Only a slip of the tongue away from an obscenity, funk sure sounds like a dirty word. "People called it funk, 'cause that's what sex smells like," says Shorty, an up-and-coming DJ with a penchant for twanging bass riffs, outrageous horns, and beefed-up drums. "When I picture funk, I think of sticky fingers and sexy chocolate love."
In the mid-1950s, Little Richard and his band were the pioneers of impregnating rock and roll with drops of funkiness. Soon Little Richard was a born again Christian and his band joined up with James Brown and the Fabulous Flames. It all went uphill from there.
While funk began more than a half a century ago, the question remains: Do today's Taiwanese club-goer really get the funk? "They're close," says Shorty. "They're starting with top 40 hip-hop and going backwards. When they get sick of hearing the same thing, it's the natural progression to go back in time and find the good stuff."
Catch Shorty's brand of funk at On Tap, 49, Ln 309 Guangfu S Rd, Taipei (台北市光復南路49號309 巷), every Wednesday night.
The legendary Kool DJ Herc pioneered the global phenomenon that is now hip-hop by taking two copies of the same funk records and playing the breakdowns over and over. For a dime entrance fee, people would go to 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in Brooklyn and dance all their troubles away. This past week, the city of New York recognized the birthplace of hip-hop as a historical site, essentially saving it from being torn down and the gentrification that has been happening close by. Taiwan's "Bethlehem" of hip-hop, 249 Fuxing South Road (also known as TU), will be throwing its own block party every week starting next Wednesday with hosts Stereotypes.
Stereotypes consists of two Torontonians, THAT Guy and Cap, interchanging DJ and MC duty. This combo has been putting in the work by bringing in boundary-pushing DJs for Plush, Party Room, and Room 18 and holding down a monthly residency at Genesis, Taipei's poetry slam. Stepping into the weekly game is a bit different, especially when up against the successful Liquid Lifestyle Wednesday night Fresh parties at Luxy.
"We're different because we want to bring the movers and shakers who are truly defining street culture together," THAT Guy said. "This includes street fashion designers, musicians, and dancers. We want to get music lovers out from under the rocks and connect them together.
"Funk is the cornerstone of hip-hop. It's tragic that James Brown and artists like him aren't that well known," declares Cap. "Truthfully, a lot of people outside of the expat community aren't that familiar with funk and old-school hip-hop. Hip-hop is still relatively new in Taiwan and we are taking baby steps to introduce it. At the end of the day, we are about playing good music and having fun. But we want people to understand that there is more to hip-hop than Fatman Scoop and Crooklyn Clan. We know that we have to play commercial hits to keep that dance floor moving but in the end, we are trying to keep that funk flavor alive."