XL Middleton - From The Vaults Vol. 2 (CD)
In California, 80’s funk and 90’s west coast hip hop have always been clearly intertwined,” says CA native producer/funkster XL Middleton. “If you were into one, you were almost always into the other. As the modern funk movement has grown worldwide, I’ve seen a great interest taken in 80’s funk, or boogie, as some people refer to it. A lot of them don’t realize the connection - in the 90’s, when funk as a genre fell largely off the radar, west coast hip hop kept it alive by sampling it so heavily.” It’s this connection that XL seeks to reestablish. It’s something he feels has become forgotten because, as he puts it, “so many new fans of boogie and modern funk are coming from house or underground hip hop backgrounds. They’re going from J Dilla to D-Train; from 9th Wonder to Midnight Star. It’s an interesting transition. What I seek to do is to change the perception of what people consider ‘g-funk.’ I don’t want it to be thought of as threatening, unfriendly music. The production was often very sophisticated, and that feel - the sun shining, top down, riding past the palm trees feel - is something that’s still prevalent in funk today. I want people to see those roots.”
To that effect, XL’s “From The Vaults Vol. 2” is a collection of previously unreleased songs that run the gamut of all things considered funk. Some of the songs feature XL’s signature rapping style, while others find him singing notes in his unpolished, yet undeniably funky tone. Other songs on the album are fully instrumental, allowing XL to let the synths speak instead. Songs like “Standin By Yaself” effectively retool the slick, danceable sound of boogie, circa 1984, while more midtempo jams such as “I Can’t Be Cool” decisively channel the mood of a Warren G production from the mid-90’s. None of it is pastiche, however. Middleton generally avoids what he calls the “84 Style,” a label that can applied to new funk that seeks to imitate the old, without innovating or elevating the sound at all. “We know where our blueprints come from, and so does everyone who follows the genre. It’s not doing much for modern funk as a movement to just be duplicating our favorite records from the 80’s. You’ve got to put your own, fresh twist on it. That’s why it’s called ‘modern’ funk.