Funky Drummer

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"Funky Drummer (Part 1)"
Single by James Brown
from the album In the Jungle Groove
B-side "Funky Drummer (Part 2)"
Released March 1970 (1970-03)
Format 7"
Recorded November 20, 1969, King Studios, Cincinnati, OH
Genre Funk
  • 2:36 (Part 1)
  • 2:55 (Part 2)
Label King
Writer(s) James Brown
Producer(s) James Brown
James Brown charting singles chronology
"It's a New Day (Part 1) & (Part 2)"
"Funky Drummer (Part 1)"
"Brother Rapp (Part 1) & (Part 2)"
Audio sample
file info · help
External video
Drummerworld – Stubblefield breakdown of "Cold Sweat" and "Funky Drummer".

"Funky Drummer" is a funk song recorded by James Brown and his band. The recording's drum break, performed by Clyde Stubblefield, is one of the most frequently sampled rhythmic breaks[1] in hip hop and popular music.

The recording[edit]

"Funky Drummer" was recorded on November 20, 1969 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and originally released by King Records as a two-part 45 rpm single in March 1970. Despite rising to #20 on the R&B chart and #51 on the pop chart,[2] it did not receive an album release until the 1986 compilation In the Jungle Groove.

The piece takes the form of an extended vamp, with individual instruments (mostly the tenor saxophones and organ) improvising brief licks on top. Brown's ad-libbed vocals on "Funky Drummer" are sporadic and declamatory, and are mostly concerned with encouraging the other band members.

As in the full-length version of "Cold Sweat" he announces the upcoming drum break, which comes late in the recording, with a request to "give the drummer some." He tells Stubblefield "You don't have to do no soloing, brother, just keep what you got... Don't turn it loose, 'cause it's a mother." Stubblefield's eight-bar unaccompanied "solo", a version of the riff he plays through most of the piece, is the result of Brown's directions; this break beat is one of the most sampled recordings in music.

After the drum break, the band returns to the original vamp.[3] Brown, apparently impressed with what Stubblefield has produced, seems to name the song on the spot as it continues, and repeats it: "The name of this tune is 'The Funky Drummer', 'The Funky Drummer', 'The Funky Drummer'." The recording ends with a reprise of Stubblefield's solo and a fade-out.

Modern adaptations[edit]

The rhythm pattern on "Funky Drummer" is among the world's most sampled musical segments. Rediscovered by Hank Shocklee of The Bombsquad whilst they were creating mixes for Public Enemy in the early 1980s, it has since been used by hip-hop groups and rappers including Run-D.M.C., N.W.A, Raekwon, LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys and Boogie Down Productions.

Lyrical references[edit]

Rappers who sample James Brown's recordings have included references to him, Stubblefield, and the song's title in their lyrics, two examples being LL Cool J in "Boomin' System" ("The girlies, they smile, they see me comin, I'm steady hummin, I got the Funky Drummer drummin") and Public Enemy in "Fight the Power" ("1989 – the number, another summer / Sound of the Funky Drummer...").

The "Funky Drummer" beat was so widely used that it eventually became something of a musical cliché, and performers began referring to it sarcastically. MC Frontalot's song "Good Old Clyde" comments on the widespread appropriation of the "Funky Drummer" beat (while exploiting the beat itself).[4][5] Pop Will Eat Itself's song "Not Now, James, We're Busy" samples Brown's vocal asides from "Funky Drummer" as well as the drum break, weaving them into a commentary on Brown's legal troubles.


"The Funky Drummer" is also sometimes used as a nickname for Clyde Stubblefield, who capitalized on the name with his 1997 album Revenge of the Funky Drummer. As a session drummer, Stubblefield received no further compensation for the many samples that were taken from the recording.[6]


More than one mix of "Funky Drummer" was made around the time it was recorded, including one with tambourine and another with vocal percussion by Brown and trombonist Fred Wesley; the most commonly heard version of the track lacks these elements, which were apparently overdubbed. In addition to the original version of "Funky Drummer", the album In the Jungle Groove includes a "bonus beat reprise" of the piece. This track, edited by Danny Krivit, consists of a 3-minute loop of the drum break, punctuated only by Brown's sampled vocal interjections and an occasional guitar chord and tambourine hit.

Released versions[edit]

  • Part 1 – 2:35
  • Part 2 – 2:55
  • Parts 1 & 2 (first appeared on Foundations of Funk – A Brand New Bag: 1965–1969) – 5:34
  • Full version (appears on In the Jungle Groove) – 9:13
  • Tambourine Mix (appears on Soul Pride: The Instrumentals – 1960–1969) – 9:13
  • Bonus Beat Reprise (appears on In the Jungle Groove) – 2:56


with the James Brown Orchestra:

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1970) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100 51
US Billboard R&B 20

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kun, Josh: "What Is an MC If He Can't Rap to Banda? Making Music in Nuevo L.A." American Quarterly (American Studies Assn) (Baltimore, MD) (56:3) Sep 2004, 741-758. (2004)
  2. ^ White, Cliff (1991). "Discography". In Star Time (pp. 54–59) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.
  3. ^ Collins, Sam. "Funky Drummer". Iomusic News. Retrieved 2008-11-30. 
  4. ^ MC Frontalot :: Lyric :: Good Old Clyde
  5. ^ Justin A. Williams (2015). The Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop. Cambridge Companions to Music. Cambridge University Press. p. 229. ISBN 9781107037465. Retrieved April 5, 2015. 
  6. ^ James Brown, Clyde Stubblefield and the Madison Area Music Awards. (2007, January 4). Isthmus. Retrieved February 13, 2007.
  7. ^ Leeds, Alan, and Harry Weinger (1991). "Star Time: Song by Song". In Star Time (pp. 46–53) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.

External links[edit]