Every year, we pick the 20 best funk albums of the year. But this year showcased an enormous selection of albums and we honestly struggled to narrow it down. As a result, you get a bonus this year of 30 funk albums. Taking any of these albums out of this top 30 list would be a travesty. As you peruse them, be aware that they are not numbered in any order since they are all created equal in their funkiness. Funk has many new faces and we couldn’t be happier.
As always, it’s GREATLY IMPORTANT that you realize that if your favorite 2017 funk album wasn’t on the list, maybe a) it wasn’t released in 2017, b) we may have somehow missed it, c) we may have never even heard of it, or d) we heard it, but it wasn’t as great as you thought it was or didn’t bring anything new to the mix. So if we didn’t list your favorite, PLEASE share it in the comments area below.
There are certain names that are synonymous with funk. Funk is all that they do. Bootsy Collins is one of those names. It’s been six years in the making since his last album Tha Funk Capitol Of The World and well worth the wait. Packed with 15 tracks and featuring a massive collection of guests including Doug E. Fresh, Victor Wooten, Stanley Clarke, Musiq Soulchild, Chuck D, Buckethead and so much more.
It also features a gut-wrenching tribute to the late Bernie Worrell entitled A Salute to Bernie with incorporated synth work from Bernie himself. Just remember to pay attention to all of the bass tracks to hear how a master bass player sounds that is still on the cutting edge of funkafied greatness.
PHO is one of our favorite new bands. We had the opportunity to exclusively debut this album to the world and accepted the honor. Funkatopia also had a chance to sit down and interview them to see what makes this super funky combo from Minneapolis tick tock.
PHO also got the attention of Prince himself as he would regularly have them reserve a quiet seat out the way at their shows just in case he could make it out. He would later ask them to come to Paisley Park to open up as the headliner for the legendary Larry Graham. Needless to say, greatness is easy to spot and it’s right here on their amazing sophomore album.
Some call him a tortured artist, but Van Hunt takes a lot personally when it comes to his music. Technically this album was created many years ago as we cover in detail here. However, officially this album was just released this year by Blue Note. An occurrence that probably singularly derailed his career since it caused such a mass disparity in the evolutionary flow of his musical genius.
This album was his follow up to the critical darling On The Jungle Floor that preceded his Grammy win for his work with John Legend on their cover of Sly Stone’s Family Affair, but it got shelved by his label and there it sat for the better part of 10 years. Now that it has finally seen the light of day being officially released in August of 2017, Van was very relieved that people could finally hear his masterpiece, but not before the damage had been done as he announced he would be leaving music as a performing artist. Could this be his last album ever?
Five Alarm Funk came onto our radar many years ago with a crazy unhinged over the top delivery of funk and bravado brought to you by an entire band of misfit lunatics led by drummer and lead vocalist Tayo Branston whose voice sounds like a narrative version of a coked up Dr. John and with a backup band of a real life version of Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem. So when we heard that they were coming out of their Canadian homeland and would meander as close as Chattanooga, TN (we’re in Atlanta), we simply had to get there.
In concert, the antics are just as insane and brimming with energy like watching a pot boiling over where there’s nothing you can do but watch. Five Alarm Funk’s new album Sweat is truly a funky masterpiece full of energy and verve. And definitely check out their previous catalog and check out tracks like Payday and Higgs Boson to truly understand the madness. And even if you don’t, you’ll love it anyway.
Cissy Street is a prime example of what hard work will get you. The funk jazz instrumentalists from France would have gone completely missed if it weren’t for the efforts of putting a copy of their new album in the mail and delivering it into the hands of Funkatopia’s Mr. Christopher who immediately fell in love with the front to back funk slap jazz groove monsters.
France has always been a burgeoning ground zero for funk music, but many times it’s usually buried behind a French singer who makes it too difficult for Americans to embrace. Guitarist Francis Larue put together a handpicked selection of some fantastic musicians and put together an amazing band that rivals some of the best with incredible compositions. Enjoy.
