Bootsy sets about waking up a new generation to funk’s heritage.
Daniel Ross 2011
A quick glance at the staggering guestlist on this umpteenth solo album from the one-time Parliament/James Brown bass wizard is enough to get any fan of Bootsy Collins’ most funky work excited. Snoop Dogg, Chuck D, Bobby Womack, George Clinton (Bootsy’s old boss), and even spoken-word contributions from Samuel L. Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton combine to give this conceptual epic something of a revolving sideshow quality. To his credit, Bootsy manages to utilise them well without losing cohesion across the album, but it’s undeniably an incredible novelty factor rather than a guarantee of fine work.
For the most part, Collins takes his cues from two places: his collaborators, whoever they happen to be, and James Brown. The opening Spreading Hope Like Dope monologue (which sounds for all the world like Raekwon’s 50 Cent impression that gets rolled out on countless Wu Tang albums) name-checks the Godfather of Soul, while Sharpton reads a sentimental essay about the great man in JB-Still The Man. Even Jackson gets in on the action during After These Messages, squeezing out an elongated impression of him. Still, Collins is better qualified than almost anyone to reference Brown, and if anything it’s a spiritual touchstone more than a purely musical one.
As for the collaborations, they roll past so quickly that it’s a wonder the album holds together at all. Hip Hop @ Funk U features a cockle-warming Chuck D cameo in which he utters his immortal "Bass!" catchphrase in a new context, which is probably a fair indication of just how respected Collins has become – even Chuck D will be silly for him. Elsewhere, Guns N’ Roses’ Buckethead contributes a stunningly overdone guitar solo to Minds Under Construction, and Clinton delivers a reassuringly barmy stream of consciousness on Garry Shider Tribute. Basically, the quality of contributions varies wildly, but any duff ones are quickly out of the way and replaced by something else.
With so much to cram in, Tha Funk Capital of the World feels sluggish and bloated at times, but the vision is there. Bootsy himself might not even be the star of the show thanks to the numerous cameos, but he’s at least thought hard about what the record is about – waking up a new generation to funk’s heritage. All the guest stars and 3D cover art in the world can’t get in the way of that.