2021’s best funk albums are here!
Yet another year of great funk album releases for 2021 and they were plentiful. We were also embarrassed by how much we slept on 2021 in regards to reviewing new music for you during the year. We will fix that in 2022.
AS ALWAYS, here is our normal pre-amble. It’s GREATLY IMPORTANT that YOU realize that your favorite funk album of 2021 might not be here because a) we only pick 20 (plus some bonuses), b) it may not have been released in 2021, and c) we may not have even heard of it. So if we missed it, PLEASE share it in the comments area below.
The funk albums listed below are not listed in ANY numerical order. This is NOT a countdown. They are all funky and if it’s on this page, it’s worth your time! Here we go!
ENDRECHERI somehow came onto our radar by way of one of their diehard fans and all it took was one watch of a live video for us to become lifelong fans. The Japanese funk band is the brainchild of the Tsuyoshi Domoto, who also has a lot of funk work with his other band KinKi Kids. He then turns the funk quotient up to 12 to create a brash and in-your-face sound that is clean and bright.
The band’s name derives from the ancient fish called the Polypterus endlicheri endlicheri. Tsuyoshi then denotes that the LI in the fish name was changed to RE to denote a new direction for him and then it gets stranger from there. Yeah, it’s a whole thing, but you will never hear anything like this anywhere else and we love it. Here’s hoping we can get them on the show in the near future.
Exiles of the Nation is a new band to the list, but they have been pumping out music outside of our radar for quite some time. The brainchild of producer, writer, performer Defiance Douglass, he has shown that he has been baptized in the waters of the church of Bernie Worrell in the River Parliament.
Strange tracks like Smokin’ the Filter create a buzzy ambiance that produces a contact high over the entire album. It’s like a mish-mash of acid trip funk that made Funkadelic the house legends of the ’70s. And Defiance has their tattoo on his lower back like one big ass funky tramp stamp.
George Porter Jr. shouldn’t be a name that needs an introduction. He is one of the original founders of The Meters and is a pillar of funk history. A group that he shared the stage with along with the late Art Neville. The 74-year-old bassist is a literal legend that is still going strong and shows no signs of stopping with his latest release Crying for Hope.
The New Orleans blues funk sounds like it’s scooped from the bayou and it’s very strong here. Add a dash of heavy jazz inflections and ingenious chord progressions, and it’s all George Porter Jr. The inflections of blues and soul would be the perfect soundtrack for a dirty Bourbon Street bar where everyone knows your name.
The Neville family is notoriously synonymous with New Orleans funk. Between the Neville Brothers, The Meters, and Dumpstaphunk, you pretty much can’t think of one without thinking of the other. Dumpstaphunk contains founding members Ivan Neville, Ian Neville, Tony Hall, and Nick Daniels, and the newest album titled Where Do We Go From Here is a reflection on the 15-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The bayou funk runs deep here.
The funky jam band takes a swing at Sly Stone’s classic In Time kicked into high percussive gear, and the album opener Buddy Mile’s song United Nations Stomp featuring Marcus King is a high-energy funk romp. The album is full of dance tracks including the rocking funk closer Justice 2020 which features Chali 2na and Trombone Shorty. So, so good.
Orgone is no stranger to our best funk lists and every release of theirs always warrants a nod. Their newest album Moonshadows is no exception. Orgone has a very specific recipe for how they record their albums in order to stay faithful to that ’70’s funk analog sound which typically includes recording on old soundboards and using vintage equipment, and it’s an approach they still keep utilizing.
The album features appearances from Masauko, Jaime Allensworth, Gino Garofalo, Terin Ector, Woolfy, Eric Kufs, and Adryon de Leon who also reworks their classic song Don’t Stop which is a stalwart Orgone favorite. So much funk to listen to here.
Armenian funkster Danny Bedrosian has been a part of the funk scene in a supporting role as the keyboardist for George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic. Yes, that white guy on the stage who is a master at creating those warbly funky synth riffs and carrying the torch for the late Bernie Worrell.
His collection here is called Garmir Caramel has that same Parliament flair with fuzzy synth all over. This is a collaboration with two producers who call themselves the Brothers Nalbandyan, that are musicians from Yerevan (that’s Armenian). Regardless of their Armenian heritage, this has George Clinton‘s stamp all over it and is easily one of the best funk albums of the year, even though it clocks in under 28 minutes, which is a travesty.
