Finally! 2018’s best funk albums!
This year wasn’t nearly as difficult as previous years, but we still had to make some decisions to figure out who would ultimately land here. We’ve always reached beyond just “funk”, but our list typically always falls into the base of funk as was established by pioneers of old school funk. We look for both artists signed and unsigned, so we dig pretty deep. But every year, it’s not nearly deep enough as evidenced by the comments.
AS ALWAYS, It’s GREATLY IMPORTANT that YOU realize that your favorite 2018 funk album might not be here because a) we only pick 20, b) it may not have been released in 2018, and c) we may not have even heard of it. So if we missed it, PLEASE share it in the comments area.
Like every year, they are not numbered since they are all funky and created equal in their funkiness.
With the announcement of George Clinton‘s retirement from the stage and heading out on one final tour, no one has a right to complain that he didn’t give us enough. The man has given us his musical mastery in funky format for nearly 60 years of his life. When you consider his journey encapsulating his work with Parliament, Funkadelic, and a wealth of solo albums and guest spots on countess albums, it is breathtaking. 2019 marks his final stage appearances with Parliament and this album is designed to hand off the baton to his predecessors.
The album is Parliament‘s first album in 38 years since 1980’s Trombipulation and it’s packed with over 100 minutes of music. It features an amazing horn section showcasing Greg Thomas, Bennie Cowan, Whitney Russell, Fred Wesley, and Pee Wee Ellis. The album was written by George Clinton and long time Parliament member Tracey Lewis. It also has a wealth of guest vocalists, as well as rapper Scarface. Full of funk stompers with a huge broad-stroke of psychedelic sounds, guitar solos and all capped off with the expected insane lyrical content delivered like no one else can deliver them.
Brownout is a Latin funk band that has recently found a unique niche where they pick groundbreaking albums and cover the music track-by-track reproducing and recreating the beloved songs. Their past three albums have been dedicated to that process and the last two of which were dedicated to covering Black Sabbath music of all things.
Their new album Fear of a Brown Planet finds Brownout covering Public Enemy‘s Fear of a Black Planet complete with great segue excerpts but sans any rapping that you might expect on a PE album. They managed to stay busy doing work with Latin acts like Bosq, but it was great to see Brownout start doing albums that more align with their genre and skillset and good God, it’s very awesome.
Orgone albums normally find their way onto the best funk album list simply because they are always consistently releasing the greatest funk albums and strive to keep the funk alive. And it’s no doubt that they’ll most likely see presence on 2019’s list with a brand new album called Reasons that just hit on January 18th. So expect to see them in 2019.
Undercover Mixtape is Orgone taking on classic soul hits from a variety of artists including The Meters, Otis Redding, Funkadelic, Booker T, Aretha Franklin, and a wealth of others. While we are starved for new originals from one of the best 21st century funk bands out there, this is a wonderful ride with new spins on deep tracks we love.
Janelle Monae is a powerhouse of a woman that not only cranks out energetic and intricate song structures and thematic albums, but additionally each album keeps building her prowess and either adds yet another layer to her persona or character to her internal cast.
Dirty Computer was luckily preceded by a rumor perpetuated by DJ Lenka Paris that Prince had given her a thick bass keyboard riff for the song Make Me Feel. It also is corroborated by many other artists that have experienced his graciousness towards the end of his life as if he was generating a heavenly surplus of earthly karma. But she had her own powerhouse tracks like the huge opening title track, the funk bits of Pynk, and even a romp showcasing her rhyming skills with the club stomper Django Jane. A worthy addition here.
Judith Hill came roaring onto the scene as a background vocalist for Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder and was quickly snatched up shortly afterwards by Prince. They would then put together the 2015 album Back In Time which had Prince’s fingerprints and production all over it. So we were definitely interested to hear her next delivery and see if it could hold up and continue what she started.
Judith Hill‘s new offering may not be funked up all the way through, but she has a penchant for delivering some of the most head bobbing funk injections that you’ll find anywhere like Queen of the Hill and The Pepper Club. The entire album is filled with soul and funk sprinklings and proof that she is perfectly capable of holding her own.
The Internet has always been one of those sleeper bands that seems to be everywhere, but never seem to get the credit they deserve for putting out super funky smoker puff grooves that get your head bobbing.
Originally part of the Odd Future group gave them a lot of street cred, but they then took those fans onto a trippy audio journey that gave them hardcore fans around the globe and cemented them as one of the best to do it. Hive Mind continues their journey through the muted production and dizzying sways that they managed to compile for their fans as each member would try their hand at solo projects in the interim over the past couple of years.
If there is any album on the list that has the most appropriate title, CHIC‘s It’s About Time is definitely the most aptly named. Nile Rodgers has always had a love relationship with his band CHIC that had hits dating back to 1977 when Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah) stormed onto the airwaves which would soon be followed by radio smashes like Le Freak, Good Times, Everybody Dance, and many more.
