Here it is! 2016’s best funk albums!
This year was insanely tough. There weren’t a lot of true funk releases, but we hear that 2017 has some great funk coming down the pike including a new album from both George Clinton and Parliament. But without retyping the same things we always say, here’s our pre-ramble.
It’s GREATLY IMPORTANT that you realize that your favorite 2016 funk album might not be here because a) we only pick 20, b) it may not have been released in 2016, and c) we may not have even heard of it. So if we missed it, PLEASE share it in the comments area.
Again, they are not numbered since they are all funky and created equal in their funkiness.
We love it when we are sideswiped by an album and Donald Glover‘s new Childish Gambino was just the distraction we weren’t expecting or even thought that we needed. Taking a break from his positions of producer, star, and writer for the magnificent show Atlanta, Glover went completely off the rails for his newest offering.
Completely abandoning his normal rap delivery, he displayed his love for all things Parliament and Funkadelic that even got the attention of George Clinton who mentioned the album and offered his praise for the respect. No rap here. Only funk.
Psychic Mirrors was never on our radar either, but they certainly are now. If you are a fan of 80’s funk, it’s as if they are paying homage to every funk hit of that era. Every single song is dripping with keyboard and drum machine funk nostalgia.
The entire album seems like a blatant homage to The Gap Band, Cameo and everything in between that may had any pop sensibilities back in the day. It is pure 80’s funk nostalgia that will easily bring a smile to your face.
The New Mastersounds are no strangers to Funkatopia and you can hear them online via the FUNKEDUP app as well as revisit interviews we’ve done with them in the past.
The Nashville Session is a superb collection of their funk fare and it’s just as great as it’s always been. They took specific selections from their many years together, got a small listening audience together and recorded their live performance in one grand evening at the Welcome to 1979 studio in Nashville, recording it onto 1 inch tape and limiting its release to a mere 1000 vinyl pressings. Luckily, you can also get it digitally.
It’s literally is impossible to pigeonhole The Apples who are a collective of students from Jerusalem’s Rubin Academy of Music and they celebrate their heritage through music which somehow skewed and output a super funky delivery.
Armed with turntables, a horn section, drums, stand up bass and whatever else they can throw at it, The Apples end up with super funky songs that mix in DJ sensibilities and the end result is bizarre and funky all in the same breath.
Snarky Puppy is always a force to be reckoned with and 2016 proved to be another dominating year. Snarky Puppy is a group compiled of some of the finest musicians on the planet and lucky for us their newest offering keeps their normal formula in the form of Culcha Vulcha which tilts the needle to funk and jazz.
While there are still moments of grown folk music and smooth jazz, the album is filled with plenty of funk music with spicy jazz flavoring and plenty to go around.
The Motet have definitely skyrocketed on the funk music scene since 2000 and are finally getting the appreciation they deserve. And they returned the favor in 2016 with the release of two albums including Totem and a new Live at Red Rocks album.
Even though they are 16+ years into the game, their albums still have that old school feel which is a feat in itself. That good feeling, party music that The Motet does to perfection and Totem is no exception.
Dr. Lonnie Smith may be unknown to most, but he is one of the originals on the funk jazz scene and he is no joke on the Hammond organ. And his new album Evolution certainly puts him in the limelight again where he deserves to be.
He is a Hammond virtuoso and paid his dues with George Benson’s Quartet and was always actively involved with Lou Donaldson. From the opening 14 minute jam session with Robert Glasper, this album is magic and his first album back on Blue Note since his 1970 release Drives. Yes, we said 1970.
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong not only have a great band name, they have a great funk album in the form of Pleasure. This festival funk band has been stealing hearts across the nation with their nutty on-stage personas that are off the wall and hard to resist. If you’re not bopping your head to the music, you’re laughing and smiling at their antics.
Pleasure has that stoner funk jam band feel that they somehow managed to replicate on recording which many bands from that genre have a difficult time accomplishing. The songs all have a happy, dance, or psychedelic feel, but every bit of it is infused with happy funk elements. Yay!
Lettuce is pure old school and they have been around for the better part of two decades. Being blessed to not only have seen them multiple times, but also to have captured recordings, Lettuce is a funk fans dream.
Their huge sound and massive vibe is so mesmerizing, that you can’t stop listening. Mt. Crushmore is not only a great new funky album from the masters, but a journey. The only disappointment with this offering is that the album is super short (under 20 minutes) since it’s essentially outtakes from last years Crush (which made it onto the 2015 list), but it’s still so frigging good.
Multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer and DJ, Adam Gibbons (aka Lack of Afro) has finally released his next creation onto the world and it’s a fantastic ride down the dirt roads of funk and soul. Taking pieces of albums of the past and reconstructing them into new masterpieces is only part of the formula that makes Lack of Afro‘s new album so intriguing.
Gibbons also joined forces with the talents of Joss Stone, Professor Elemental, Elliot Cole and others to create a really awesome convergent sound. Somehow he found time when not creating spots from everyone from Disney to Adidas to put together this album that is also available in an instrumental version.
Many people don’t know the name Bob Shad, but he was the production mastermind behind many great funk and soul classics and was an undeniable force to be reckoned with as he produced music for Sarah Vaughn, Big Brother & The Holding Company, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and plenty of others.
Decades after his passing, he finally gets the album that he deserves with a collection of funk and soul songs from various artists where he used his golden fingers to create worlds and put his undeniable stamp on the tracks. It’s like a trip down soul history lane.
Released late in 2016, Loveline is a funk album full of deep synth bass tracks, talkbox, stabbing keyboards and thumping bass lines. The sound that made the mid-80’s what they were, it’s undeniable and unmistakable.