We get it. Whenever you see Prince on the list, the eyes just roll, but there are some really great funky tracks here among the normal hodgepodge of material you’d expect from him, even though he’s no longer with us.
The title track and follow-up track Born 2 Die have funk nuances that are laced with Curtis Mayfield and nod to the soul artists that came before him. With more funk weaved in like Same Page, Different Book, Yes, 1010 (Rin Tin Tin), and Check the Record, it certainly earned its spot in the 2021 funk list even though the mystery as to why Prince had the album shelved will forever be unknown.
Tra’zae Clinton is the grandson of George Clinton and the Funkadelic blood runs deep in his lineage. His previous album Tra’Zombipulation was featured on last year’s best funk of 2020 and he also got some airtime on Parliament‘s Medicaid Fraud Dogg.
The album was released only via Bandcamp and shockingly without much fanfare or marketing to support it, but it is one of the most potent funk albums of the year. This makes its quiet launch all that more of a travesty. Do yourself a favor and check this release out. It’s definitely one of the funkiest on the list.
While Redtenbacher’s Funkestra may be new to you, they’ve been pumping out music for the better part of 15 years and in 2021, they hammered out 3 releases including this one, Seven Roads, and Big Funk Band, all of which were loaded with guest appearances. The Golden Switchback uses that same formula and has a ’60s theme that founder Stefan Redtenbacher has always dreamed of making.
One gaze at the album cover gives you an idea of the insane guest list for this particular recording with a horn section big enough to fill the Apollo stage. The concept of the album was to create a soundtrack like Quincy Jones and sound like it was a lost album from the ’60s and that’s exactly what it does. An instant classic and worthy of a vinyl purchase.
Cory Wong has been on 2019’s best funk list before and he had a tremendously busy 2021 dropping multiple albums and one of which is featured below in the bonus section. This album was the first of 2021 from the Minnesota producer who is mostly known for his work with Vulfpeck and The Fearless Flyers, but also for his notable collaborations with Dave Koz.
Cory Wong and the Wongnotes is steeped in funk and jazz with slick instrumentation and surprising changes. It also features guest appearances from Nashville singer-songwriter Cody Fry and Vulfpeck vocalist Antwuan Stanley.
Mofo Rising dropped Mofo Rising 2 via Bandcamp and continues their pledge of allegiance to the funk. The band originated in Chicago and currently has two releases. The first of which was on the Best Funk albums of 2020 and now they’ve returned with the same infectious recipe that landed them here the first time.
An active Funkatopian, we got early access to this album that features Curt Surly handling drums, percussion, guitars, synth bass, TS404, MOOG Prophet, Sterling Stingray, and Peavey Fury. Finishing up the dynamic duo is Domino who tackles the Fender Rhodes. Piano, Hammond B3, Clavinet, MicroKORG, Minilogue XD, Fender P Bass & Pedulla Thunderbass. It’s definitely worth your time.
Funkatopia has interviewed all three of the individuals (click their links for their respective interviews), so we were shocked to find out that Robert Walters (Greyboy Allstars & Robert Walters 20th Congress), Eddie Roberts (The New Mastersounds), and Adam Deitch (Lettuce) got together to create this instant funk classic.
While the three of them are funk icons in their own right, WRD takes the funk jam band formula to new levels here. From the Curtis Mayfield style jam of Sleep Depraved to the track Pump Up the Valium that sounds as if it were ripped from The Meters playbook, it’s a guide on how to deliver unadulterated jazz-funk. This should be your first stop for the feel-good album of the year.
The New Orleans-based Cha Wa has been active in the funk community and is slowly getting the credit they deserve that all started with their 2018 Grammy nomination for their Spyboy album. Cha Wa has always focused on staying close to their NOLA musical roots but has also been an ardent supporter of the traditions of Mardi Gras Indians complete with traditional sounds and chants integrated into the music.
There is a huge amount of funk here with tracks like Uptown, Wildman, and Bow Down, and there is even a cover of Bob Dylan‘s Master of War. This is a funk masterpiece from the very beginning all the way to the closing Shallow Water that features call and response chants of the Mardi Gras Indians. This album is filled to the brim and steeped with tradition.
It’s not the same James Taylor you’re thinking of. This is the acid jazz great James Taylor and he’s one funky dude. The James Taylor Quartet took cues from the ’60s and ’70s and they have pumped out a full-plate serving of Hammond heavy funk, jazz fusion, and a blender smoothie of soul and pop.