Funky Chimes was yet another album that was sent to us for review and we couldn’t believe that such a great compilation has gone relatively unnoticed. On top of that, the collection features 27 songs covering 2 hours worth of long, lost forgotten funk tracks from a very surprising source.
When you think of funk, Belgium is probably not at the top of the list or even in the top 20 locales, but this collection of lost tracks from the Belgian community that were recorded back in the 70’s begs to question, how in the world did the universe miss so much great music? Luckily you don’t have to do that.
The Polyrhythmics aren’t new to our best funk list when they screamed into our field of vision with the amazing Libra Stripes. It was a blazing showcase of muscle flexing that immediately gained them fans around the globe.
Not to rest on their laurels, Polyrhythmics put out another offering that has everyone sitting up and taking notice yet again. Caldera is a tour de force of Afrobeat, trippy journey and Stack-like soul. The layers are brilliant and crafted with a lot of thought so as to create a musical journey that has everyone talking.
There is no doubt that Funkadelic will be consistently in the top 3 of almost any funk fans list, but many artists in the Motor City consider Funkadelic to be the perennial seed of the funk movement at the heart of Detroit.
The result? Many of Detroit’s most well known artists (Pronounced ar-teests) like Amp Fiddler (also on this list), Moodymann and others , take on the task of remixing and reworking some of Funkadelic’s most prolific works and the end result is well worth the listen. Relive some of the best of Funkadelic reimagined by the best funk artists of Detroit.
Every single album of Rock Candy Funk Party ends up somewhere on our best lists and their new album The Groove Cubed is no different. The supergroup never fails to deliver as they have put together yet another barn burner.
RCFP features Tal Bergman, Ron DeJesus, Mike Merritt, Joe Bonamassa, and other special guests like Prince‘s keyboardist Renato Neto, Ty Taylor and Mahalia Barnes. Once again, this funky congregation does not disappoint.
On the pop side, top 40, enter-at-your-own-risk radio hell side of things, Bruno Mars did an admirable job keeping funk in the forefront of that world with his 2016 album. But not so quietly in the background was a DJ/producer by the name of Calvin Harris who released a great album in 2017 called Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 that only technically released a single track via top 40 called Feels with Katy Perry, Pharrell and Big Sean.
However, the album is full of funky tracks that will keep your toe tapping and features a literal Who’s Who of pop stars and up and comers like Khalid, Future, Nicki Minaj, Kehlani, Travis Scott, Frank Ocean, Migos, Ariana Grande, and the list just keeps going. Kind of makes you wonder how you only heard one song off of this album.
2017 was definitely the year of funk for Detroit. That year alone just in this list brought us Funkadelic – Reworked by Detroiters, Amp Fiddler, and the very busy Will Sessions. It appears that if anything is going to put Detroit back onto the map, it’s going to be the funky sounds of the Motor City.
Will Sessions started out as a house band for funk parties and began releasing singles, but then decided to start their own label Sessions Sounds and released a collection of fantastically funky tunes in the form of Deluxe, as well as a project with Amp Fiddler called Kindred Live. The journey has been filled with Detroit brotherhood and Will Sessions now appears to be the house band for the Detroit funk movement.
The second volume of the infamous Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown has been a very long time coming. The brainchild of John Heintz has been a true labor of love. It features an insane list of funk heroes including members of Earth, Wind and Fire, Graham Central Station, The Time, Fishbone, Fred Wesley, The James Brown Band, Bill Withers, Parliament Funkadelic, Kool and the Gang, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, and GOOD LORD, the list keeps going.
A very close friend of Funkatopia’s Mr. Christopher who also got to go behind the scenes during part of the creation of the project deep in the mountains of North Carolina and watch the process. While it technically falls as a 2018 release hitting the public shelves Jan. 12, the album had soft dates in 2017 that the public was not privy to. So we had a choice to either put this funk gem on your radar now or wait until 2019 to share it with you. And that just wasn’t going to happen. You need to buy this right now. Like RIGHT NOW.