Since then, Nile Rodgers has been very vocal about his beloved project not being properly recognized even when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his independent work with not just CHIC, but also David Bowie (Let’s Dance), Madonna (Like a Virgin), Diana Ross (I’m Coming Out), and a laundry list of his hits. The new release is insanely bizarre because it’s as if this was a lost disco album from the 70’s as it literally kept that same Studio 54 vibe front to back and also features a host of guests from Elton John to Lady Gaga and beyond. So insanely funky.
The New Mastersounds normally find their new releases on our list and technically they could have been on this list twice, since 2018 also gave us their release of Nashville Sessions 2 and not to mention a cut with Lamar Williams, Jr.
The album Renewable Energy is filled with out of the box funk originals and even a cover of Funk 49. The album was recorded during two separate recording sessions in New Orleans and Denver. It’s filled with jazzy soul and funk bouncers and even a special appearance by Orgone‘s Adryon De Leon on the track Gonna Be Just Me.
Philthy is the side project of trumpet player Phil Lassiter and Elliott Yamin. Phillip has worked with Prince‘s NPG and a wealth of artists including Ariana Grande, Fantasia, Chris Cornell, Jonny Lang and many others. Add to the mix American Idol finalist Elliott Yamin that many will recognize once you hear his golden pipes. Funkatopia actually got a chance to interview both when this album first hit the shelves.
Philthy is a true blue funk project that is solely about the funk bounce and relentlessly curb stomps the funk into your skull with full on head bounce tracks. If you truly need a funk fix, there is no reason you should not have heard or own this album, because it will truly fix what ails you.
Lake Minnetonka‘s Melbourneapolis is the most unusual and unapologetically Prince based funk album on the list showing their love and adoration from across the big pond. Coming out early in 2018, it got our attention for sure when it brought out the purple funk tracks complete with those strange arrangements that only Prince would typically do.
Then Lake Minnetonka upped the ante and brought in members of Prince‘s entourage to actually play on the album including Dr. Fink, Eric Leeds, St. Paul Peterson, and Sonny T. Why this album didn’t explode with sales from the rabid Prince fans is beyond us, but we’re here to fix that right here and now. It’s full on purple funk front to back.
Chromeo is a duo that brings the funk in electronic format, but completely in line with what we’ve come to expect from them over the years. Head Over Heels delivers more for the funk than their previous efforts, which is refreshing.
Additionally, the album features appearances from French Montana, DRAM, Amber Mark and The-Dream. The funk has more of a pop edge which gives it a fantastic edge to acquire radio airplay. And just like we correctly guessed that Bruno Mars 24K Magic album was going to be littered everywhere, with the right marketing, there is no way that the same kind of traction can’t be accomplished here. It’s funk with a today twist.
Big Sam’s Funky Nation is one hard fighting funk band that is regularly chewing up the live circuit and has gotten lumped in with the hippy funk movement (which is fantastic movement by the way), but almost doesn’t fit that vibe because they have full arrangements that more match old school Cameo and Zapp than anything current. Which goes to show just how serious they took this album and paying homage to funk.
The newest album excites us because it’s packed full of funk jam ragers that have a very old school 70’s funk vibe complete with voiceboxes. Plus it’s called Volume One which means that there is more coming. So woot woot!
Will Sessions and Amp Fiddler have been bringing the funk for many years and their work is almost always tinged heavily with thick bass grooves. This time around, they’ve added in Dames Brown that adds a super heavy Maze vibe to the entire album and coats it with a layer of lead-based paint in the form of sweet vocal background harmonies.
The One is an 8 song album that the trio put together that share the common theme of funky grooves and polished edges that float on the border of soulful and slinky 70’s, but have their toes firmly dipped in funk almost solely carried by meaty bass riffs. A worthy opponent.
Anderson .Paak doesn’t waste any waking moments wondering what to do. He just goes out and relentlessly does it. When he’s not putting together his own albums, it seems that he is supplying his very noticeable vocals to guest spots on various other albums with artists like TI, Mac Miller, Talib Kweli or laying tracks on The Black Panther or Pacific Rim Uprising soundtracks.
Oxnard finds Anderson .Paak putting together a collection of songs to not only showcase his incredible songwriting prowess, but also calling in favors to bring on his own guest list that features everyone from Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, J. Cole, Q-Tip, BJ the Chicago Kid and many others. It’s full of great funk boppers with his easily recognizable vocal style and tone.
It’s no secret that we are pretty hard fans of The Roots. So while The Roots seem to be too busy to put together a new album of any sort, this hasn’t stopped Roots lead rapper Black Thought from joining forces with Salaam Remi to continue their Streams of Thought project.
