Fifty-something years is a long time to stay relevant in the music business, but that's what Clinton has done. Part musical genius, part social commentator and several parts showman, Clinton is still very much in the game.
Clinton, known for his outlandish costumes and multicolored dreadlocks, says it was crooner Frankie Lymon who originally inspired him to become a singer. "My first group was a doo-wop group, like the Temptations, like 'Good night, sweetheart, it's time to go,'" he sings over the phone. Fans might find it hard to believe that the man who brought them "Flashlight" and "The Atomic Dog" started off doing romantic ballads and four-part harmonies. "Some of them might," he admits. "But if they listen close they can hear Motown in what I do, and doo-wop evolved into Motown. Then funk [became] the DNA for hip-hop. Rock and roll, R&B, blues, gospel, you see them as different, but funk is the thread that goes through all of them.
Clinton, who is also in demand as a producer and featured artist, is heavily sampled by rap and hip-hop artists. "It's subliminal almost," says Dinkins. "The portion they sample is not the main portion of the song, but it's a valuable portion of the hook. Without that horn line or that bass line, or that drum phrase, it would totally change. If you think about it, funk music has a lot of space in it, meaning that there is not as much going on vocally as with a pop song, so that it's possible for rappers and hip-hop singers to put their voice to the music and keep a larger segment of the original hook or line."
Though he's popular with rappers, Clinton says he doesn't completely understand the hip-hop culture. "I can't get used to [rappers] saying the things they say to girls and then expecting them to make love to that," he laughs. "One guy was cursing this one girl out, and I said, 'Man, don't talk like that to that girl,' and she said, 'Oh, here comes Captain Save-a-Ho.'"
Mon., April 28, 2008