James Taylor Quartet has been at it for 30 years and they are frequently commissioned to create cinematic masterpieces, so when they get to solely focus on their own product, it’s always worth your time. From playing the legendary Royal Albert Hall with Nitin Sawhney to recording Soundtrack from Electric Black at Abbey Road Studios, James Taylor is on a roll and there’s so much happening here for all levels of funksters to enjoy.
If there’s one thing that we’ve seen in 2021, it’s a resurgence of that infamous synth that the late Bernie Worrell left in his wake after leaving us all too soon. The Funkinator is yet another band that has taken the church of Worrell and put it up on the pedestal.
This album is full of great song titles such as Equality Not Revenge, Least Racist, and Attack of the Invisable Agent (intentionally misspelled?). All being said, it is an album full of incredible funk, strange clips, quips, bleeps, and random sound samples that could easily serve as a freaky college party soundtrack complete with neon sunglasses, bobby socks, pigtails, and polos. Yep, a total Time Jump.
As the band name implies, it’s an album of some super funky organ work. The sound is undeniable. This sophomore effort from this act is absolutely worth a listen. The album features a heaping helping of funky tracks, as well as surprises like the blazing organ solo on Aces (think Hendrix on organ) and the cover of George Michael‘s Careless Whisper.
This is a quartet that feeds off of each other and knows when to share the stage so that the tracks can shine brighter in a variety of ways. The collection of songs harkens back to Booker T and the MG’s and then The New Mastersounds thrown in for good measure. But make no mistake that the influence of The Meters is very much still intact and it’s absolutely joyous.
The debut album from The Grease Traps is delicious and firmly solidified in the ’70s sound and you can probably thank the producer at the board for that. Orgone guitarist Sergio Rios picked up production duties here and he has a technique all his own when it comes to recreating that classic old-school analog funk sound.
You will be obsessed with this new band that has raw dirty funk tracks like Hungry and Bird of Paradise. Lead singer The Gata comes swinging out-of-the-gate tackling topics like racism in the song Roots, which seems very reminiscent of the same passion we saw with Jamiroquai‘s debut, Emergency on Planet Earth. It’s one heck of a launching pad for something really great here.
While we originally debated about including Silk Sonic‘s album here, it was simply undeniable. The album definitely leans towards ’70s soul, but with the inclusion of many over-the-top funk tracks like 777, Skate, and Fly As Me, there was just no escaping the fate.
The dynamic duo of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak had all of the makings of genius from the get-go. The release of An Evening With Silk Sonic saw many teased release dates with some even pushing it out to 2022, but then all of it sudden it dropped late in November 2021 and the marketing exploded from there. While both Bruno and Anderson are funk geniuses, our only complaint would be the excessive profanity which seemingly diminishes their efforts. They should let the music and talent do the work and leave it to the lackluster artists that rely on the shock value to sell albums.
Many know Mark Lettieri from his incredibly technical work with Snarky Puppy and this is him at his experimental best. While the first volume of this album clocked in at 24 minutes, this latest installment is almost twice that.
Mark Lettieri created a strong collection of songs here that are all centered around a baritone guitar and he seems laser-focused in bringing the unusual sound to the masses. The album features various levels of funk, from the fast-paced Red Dwarf to the slower funk of Voyager One. And for those that are old school funkateers who are protectors of the ’70s sound, look no further than Star Catchers which will be right up your alley. This collection has that extra something that you need to hear.
The Bristol duo of Rackabeat and DJ Moneyshot make up the core of The Allergies and they are no stranger to the Best Funk list where they landed back in 2017 with their album Push On. This album is essentially the hip hop entry here with vocal work being provided by Dynamite MC who has a very erratic delivery that is fun to absorb.
Promised Land, like most of the entries here, is symbolic of what the artists were up to during the pandemic and this package of 13 tracks has doses of funk littered all through it. But this entry will absolutely appeal to the hip-hop community since it delivers funk in that old-school street party vibe way, complete with intelligent lyricism and a slick vibe.
REMIXES AND LIVE SHOW MUST HAVES!
2021 was a year full of massive remixes, revisions, and live show recordings. Since most are considered “deluxe” editions or remakes of previous recordings, we’ve placed them here because they are still worth your attention.