It’s heartbreaking to know that Sharon Jones is no longer with us. We get comfort knowing that she is not in pain, but that she also left behind an amazing album to remember her by. Sharon’s voice is powerful and her onstage persona was larger than life. Her sound was huge and her soul was breathtaking.
Soul Of A Woman is her posthumous release and we were blessed enough that she completed it before her sudden passing and that we were able to hear for 2017. Full of funky soul classics that leave nothing on the table and in reality, flips the table over and kicks the chair across the room. If you love soul, get ready for a cleansing.
We are always shocked at how polarizing Sheila E. is to Prince fans. We have no idea how an artist can create so much praise and vitriol at the same time. Her last project Iconic: Message 4 America was started on the PledgeMusic platform and funded by fans (like us).
The result is a collection of great funk and soul classics re-envisioned by Sheila. Her sources were obvious selections giving props to Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Beatles and many more including Prince. The end result is a collection of funk classics that will make you so busy dancing and bobbing your head, that you probably won’t even notice that all of the songs are politically charged and focused on human rights. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
Lettuce is one of those bands that loves to funk it up with the best of them. But sometimes they just simply have to get something out of their system and the influence of Miles Davis simply had to flow forth. Titling the album Witches Stew as a variant of Miles’ Bitches Brew, the album is a selection of classic Miles Davis tracks covering his career across the board like Evil, In A Silent Way, On The Corner, and others.
A truly unexpected album that will most likely confuse their most loyal fans, but effectively sets them up to a different echelon of band by taking on some of the most difficult and challenging musicians of our time and doing it with great funky finesse that by the time you’re done, you’re not even sure what you just witnessed.
Anderson .Paak is so deserving of all of the accolades he receives and it’s undeniable. His voice and delivery is both friendly and commanding at the same time that it embraces your ear drums. It’s also one of the great funk variants of our times that he shares with acts like Frank Ocean, The Internet, and others, where it breathes a hip alternative vibe, but yet oh so funkafied at the same time.
Yes Lawd is his latest offering under the name of NxWorries (which is duo of Anderson and Knxwledge) and it amasses some welcoming new tunes with most tracks clocking in right near the 3 minute mark making it easily digestible, but masterfully constructed where just when you realize that you love a song, it’s on to the next track.
We always love it when we are ahead of the curve on an artist and Analog Son was one of those great bands. We had the chance to do a humorous interview with Jordan Linit where he was so busy in production, it was basically us asking him questions while watching him work on his computer. But that’s why the latest album Black Diamond is the quality release that it is.
Analog Son has emerged a true funk force and a band that everyone is taking very seriously in a relatively short period of time in existence. When you look at bands that have been around for decades like Lettuce and The New Mastersounds, having a band that still has that new car smell that is able to make an impact so quickly is an impressive task. And when you listen, you’ll understand why just as quickly.
Speedometer is a band that has been around for the better part of 2 decades in the U.K. and their raw funk is not only a breath of fresh air, but it hearkens back to the sounds of the 70’s with the style and ambiance you’d expect to hear for the hippy era of funk. Not many bands can recreate this sound well and only a few come to mind such as Orgone and The Monophonics.
For those looking for something new and refreshing, but you feel like you just can’t get that same quality of funk from “back in the day”, Speedometer‘s new offering may be exactly what you’re looking for to cure that nostalgic itch. It’s one of our new favorites and the only thing more upsetting is knowing that we’ve missed the boat on Speedometer all of these years. Never again.
Amp Fiddler is another one of those Detroit-centric acts that has revitalized Motor City as the new home of funk music. Amp Fiddler is arguably one of the front runners of that movement and the multi-instrumentalist has been tirelessly recording. May know Amp Fiddler during his work with George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic when he replaced Bernie Worrell in the mid-late 80’s when Bernie decided to take a break from P-Funk for a while.
