Chocolate City (album)

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Chocolate City
ParliamentChocolateCityalbumcover.jpg
Studio album by Parliament
Released April 8th, 1975
Genre Funk
Length 36:42
Label Casablanca
Producer George Clinton
Parliament chronology
Up for the Down Stroke
(1974)
Chocolate City
(1975)
Mothership Connection
(1975)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
Blender 5/5 stars[2]
Robert Christgau B[3]
MusicTap 4/5 stars[4]
Pitchfork Media (7.8/10)[5]
PopMatters (favorable)[6]
Rhapsody (favorable)[7]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars[8]

Chocolate City is a 1975 album by the funk band Parliament. It was a "tribute to Washington D.C.",[9] where the group had been particularly popular. The album's cover includes images of the United States Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial in the form of a chocolate medallion, as well as sticker labeled "Washington DC". The popularity of the album in Washington D.C. was so profound, that it sold 150,000 copies in that particular area.

Track listing[edit]

Side One[edit]

  1. "Chocolate City" (George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell) – 5:37 (released as a single-Casablanca 831)
  2. "Ride On" (Clinton, Collins, Worrell) – 3:34 (released as a single-Casablanca 843)
  3. "Together" (Clinton, Collins, Worrell) – 4:07
  4. "Side Effects" (Clinton, Collins, Ahneua Hilson) – 3:13
  5. "What Comes Funky" (Clinton, Collins, Worrell) – 2:23

Side Two[edit]

  1. "Let Me Be" (Clinton, Vivian Lewis) – 5:37
  2. "If It Don't Fit (Don't Force It)" (Clinton, Gary Shider, Worrell) – 2:07
  3. "I Misjudged You" (Clinton, Ernie Harris, Fuzzy Haskins) – 5:14
  4. "Bigfootin'" (Clinton, Haskins, Shider) – 4:50 (released as the B-side to "Ride On")

A 2003 CD reissue of Chocolate City contained three bonus tracks, including alternate mixes of "If It Don't Fit (Don't Force It)" and "I Misjudged You" and the previously unreleased song "Common Law Wife".[10]

Personnel[edit]

Mallia Franklin vocals

Music[edit]

Chocolate City features the classic P-Funk lineup with George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, and Eddie Hazel. The Brecker brothers, Michael and Randy, joined the band as did vocalist Glenn Goins. Prakash John plays bass on several tracks. This album also marks the beginning of the pivotal songwriting team of George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and Bernie Worrell, a partnership that would last until the 1978 release "Motor Booty Affair".

The album is full of the uptempo funk that the band would be known for as well as the vocal harmonies of The Parliaments. "Let Me Be" draws on jazz as well as gospel influences.

Chart performance[edit]

Chocolate City reached number 18 on the Billboard soul LP charts in 1975 and reached No. 91 on the album charts. "Chocolate City", the title track and first single, reached No. 24 on the black chart and No. 94 on the Billboard Hot 100 while "Ride On" the second single reached No. 64 on the black chart.[11]

"Chocolate City" theme[edit]

The album takes its name from the term "Chocolate City," which had been used to describe Washington, D.C. where blacks had been becoming a majority through migration (as explained in the cover notes included with one recent CD release of the album). The term had been used by Washington's black AM radio stations WOL-AM and WOOK-AM since the early 1970s to refer to the city. Bobby "The Mighty Burner" Bennett, a DJ on WOL, told the Washington Post in 1998 "Chocolate City for me was the expression of D.C.'s classy funk and confident blackness."[12]

George Clinton used the concept in the title track using the black domination of the inner city populations as a positive message in contrast to concern over White flight. The lyrics of the song refer to several such "chocolate cities" but focuses on D.C.: "There's a lot of chocolate cities around/We got Newark, we got Gary/Someone told me we got L.A./ And we're working on Atlanta / But you're the capital C.C."[13]

Clinton's lyrics referred to Chocolate City as "my piece of the rock" as opposed to the "40 acres and a mule" that slaves were promised after the Civil War. He contrasted Chocolate City with the "vanilla suburbs" of the city, a term first used on the track.

The lyrics also reflected Clinton's thanks for the capital's strong support for P-Funk, further shown by the album cover showing the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Capitol, rendered in melting milk chocolate.

Other tracks on the album reflecting the influence of Washington are "Let Me Be" drawing from 1970s D.C. gospel and "I Misjudged You" a homage to The Unifics, a Washington R&B ballad group.[14]

Cultural references to "Chocolate City"[edit]

New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin invoked the term Chocolate City in 2006, a few months after Hurricane Katrina, during a Martin Luther King Day speech (the "Chocolate City speech"). This remark, in which Nagin said that New Orleans "would be a chocolate city once again," led to controversy, with critics accusing Nagin of racism; when Nagin later attended the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, Stephen Colbert welcomed Nagin to Washington, D.C., "the chocolate city with a marshmallow center and a graham cracker crust of corruption".

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an independent living group known as Chocolate City at M.I.T. was founded in 1975. Named after the Parliament song, the living group houses 28–30 male students, and is a recognized part of the M.I.T. housing system. According to the living groups,[15] Chocolate City at M.I.T.'s primary purpose is to support its brotherhood and contribute to the global community. "Chocolate City is a brotherhood of MIT students and alumni who identify with Black culture and share common backgrounds, interests, ethnicities, and/or experiences. By cultivating a tradition of social, intellectual, character, and leadership development, the Brothers of Chocolate City exemplify a high standard of excellence which is founded on continual growth. The organization seeks to enrich the MIT's role in building greater global communities by embodying the principles of our brotherhood."

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ Blender review[dead link]
  3. ^ "Robert Christgau review". Robertchristgau.com. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  4. ^ "MusicTap review". Musictap.net. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  5. ^ Pitchfork Media review[dead link]
  6. ^ Kessler, Jordan. "PopMatters review". Popmatters.com. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  7. ^ Schennault (January 1, 1975). "Rhapsody review". Rhapsody.com. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  8. ^ Rolling Stone review[dead link]
  9. ^ http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/6175-up-for-the-down-stroke-chocolate-city-and-mothership-connection/
  10. ^ Original track listing from Allmusic.com. Additional tracks in pop matters album.
  11. ^ All chart listings from Billboard published on Allmusic.com.
  12. ^ Carroll, Kenneth (February 1, 1998). "Reflections on Chocolate City: The Meanings of Funk". The Washington Post. 
  13. ^ Avila, Eric (2004). Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight. University of California Press. p. 5. ISBN 0-520-24121-5. 
  14. ^ "Popmatters Review". June 11, 2003. 
  15. ^ "Chocolate City at M.I.T. living group website". 

References[edit]

  • Neal, Mark Anthony (1998). What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Popular Culture. UK: Routledge. pp. 103, 115. ISBN 0-415-92072-8. 
  • Smitherman, Geneva (2000). Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner. Houghton Mifflin. p. 92. 
  • Wesley, Fred (2002). Hit Me, Fred. Duke University Press. pp. 181, 182, 195, 198. ISBN 0-8223-2909-3. 
  • Thompson, Dave (2001). Funk. Backbeat Books. pp. 89–97. ISBN 0-87930-629-7. 

External links[edit]