Streams of Thought Volume One dropped 5 songs in June of 2018 without much fanfare, but slowly began to get traction and before it could even grow legs, Volume 2 was upon us with 9 more songs as if he had much more thought to share on important topics like the opening track dedicated to talking about Fentanyl and the lives it’s costing. While the 9 new tracks have quite a bit that clocks in under the 2 minute mark, this along with the first Volume make a very acceptable offering for fans of The Roots who are a bit impatient.
Lex One and Lucian White may not be recognizable to most, but it’s only a matter of time now that they’ve shown their cards with Midnight Crisis. It’s our next hip-hop addition to the list and completely wrapped with style and laid back funky vibes.
The direction of this album still has that buzzy trip delivery that has become very popular. It’s like a full album of Frank Ocean Novacaine type drops, but with plenty of upbeat grooves that will have you on the hardwood dance floor with your eyes closed, head down, and your right arm in the air gripping your Patron on ice. Yeah. That.
Tower of Power have firmly rooted themselves as one of the forefathers of horny funk and rightfully so since they established themselves in 1968 making this their 50th anniversary. They just did their funky music in the background consistently and quietly without raising a fuss. They knew that you would come around and that something would eventually hook you and make you a fan for life. Tower of Power has been adored by musicians around the world and rightfully so.
Their new offering Soul Side of Town includes a lot of the TOP originals like Emilio Castillo, Stephen “Doc” Kupka and Rocco Prestia who can boast about being in the game for half a century. This is their 25th full release is worth the wait. It’s a lesson in just how tight a band can be and that funk will keep you alive forever.
Adam Gibbons (aka Lack of Afro) has done it again with the delivery of his 6th album Jack of All Trades which displays his ability to cross over from one genre to the next with ease and all with a cream cheese frosting of funk all the way through.
Lack of Afro‘s ability to find amazing talent to accompany the music production is a feat in itself when he brings vocalists on board like Elliott Cole, Juliette Ashby, Alyssa Marie and others like Wax and Herbal T. It doesn’t display just how much of a threat he is musically, but also as a talent scout. The album sounds like a lost Brand New Heavies album with a lot of flavoring of upbeat soul.
Finding Gizelle Smith was a blessing to our ears as we traveled down rabbit holes to find new funk artists. Gizelle was raised in Manchester, UK and she was surrounded by music royalty including her father who was a member of The Four Tops. Her musical background reads like a professional already as a composer in theatrical productions, a trumpet player in big bands and even as a singing tutor.
Gizelle is a bouncey funk soulstress that brings energy and pop to super funky running bass lines. She also brings her composition capabilities to the forefront with slick horn sections, stomping drum beats, and chunky guitar licks. And her UK vocal sound comes through every note weaving itself in and out of the tapestry. A worthy addition to this list.
Turkuaz has seen itself on our Best of Funk list before in 2015 with their album Digitonium which also garnered a review in the process. Mr. Christopher also did an interview with Dave Brandwein of Turkuaz regarding the release of this album to dig a bit deeper.
Turkuaz has always delivered a bit of quirkiness to their releases and Life In the City is no different. The main difference is that Life In the City seems less thematic and more focused on maintaining the music styling and keeping the continuity. It’s not only rooted in funk, but has extra layers that flesh everything out and make the songs more full and thick and ambient, which has proven to be their calling card.
Two Super Funky Bonuses!
Here are a couple albums we also are adding to the list. The first of which we literally debated on for way too long to be on this list, so figured we would add it because it truly deserved to be here. And the other because it wasn’t released in 2018 by a mere ONE DAY and we couldn’t wait until next year to tell you about it.
ASTRALBLAK is a band that has been holding court in the new wave of what we call neo-funk. Originally named Zuluzuluu, they then changed their name to ASTRALBLAK after a successful tour under the Zuluzuluu name opening for Atmosphere and also being chosen to perform at Superbowl Live by MPLS royalty Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
Their new album is full of thick and moody production. That blend of thumpy muted buzzy production in the spirit of the Soulquarian movement and bands like The Internet. It’s an album that we simply cannot ignore and we don’t think that you should either.
Ida Nielsen is primarily known for her work with Prince as the bassist for 3rd Eye Girl and she is insanely funky and this album is pure funk magic. The problem? She waited until January 1, 2019 to release it.
But if you think for one second, that we were just going to wait a full year to tell you about an album you should be listening to now, we have one for you. YOUNT!
Extra Bonuses from YOU!
Bummed that you reached the end? No worries! Like every year, our readers keep us in the loop on releases that we missed or they feel should have been here and a lot of times, and they are fantastic.
Check the suggestions below from you, our readers. We know we missed a bunch, so help us out. But don’t list albums that are not in the funk realm. If they’re funky and it’s a travesty that it’s not here, just add them to the comments below! Hook us up and remember, the albums had to have been released in 2018 to qualify for this list.
And of course, if you want to go back in time to see some of our other Best of Lists from previous years, enjoy;
30 Best Funk Albums of 2017
20 Best Funk Albums of 2016
20 Best Funk Albums of 2015
20 Best Funk Albums of 2014