The 80s was a great time for funk. In just 10 or so years it had moved from being the province of a few sweaty negros like James Brown and George Clinton, to becoming the subtle component in all types of pop music. Everything from Cameo to the B52s pushed funk in its various guises to the top of the charts.
So it was not without a bit of irony that one of the original makers of the funk, the conglomerate known as P-Funk was mostly in the background during this time. While gone, they were never forgotten as rap artist would keep their legacy alive by sampling much of their ’70s era output.
Enter INCorporated Thang Band (ITB). With a funny name like that, you’d think that George Clinton gathered his old funk army back together for another stab at the charts. You wouldn’t be too far off. ITB was a P-Funk project produced by none other than George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, two elements that made up the core of the P-Funk sound.
The ITB was actually a band made up of five members led by the vocals of Andre Foxxxe and Lige Curry. At many points throughout the album it’s difficult to tell where Foxxxe’s voice ends and where Clintons begins. Clinton co-wrote many of the songs so they have his trademark humor and sauciness about them. These were some of the last songs Clinton would write before his association with Prince.
While this was a debut album, Lifestyles of the Roach and Famous had the sound of a seasoned lineup thanks to the vast experience of its production team leaders, that also included members of the band. Conceived as a concept album, it even featured cover art by Pedro Bell who was responsible for many of P-Funk’s urban folk art styled sleeves since the late ’70s.
1988 would be a busy year for P-Funk. Bootsy Collins had released a solo album and another new project from Clinton called Well Read was also released. ITB was the most accessible of the trio and got the most exposure (however limited). Lifestyles of the Roach and Famous was a concept album with a twist based on one of the ghetto’s favorite shows, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
The great thing about the album beyond the wealth of information on the back cover,was that its role as a modern continuation of the P-Funk sound. Songs like ‘Storyteller’ and ‘Androgynous View’ combine humor and danceable funk as well as any Clinton or Collins solo project. While Lifestyles was a strictly an R&B album, it had its token elements of rock as in Bootsy’s guitar solo near the end of the raunchy ’44-22-38′.
Bootsy’s contributions were limited mostly to bass and guitar playing. He was also responsible for some song writing. Much of Lifestyles was a team effort, with three or four writers per song. Many of the contributors were spread out between eight studios located in Michigan and California.
The album made little waves on the charts, but did have a funny video for ‘Body Jackin’ the only single. Seen as a debut, Lifestyles of the Roach and Famous is a polished accomplishment. Its primary function however was more or less being a continuation of the P-Funk/Parliament sound. To that end, the albums creation brought two of the most important legends in funk together to make an album that would have made fans of either proud. Rappers on the other hand moved on and some like The Digital Underground would create new music inspired in part by this almost-a-near-masterpiece effort.