a catchy horn section and a rock-hard drumbeat, accentuated by some funky guitar riffage and screechy singing.
Curtis Mayfield, “Superfly”
If you like your funk more on the soulful side, Curtis Mayfield has you covered. The bassline from “Superfly” has been sampled by everyone from the Beastie Boys to Biggie to Nelly for a good reason: It just may be the baddest bassline in the history of popular music. Mayfield’s heartfelt crooning makes this one a winner and one of the coolest songs for a hot summer drive.
Sly & the Family Stone, “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”
If “Superfly” has the best bassline in funk, this song has the best riff in funk. You can tell because it’s been covered and ripped off so many times. “Play That Funky Music (White Boy)” owes a debt to this song, and you owe it to yourself to check out this brilliant tune if you don’t already know it.
Plenty of other funk artists to mention… we didn’t even get to the infamous Rick James! What other funk jams jumpstart your summer fun?