The funk gods have delivered us a slice of musical heaven, joining together funk icons Zapp and the dynamic duo Tuxedo.

The cover for Tuxedo's collaboration with Zapp.

The cover for Tuxedo’s collaboration with Zapp.

Here at TFSR, our love of Tuxedo – the funk outfit of Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One – knows no bounds. As a result, it was a fight to decide who got to write about their excellent new collaboration with funk icons Zapp. So, in a special review, both Matt and George give their opinions on the latest slice of prime funk.

Matthew Price says:

When I first heard that Tuxedo and Zapp were set to work together on a new single it all of a sudden dawned on me just how fitting it was for them to collaborate, one that fate had surely determined. I just knew that when old-skool met new-school in a glorious and natural mesh, something special was going to come out of it. It seems now that it would have been pretty strange if they didn’t collaborate eventually given their histories, influeences and styles, distinct albeit relatable.

Zapp are straight out of the the funk hall of fame, well-known for their pioneering use of the talkbox, creating energising funk-dance tracks, and perhaps their biggest influence is on hip-hop. It took me many years after first hearing Notorious B.I.G’s ‘Going Back to Cali‘ to realise that the baseline was, in fact, sampled directly from one of Zapp’s biggest hits, ‘More Bounce To The Ounce‘.

Tuxedo have long been a firm favourite of TFSR, and their particular brand of funk and blue-eyed soul has evidently caught the attention of many, and risen exponentially in popularity over the past few years. Both Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One have commented on the fact that a great deal of inspiration is drawn from various hip-hop artists, which no doubt Zapp themselves played some part in influencing.

The two groups met when they played the same festival in Japan a while back, with Zapp reportedly blowing Jake One and Mayer Hawthorne away with their stage presence and charisma – and it was at this point that the idea to colloborate was formed. Hawthorne once commented in a past interview that Tuxedo “is all about dancing and having fun”, and if you could sum up this latest single in a few short words, that would probably do it justice.

In fact, that’s what the song is all about really – convincing a girl to get on the floor and dance. With lyrics to make you smile, Zapp’s talk-box effect gels magnificiently with Mayer’s soulful pipes, framed within a solid and infectious groove. What seems particularly characteristic about this record is just how punchy the verses are, interspersed with a chorus full of entrancing rising and falling vocals of the Hawthorne cariety, where the title track’s ‘Shyyyyyy’ is really drawn out. Subsequently, the energy levels in the song are fairly dynamic, and probably one of the reasons why it’s so hard not to mash the play button so many times.

Catchy guitar riffs are scattered throughout, and harmonious lifting backing vocals layer the track wonderfully. The two groups have truly delivered unto the yearning masses a song gestalt in its nature, insofar as the joining of these two funky entities created something greater than the sum of its parts. My only criticism is that there’s not enough of it. If you can here us, oh funky deities, please accept this offering of a review and give us more groove.

George Haffenden says:

My esteemed colleague in funk is correct in his assessement of this latest funk delight from Tuxedo and Zapp (‘Zappedo’, if you will). The collobration between the two groups is inspired. Praise be to Stones Throw Records for stumping up the funds to get these two together on tape (as well as vinyl, for the collectors).

‘Shy’ is another delicious slice of neo-funk greatness eminiating from the dynamic Tuxedo duo, who have helped bring the electronic eighties funk sound back into the mix. Their first two albums, Tuxedo and Tuxedo II, were truely brilliant, with their second album being one of my most played albums of 2017 (and probably 2018 as well). They’ve previously collaborated with the likes of disco-dance legend John Morales, whose mixed tracks on both the Tuxedo albums, as well as Snoop Dogg, who provides a rap on ‘Fux With The Tux’, and Gavin Turek, a disco queen in the making.

Yet, this is the first time the Tuxedo pair have worked with one of the true greats of the funk genre. Zapp, under the leadership of the visionary Roger Troutman, were pioneers of a new sub-genre of funk back in the eighties, dubbed “naked funk”. The group were originally signed to Warner Brother Records in 1980 with the help of funk-god-bassist William “Bootsy” Collins. It was here where the group helped to usher in this new era of “naked funk”, a branch of funk defined by heavy use of synth bass, electronic instrumentation, and the talk-box to craft what are now considered to be classic grooves.

This “naked funk” was also developed by the likes of Prince, The Gap Band and Rick James, the latter of whom Mayer Hawthorne pays hommage to on ‘Shy’ with the line “Let your freak flag fly”, a reference to Jame’s last Motown album The Flag.

The influence of Zapp and “naked funk” on Tuxedo is clear: their work sounds much more like the productions of Zapp or Cameo, rather than the more “traditional” or “classic” funk sound of James Brown or Parliament-Funkadelic. Therefore, perhaps it’s only natural that the apprentices of funk, in particular eighties “naked” funk, Hawthorne and One, would collaborate with the old masters.

‘Shy’ is a delightful slice of funk greatness, combining old and new, to create something that sounds distinctly retro but equally new and fresh. My only criticism of the song is that it is a little on the short side: coming in at just-over 3 minutes long it is perfect for radio programming, but less suitable to gyrate instensely to on the dancefloor for long periods of time. But that’s just me being picky. The combination of two generations of funk, the masters and the students, is a winter delight.