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When Trouble Funk Live—Straight Up Funk Go-Go Style was first released in 1981, the title was the only graphic gracing the album’s white cover. Due to the indie budgets of pre-hype go-go bands, skimping on cover art was pretty much unavoidable. With the album’s re-release on Infinite Zero (it was the first album Zero honchos Henry Rollins and Rick Rubin discussed releasing on their reissue-only label, though not the first to make it to the bins), a bit of color has been added to the CD jacket, though it’s hardly your typical scrapbook-included stocking stuffer. The titles of the four songs on the album also receive the bare-bones treatment: “Part A,” “Part B,” “Part C,” and “Part D.”
“It’s hard,” says longtime TF keyman/ vocalist Robert “Syke Dyke” Reed. “We’ve never written a song list, ever. Sometimes we’ll be playing songs that haven’t been written. We’ll go into a state, and they’ll be shouting hook lines. Someone might say like, ‘Doorknob, pull it.’ Just talking. Next thing you know we’ll be onstage hollering, ‘Get the doorknob, huh. Let’s pull it, huh.’ And we’re into the groove.”
Getting into the groove is still the primary function of this seminal crew, disciples of the JB’s and P-Funk, but godfathers of hiphop. Even though several Trouble Funk reissue projects, including a compilation of pre-Drop the Bomb 12-inches scheduled for holiday release with possibly more to follow, might indicate a “rebirth” for the band, the groove never really stopped. Besides the production projects Trouble Funk members have been doing with rap groups on both a local and national level, Reed says TF has been busy as an ambassador of go-go, upstaging everyone from Tito Puente to Def Leppard at festivals in Europe and Asia.
“The thing with Trouble Funk is we used to do a lot overseas,” says Reed. “We were so large. Even this record alone is gonna break so large overseas ’cause everybody wants that go-go groove. We’re like God overseas.”
With music industry heavies renewing their interest in the group, the Trouble Funkers will likely get another chance to become the rhythmic deities they deserve to be on their home turf. But don’t look for any of those elastic jams to be distilled for the benefit of those who’ve become interested in funk and hiphop by way of Roberta Flack.
“Trouble Funk never really wanted to change our sound to sell out,” Reed says. “It’s better to go out there a legend.”