This is Diamond Ortiz‘s first release for MoFunk Records and we’re already anxious to hear his next release. This really comes across as an unapologetic homage to Roger and Zapp, but it’s all new and super funky.
In their first album in nearly 20 years, A Tribe Called Quest came back onto the scene with a new album that was everything people expected with nary a complaint from even the doubters.
It’s impossible to ignore the legend of the late Phife Dawg who stayed with us long enough to participate in the release extensively, but there are also many guests including Anderson. Paak, Andre 3000, and others that put on some extra spice and made this yet another classic to add to their legendary discography.
You don’t often see a lot of funk bands com out of the Netherlands, but enter The Soul Snatchers who put together a smooth funk and soul album that has tastes of New Orleans and gumbo, but somehow compiled from the complete opposite side of the planet.
With soulful vocals, slick horn sections and cool blue vibes, they created a funky swayful album that will have your head bobbing and feet tapping. The Soul Snatchers create a dirty soul sound that harkens back to 60’s soul, but still keeps it new and fresh.
Papa Grows Funk is no more as the members have all gone their separate ways a few years ago. So Imagine our surprise when 2016 still managed to give us one last chance to pay homage to one of the best funk jam bands to grace festival stages.
The Last Leaf was recorded back on May 6th in 2013 and was their last show performing together. Everything was captured brilliantly from the band’s energetic performances to the crowd’s intense appreciation from one of funk’s finest.
The Funk Ark‘s High Noon is a southwestern funk roller coaster that could easily serve as a background for any of Quentin Tarantino movie. With funky deep vibes, we were shocked to not see it on the Funkish list.
Delivering that Budos Band-esque horn section, staccato guitar picking and that south of the border flair creates an undeniable sound and flow that very few bands can pull off or somehow maintain for an entire album.
Three Step Manoeuvre has a band name that gives spell check a fit (that’s not how you normally spell maneuver.), but they have that hip poppy feel that only great bandslike The New Mastersounds can deliver.
We had to check to see if it was Eddie Roberts on guitar because the playing style is so dreadfully similar that it will make you do a double take. That quick picking, shuffling snare drums and riding bass is a recipe that very few can get right, but Three Step Manoeuvre do it magnificently. Maybe that’s how maneuver is spelled in another country.
Space Orphan is simply fantastic. Mr. Christopher got an opportunity to sit down with John Wirtz and discuss what makes this album so special. Check the interview here.
All of the tracks are well over or near 6 minutes in length which makes for some fantastic listening pleasure. The songs are constantly changing to keep you drawn in and the production strategies are fun and interesting. This is straight jam band funk styling, but with enough variants to make you want to listen again and again.
If straight New Orleans Treme style funk is what tickles the soles of your shoes and wiggles your butt in your seat, then there won’t be any reason to look any further than Corey Henry’s Lapeitah offering.
He stays true to the sound, feel and history of the New Orleans sound like many before and alongside him such as Trombone Shorty and Galactic. He has certainly earned his badge of black and gold with this album.
Yeah, yeah. Stop rolling your eyes. Kendrick Lamar is no joke and 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly was a literal masterpiece and deserved every award it won. The impressive Wesley Theory backing band that hit the road for Kunta’s Groove Session (including Atlanta <) was simply funky and breathtaking.
Untitled Unmastered. is a compilation of tracks that should have been on TPAB, but somehow ended up on the cutting room floor. These songs were incredible and stunning. There isn’t any way we can avoid not putting it on our list.
Added Funky Bonuses!
As we do every year, there are always a few albums that should be on the Best Of list, but don’t offer enough funk selections to qualify. But they are simply fantastic albums that you cannot miss.
Kendra Foster has spent her days supporting some of the best artists on the planet including providing background vocals for George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic for many years and doing the same as a crucial part of D’Angelo‘s rise back to fame during his Black Messiah unveiling.
She’s finally got another album and it’s amazing. Her first was heavily influenced by Parliament, but this time around she definitely opted to do her own thing. There are so many great songs that it’s one of the most impressive albums from any artist that you will hear.
Eric Krasno could probably hold the title for busiest man on the planet dipping his guitar neck into way too many guest spots to count. But when he’s not playing guitar full time for Lettuce or full time with Soulive, he somehow found time to put together a solo album.
Soulive had already blew up when Dave Matthews tapped them to open several shows for DMB, when he decided to break out and push out his own solo album by talking to God to add a few more hours into a day so that he could get into the studio and create a super cool album that you should hear.
Little Simz back story is super intriguing, but way too involved to get into here. Let’s just say that she’s a phenomenal British female rapper who strives to avoid being called a female rapper and wants to be appreciated as simply a hip hop artist without the added sexist adjective.
This album will set her on the right path for sure as it is full of production nuances and that high vibe that made Digable Planet‘s Blowout Comb so essential. The same chemistry exists here and well worth a listen.
We can’t take credit for this selection as we got turned onto Vaudou Game by Funkish, but we’re glad they did. Vaudou Game (Voodoo Game in English), is straight French funk that is unapologetic and still somehow startlingly reminiscent of Fela Kuti, even though it’s completely in French.
The entire album is pure afropop and full of funk jams that seem like they were stripped from the 70’s, but everything is simply pure and raw and more impressively, brand spanking new.
Extra Bonuses from YOU!
Check the suggestions below from you, our readers. We know we missed a bunch, so help us out. Add them to the comments below! Hook us up and remember, the albums had to have been released in 2016 to qualify for the list.