Amp Fiddler has done so much work since then including working with Prince, Brand New Heavies, George Clinton and many others including assisting in bringing the mighty Slum Village into our view. His new album is full of great funk jazz compilations with hints of new soul. It’s a very welcome album and easy on the ears in that pass the dutchie head-bobbing way that we live and breathe.
Many folks aren’t familiar with BB Boogie, but if you love funk, you’ve definitely heard of the funk outfit Bugz In The Attic. BB Boogie is one of the original members of Bugz who went by the name of Daz-I-Kue. BB Boogie is the stage moniker for Daz-I-Kue‘s disco boogie persona and Standing On The Wall is BB’s debut album and holy crap, it’s an amazingly funky album.
Daz relocated to Atlanta after establishing himself in London as one of the founders of the burgeoning Broken Beat scene and since relocating has absorbed the rich culture of funk and soul in the Dirty South and mashed those southern fried influences with all of the many years of production mastery to create a audio shout-out to the funk of the 80’s with a Cameo meets Roy Ayers vibe that is insanely fun to listen to and just as hard to stop.
About 17 years ago, a horn section graced the now legendary funk album Keb Darge presents The New Mastersounds. They were the backbone for Eddie Roberts’ project just as much as Maceo, Pee Wee and Fred Wesley were for James Brown. They helped establish that Afrobeat-soul-funk vibe that now has a life of its own in London. They’ve built a repertoire of appearances in performances with everyone including The Roots, Jamiroquai, Adele, Amy Winehouse and many other greats.
A mere few years after that groundbreaking New Mastersounds release, the horn section stepped out on its own to create The Haggis Horns and quite a few albums later sees the release of a new album entitled One Of These Days. This album finally once again lets them focus the spotlight on themselves and shine, oh so brightly.
Yet another polarizing act in the funk community exists one of our favorites. The Mighty Jamiroquai. They first shot onto the scene in the early 90’s with the funk classic Emergency on Planet Earth. Then slowly and gradually they started changing their vibe and becoming slowly more disco and then eventually landing in the land of electronica. This musical chrysalis slowly became the bands sales downfall in the states, but helped them stay current in the U.K..
Automaton has had stagnant results on this side of the pond, but has helped the band to continue its level of notoriety as the forefathers of the funk and acid jazz movement in the UK scene. This was one of the newer flavors of funk that has begun surging into the music scene that is being ushered in by the DJ movement in the states and Jamiroquai makes it well known that they are still very relevant even though a completely different band then they were almost 30 years ago. But then, aren’t we all.
Pimps of Joytime are one of those bands that are simply undeniable. Whether you’re intrigued by their incredibly unique sounding lead vocals from Brian Jay, curious about why percussionist Mayteana Morales left acting (she was Gaby on the TV show Ghostwriter in the 90’s), wondering how bassist David Bailis can get those sounds he does, why Kimberly Dawson doesn’t have her own band with that voice, or how in the world John Staten is such a funky drummer, it’s still one cool recipe.
Third Wall Chronicles is exactly the release that people have come to expect (and wanted) from the formidable group and it does not disappoint. It’s full of that edgy alternative-vibed funk that people have been gravitating towards since their debut almost 10 years ago. It’s a funk-tinged odyssey with a hint of New Orleans merged with California sway and soul.
There is a new sound that has crept into the funk world and was ushered in by the likes of two amazing bassists that seem to hail from the same planet and cut from the exact same cloth. And of course, we’re speaking about Mononeon and Thundercat. Mononeon was also performing with Prince and had recorded quite a lot of funk-jazz in the mindset of Madhouse that still remains unreleased to this day.
That didn’t stop him from completing his own release A Place Called Fantasy that is that offbeat, off-kilter and downright bizarre display of bass prowess. The super funky bass slapping, overloaded effects and over the top delivery are all mashed together in the bizarro world of Mononeon. And he just can’t help it.
Close your eyes. It’s 1974 and you’re in a custom painted caramel brown Plymouth Valiant on a beautiful day. Somehow while driving through the deserts of Arizona, somewhere near the Mexican border, your mind wandered off and you veered off the road onto a hard sand desert plain and the dust is kicking up behind you in your rear view mirror. But it’s okay. The AC is working fine. You’ve just set the backdrop for Ikebe Shakedown‘s new release The Way Home.
