Funky 4 + 1
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|Funky 4 + 1|
|Also known as||
|Origin||Bronx, New York City|
Sugar Hill Records
|Associated acts||Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five
Funky 4 + 1 was an American hip hop group from The Bronx, New York. They were the first hip hop group to receive a recording deal, and the first to perform live on national television. The group was also notable for having a female MC. When frontman Jazzy Jeff was setting up a solo career after the group broke up in 1983, he sued Jive Records, which had subsequently signed DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, and he won a lawsuit over the rights over the name Jazzy Jeff. Ironically, Jazzy Jeff’s single "King Heroin" was also released on Jive Records.
Formed in 1976, the group was the first hip hop group to have a female MC, Sha Rock. It made its debut on Enjoy Records with the 16-minute "Rappin and Rocking the House". The group's most significant hit was the 9-minute "That's the Joint" (1981). "That's the Joint" was interpolated from A Taste of Honey's "Rescue Me". Music critic Robert Christgau of The Village Voice named it the best song of the 1980s. In his 1981 review of the single, Christgau gave it an A rating and wrote of its musical significance, "The instrumental track, carried by Sugarhill bassist Doug Wimbish, is so compelling that for a while I listened to it alone on its B-side version. And the rapping is the peak of the form, not verbally—the debut has funnier words—but rhythmically. Quick tradeoffs and clamorous breaks vary the steady-flow rhyming of the individual MCs, and when it comes to Sha-Rock, Miss Plus One herself, who needs variation?"
Its other notable recordings included the almost-16-minute "Rappin' and Rockin' The House," and Jazzy Jeff's recording of "King Heroin," from which a beat was sampled for use in the theme of the "The Apprentice" which taken from the O'Jays' "(For The Love Of) Money". The group never recorded a full studio album.
It was the first hip hop group to appear on a national television show, Saturday Night Live, in a season-six episode hosted by Blondie's Deborah Harry (some[who?] have mistakenly reported that Run-D.M.C. was the first hip hop group to appear on SNL—in fact, Run-D.M.C. were first emcees to perform on MTV some years later).
The original members were the Voice of K.K., aka K.K. Rockwell (Kevin Smith); Keith Keith (Keith Caesar); Sha Rock (Sharon Green); and Rahiem (Guy Todd Williams). Rahiem later left the group to join Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. Sha Rock temporarily left as well, and they were replaced by Li'l Rodney C! and Jazzy Jeff, who became the New Funky Four and, with the return of Sha Rock, became the Plus One More.
With the addition of Li'l Rodney C! and Jazzy Jeff, the group became the New Funky Four, with D.J. Breakout and D.J. Baron. None of the Emcees were older than 17 when the group signed with the Enjoy label, with "Rappin' and Rockin' the House," which interpolated elements of Cheryl Lynn's "Got To Be Real," over which a 16-minute rhyme was heard. The tracks were recorded by a live band led by drummer Pumpkin, arguably hip hop's first production hero, and it was an impressive overall introduction.
Shortly afterward the group switched to Sugarhill Records, losing the "Plus One More" and adding 4 + 1 suffix. Prior to this line-up, D.J. Mark the 45 King would act as Breakout's record boy after Pookie D, locating and passing records up to the decks as Breakout requested them. The group made its debut for Sugarhill in 1980 with "That's the Joint," a song arranged by jazz-funk organist Clifton Jiggs Chase. Its performances at Bronx Club parties included full-blown dance routines.
After a dispute with Sugarhill, Li'l Rodney C! and KK Rockwell left the group and started the Original Double Trouble, at which time Rodney C! would marry Angie B (Angela Brown) of the Sequence, now better known as the Grammy-nominated soul singer Angie Stone. Jazzy Jeff went on to have a solo career.
In 2008, its song "That's The Joint" was ranked number 41 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop.
- "Rappin & Rocking The House" (1979)
- "That's The Joint" (1980)
- "Do You Want to Rock (Before I Let Go) (1982)
- "Feel It" (The Mexican) (1983)
- The Voice of K.K. aka K.K. Rockwell (Kevin Smith)
- Keith Keith (Keith Caesar)
- Sha Rock (Sharon Green)
- Rahiem (Guy Todd Williams)
- Lil' Rodney C! (Rodney Stone)
- Jazzy Jeff (Jeff Miree)
- D.J. Breakout (Keith Williams)
- D.J. Baron (Baron Chappell)