What can you say about Tower of Power that hasn’t already been said? They are literal legends of funk and jazz fusion that are unmatched and serve as inspiration for artists from all walks of life who point back to them as the pioneers of the sound.
For over 50 years, Tower of Power has brought countless classics to the world and these recordings are from their hometown of Oakland at the Fox Theater from two sold-out shows in 2018. The album was dropped right after the band had already pushed out two releases (Soul Side of Town and Step Up), which some say is some of their best work in years. This captured recording is documented proof that they are still some of the best to ever do it.
Quentin Moore had intended to tour to support his albums, but like most artists was grounded due to the Coronavirus, hence the Fonk Corona title. He had joined forces with The Daxtones and had such big success with it, they set about a major tour in 2020 and began recording live performances. One of which was recorded a week before the pandemic shut everything down.
The result here is a collection of live recordings from Three Links, The Free Man, January Sound, and Audio Dallas that includes songs from his massive catalog of neo-soul and funk tracks. It dips way back in his catalog including very early tracks like Y.O.L.O. and also his go-to covers like Al Green‘s Simply Beautiful. If you don’t know of Quentin Moore, this is a better place than any to start.
Cory Wong is one busy dude releasing 3 albums in 2021, but many Prince-heads will absolutely want to gravitate towards a specific release of his entitled The Paisley Park Session which features the Hornheads and Sonny T joining forces with him at Prince‘s Paisley Park recording facility.
Between gathering together and sharing personal stories of their time with his purple majesty, Cory Wong and crew recorded iterations of previously released tracks and also added in some new ones to make it worth your time if you already have everything that Cory has done. This is a great jumping-off point for those not familiar with his work and a super funky album which is only made funkier thanks to Sonny T and The Hornheads. Not to mention that it was expertly recorded on Paisley Park‘s state-of-the-art equipment.
The Brand New Heavies have seen all types of band changes that have had multiple amazing vocalists at the helm, but none that were as potent and pioneering as when N’dea Davenport was behind the mike at the height of their popularity in the early ’90s.
Surprisingly, there was only one live recording of TBNH in their heyday which was this show from Japan in 1992, and luckily the iconic label Acid Jazz managed to remaster the original tapes and release the concert 20 years later in an official capacity. The original lineup sounds incredible featuring N’dea Davenport, Andrew Levy, Simon Bartholomew, Mike Smith, Max Beesley, Jan Kincaid, Jeff Scantlebury, and Colin Graham. It’s acid jazz at its purest and an absolute gem on vinyl.
Speaking of legends, there are not many that will argue that Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley were the core of the Daptone sound. Both of these vocal pillars are no longer with us, but this massive volume of work pays homage in the best way possible that captures live performances from three sold-out performances from 2014 at New York’s historic Apollo.
The energy and attack of these recordings are immediately noticeable and infectious. This album is loaded with funk and boogaloo and showcases performances from The Budos Band, The Menahan Street Band, and even Antibalas. There are an unbelievable 32 tracks here that serve as a tribute to two icons that were the best to ever do it. This album is a blast of retro and you’ll enjoy every second you spend listening.
Tha P-Union is a mystery in itself. Many funk aficionados point to this release as one of the greatest in 2021, but the only thing we know is that it is heavily drenched in the P-Funk without a doubt. Their Facebook page has nothing in the About section and even their listing on Amazon literally has no description to discuss the band or list the players.
What we do know is that this release is funky and it’s a remix of the album from 2020, so it finds itself down here in the remix category, but it certainly deserves a place on the list because it is sho’ nuff stanky and dank with the skunk funk. If you like your funk peed on, this is a great one to start with.
Extra Bonuses from YOU!
And once again, plenty of tracks to get you through 2022. And just like every year, our readers always have some great additions that we either missed or that they feel should have been here. And most of the time, they are SO right!
But if you add to this list in the comments, REMEMBER THE RULES!
- The albums must be in the funk realm (but we have some leniency here).
- The album must have been released in 2021
And of course, if you want to go back in time to see some of our other Best Funk Album Lists from previous years, here you go!
20 Best Funk Albums of 2020
20 Best Funk Albums of 2019
20 Best Funk Albums of 2018
30 Best Funk Albums of 2017
20 Best Funk Albums of 2016
20 Best Funk Albums of 2015
20 Best Funk Albums of 2014