Ikebe Shakedown is stuck somewhere in that timewarp in the sound. Somewhere between how The Way Home was recorded and the vibe it sets lies all of its pristine magic. It’s something you can’t quite escape and nor do you want to get away from it. Your drawn to it. If you’re a true fan of the funk and all of its origins, you need this fix.
As mentioned above when we listed Thundercat‘s “cut from the same cloth” cohort, Mononeon, these two bassists are from someplace other than our resident Earth. The fact that they both released an album in 2017 means that bassists around the world must be in an orgasmic nirvana to have so much to absorb in such a short period of time. There certainly have to be some health risks involved.
Drunk is the latest addition to the Thundercat arsenal and a worthy adversary to the cookie-cutter bass player offerings you often hear. Sometimes he reminisces about what it must be like to be a cat, or just discussing the rigors of masturbation, Thundercat is all over the map just like his fingers on the frets. His topicality is everywhere at the same time, as is his mindset and mental stability. And it’s such a good thing.
This seems to be a very big year for UK based bands and this sophomore album from the power duo know as The Allergies definitely deserves a spot on the list. Calling them crate digging extraordinaires is an understatement. Most of the sounds they pull from are the roots of 60’s soul and elements of 50’s jazz.
Push On is only their second album and extremely impressive considering their limited public exposure as this relatively new project. There are some bands that can fake the funk and it seems to come very naturally for this group which is remarkably refreshing. It’s a very current feel and the only thing shocking is that these songs aren’t on the radio right now.
Speaking of duos, The Floozies are always on the edge of greatness. Their live shows are fantastic and full of lights, lasers, smoke and the most thumping bass that your body can possibly absorb without being physically scooted back. See them live once and you’ll be hooked. The guitar work and programming of Matt Hill and the power drumming of Mark Hill combine to create one big massive huge sound.
Funk Jesus is their newest release from the electro-funk kings The Floozies and it’s just as fun as you’d expect from the duo that can’t ever seem to stop smiling. The roots of the thump are highly contagious including the soon to be dance floor classic Arithmetic, and the fun voicebox antics of Honeymoon Phase. There’s a lot to love if you love that 80’s funk.
There are certain acts that are simply not shy about just being dirty. Quentin Moore does not shy away from talking about sex and booties and it’s a blast of refreshment. Right out of the gate, the album opens with the chant “Bounce that ass like they used to do.” and then followed by Quentin claiming the he’s got the tools to make the booty move. And he ain’t lying.
This is funk like it’s supposed to be; complete with horn stabs, chicken scratching rhythm guitar and heartfelt call outs. But he’s like the Clarence Carter of funk with songs like Booty Sweat where he simply wonders if the “booty smells good” and to “put it in my face.” And there’s tons more where that came from. It’s something completely different than you’d expect and the reason why it grabs your attention as effectively as it does.
Tuxedo‘s second album, aptly titled Tuxedo 2 is yet another entry into the never-ending funky late 80’s timewarp that has forever entrapped the duo of Mayer Hawthorne and producer Jake One. Both of which are avidly obsessed with that clean keyboard-synth funk sound and they do it so amazingly well, that it’s a great side project outlet for the both of them and it truly has a life of its own.
Tuxedo 2 opens with the stage setting Fux With the Tux that will give you a magnifying glass into what you can expect for the duration of this great album. Mayer Hawthorne is one of our favorite acts and he brings his superb songwriting skills to the table and Jake One levels everything out with thick synth tracks and high-level funk production. The Wonder Twins of funk if you will. And we do.
Extra Bonuses from YOU!
Check the suggestions below from you, our readers. Tell us about the albums that our readers should also check out beyond our massive list of 30 albums. Add them to the comments below! Hook us up and remember, the albums should have been released in 2017 to qualify for the list.