“I wanted us to look at ourselves and what we bring to the table,” Collins says from his Cincinnati studio. “The Funk capitol of the world is inside of me. I knew most people would think I was talking about a city or a place, but I was talking about wherever you go, whatever you take is what’s inside you. You work on your skills, you develop yourself, and whatever you decide to do, you take that wherever you go. It’s your talent, your desire, how you dedicate yourself.”
That concept extends to the homonymous nature of the word “capitol.” In the title, Collins’ refers to Funk’s seat of power within us. But change the spelling to “capital” and it refers to Funk’s wealth — in history, influence and literal worth — and it becomes currency, the coin of the Funk realm that we save, spend and invest in order to enrich our souls and expand the power of our own Funk capitol.
Beyond the concept, Funk Capitol offers a breathtaking array of grooves — thunderous Funk, meditative R&B, raucous Rock, freewheeling Hip Hop — all defined by Collins’ deeply themed message, conveyed as lyrics (sung by Faith Daniels, Nick Arnold, Shelia E. and others) or spoken word essays (from George Clinton, the Rev. Al Sharpton, actor Samuel L. Jackson and philosopher/author Dr. Cornel West).
The essays are particularly powerful, reinforcing Funk Capitol’s tribute nature. Sharpton honors James Brown (“JB-Still the Man”); Clinton remembers late P-Funk guitarist/musical director Garry Shider (“Garry Shider Tribute”); Jackson recalls his childhood musical education (“After These Messages,” tangentially relating to Collins’ work through his Bootsy Collins Foundation, which endeavors to get instruments into young people’s hands); West delivers a powerful oratory on self-determination (“Freedumb”).
“(They were given) no lyrical idea at all, other than what I had suggested the concept was; they took it from there,” Collins says of the speakers.
“That’s how we used to do it when we went in the studio. We didn’t have anything written down, just an idea in the head about a riff, and developed it while we were recording. To watch them do that, knowing they’re not musicians or artists, was amazing.”
Funk Capitol’s guest list is impressive, including turns by Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Chuck D, Bobby Womack, Buckethead and cosmic banjo master Bela Fleck, among others. But the album’s most poignant appearance comes from an artist that looms impossibly large in Collins’ personal and musical history — his older brother, Phelps “Catfish” Collins, who lost his cancer battle last summer.
Catfish’s work on “Don’t Take My Funk” (originally scrapped from an earlier release) is even more personal, the physical and emotional evocation of Bootsy’s lifelong relationship with his brother. It’s deeply moving and significant on several levels.
“(Catfish) actually sung; a lot of people didn’t know he did any singing,” Collins says. “He did the first verse and I had forgot that he did until I put the tape up. ‘Don’t take my Funk away.’ What more can be said? It goes beyond music. The digital age is great, but we’re also sacrificing our feelings and our will to do things on our own. Before that, we relied on our skills and our memory. If we get too dependent on computers, we might be in trouble.”
Perhaps the most important component within Funk Capitol’s conceptual structure is the idea of empowerment, illuminated by West’s inspirational speech in “Freedumb.”
“We could be so much more advanced if we only applied what we really know we should,” Collins says passionately. “We live in the greatest country in the world, hands down, but if we applied our common sense with the technology, even 5 percent more, we could be great for real. If you build people up, and you’ve got all these people behind you, that’s power. And we’ve got it, we just ain’t using it all. Once we get to that, this is going to be the Funk capitol of the world, for real. Hopefully, this album speaks to that, more people jump on board and bring their capitol into the vision. That’s what’s going to make us better.”
To that end, Bootsy Collins has envisioned a new question that we must ask ourselves and each other and answer with unflinching honesty.
“I have high hopes on this album making people feel empowered and (like) they still have a chance to be what they really want to be,” Collins says. “This is an album for the world, to encourage them and give them hope. We’re all struggling through this, but at the same time, what do you have to say? How are you being today?
“We’re supposed to be humans being and we’ve turned into humans doing,” he continues. “The album speaks to that. I would like to think I’m being whatever I say I am. I want to be a little different. I want my words to line up with what I’m doing and being.”
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