Funk is an urban form of dance music that emerged in the late 1960s and became popular in the 1970s. Its creators were rhythm and blues and jazz musicians. Funk borrows elements from a wide range of musical genres including rhythm and blues-styled horn arrangements, jazz-oriented solos, rock-oriented solos and guitar timbres, and vocal stylings associated with soul music. Funk was created during an era of changing social and economic conditions.
The lyrics of funk reflect the struggle for racial equality. Themes such as “party” and “hang loose” pervade funk, and they also exemplify nationalist messages that communicate a revolutionary spirit, an urban attitude of defiance, and they’re symbolic of the call for Black solidarity associated with the Black Power Movement. The term “funk” captured both the complex, and often contradictory, feelings of optimism, ambivalence, disillusionment, and despair that accompanied the transition from a segregated to a post-civil rights society. Important funk performers include James Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & the Gang, Prince, and Sly Stone to name a few.
Funk has influenced other genres such as hip hop. Hip-hop DJs and computer programmers revived the funk aesthetic in the late 1980s by sampling the heavy funk beats, funky bass lines, guitar, keyboard, and horn riffs, and sung and spoken phrases. Commodification occurred in funk music when record company executives began requiring Black groups to produce a more pop-oriented and homogenized sound for mass marketing. Overall, funk reveals the resilience and creativity of African Americans under changing social and economic conditions. Within African American communities, funk became an expression of cultural liberation and musical experimentation.