The Track That Built Hip-Hop: James Brown Band's Clyde Stubblefield's Funky Drummer

Posted by Billyjam, June 14, 2010 01:45pm | Post a Comment

The PBS documentary that aired earlier this year, Copyright Criminals, was all about sampling in hip-hop and other contemporary music forms. There was a wonderful segment in which they focused on James Brown's drummer Clyde Stubblefield, who got little or no credit for one of his most influential & sampled pieces. The Chattanooga, Tennessee- born funk drummer was a member of James Brown's band during some of the most exciting years and, as such, he was responsible for the drumming on such classic Brown recordings as "Cold Sweat," "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud," "There Was A Time," "I Got The Feelin'," "Mother Popcorn," and "Ain't It Funky Now."

But it was Stubblefield's simple but funky and hypnotic drum pattern on the James Brown track "Funky Drummer" that would become the artist's greatest legacy, even though he didn't initially get the full credit for it. The song, which would go on to become the most sampled tracks in hip-hop music, was widely utilized by artists in the late 80's and early 90's (and beyond, too) who, generally speaking, did not give proper credit to the song's creators. In the documentary Stubblefield talks about the disappointment he felt for not getting credited for his work so many times. In fact  even when the "Funky Drummer" was credited, it was typically James Brown who was given credit for the original, not Stubblefield. But as time goes on, more and more people know who the "funky drummer" is and give the man his props.

"Funky Drummer"

Artists that have sampled "Funky Drummer" include Public Enemy, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Ultramagnetic MCs, Beastie Boys, De La Soul, Gang Starr, Geto Boys, NWA, Eric B & Rakim, Ice Cube, The Pharcyde, Run DMC, Above The Law, and Biz Markie.

Some of the non hip-hop artists to have sampled the song over the years include George Michael, Sinead O'Connor, Fine Young Cannibals, Sublime, Front Line Assembly, Korn and Pizzicato Five. Below is a list of many (but not nearly all) of the songs that sampled the "Funky Drummer" track plus some videos of songs with the sample. Immediately below is a 2008 clip from Canada of the artist talking to Marley Marl about "Funky Drummer" and also giving a musical sample.

Clyde Stubblefield interviewed by Marley Marl about "Funky Drummer"


Public Enemy
Public Enemy
: "She Watch Channel Zero" +  "Fight the Power" + "Hazy Shade of Criminal" + "Rebel Without a Pause" + "Bring the Noise"

DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince: "Jazzy's Groove" + "The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff" + "Hip Hop Dancer's Theme" + "Pump Up the Bass"

LL Cool J: "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" + "The Boomin System" + "Mama Said Knock You Out"

Run-DMC: "Run's House" + "Beats to the Rhyme"

Ultramagnetic MC's: "Moe Love on the 1 and 2"

Kool G Rap & DJ Polo: "It's a Demo"

De La Soul: "Oodles of O's" + "The Magic Number"

Eric B. & Rakim: "Lyrics of Fury" + "Relax With Pep"

Bomb the Bass: "Beat Dis (UK Extended Dis)"

Ice CubeColdcut: "Say Kids What Time Is It?"

DJ Shadow: "Lesson 4"

Dan the Automator: "Music to Be Murdered By"

Z-Trip: "Rockstar" + "Rockstar II"

Above the Law: "What Cha Can Prove" + "Untouchable"

Ice Cube: "Jackin' for Beats"

N.W.A: "Fuck tha Police" + "Live Intro (1989)"

Dr. Dre: "Let Me Ride"

The Pharcyde: "Officer"

Brand New Heavies feat. The Pharcyde:
"Soul Flower"

Geto Boys: "Mind of a Lunatic"

Mellow Man Ace: "River Cubano"

MC Lyte: "Search 4 the Lyte"

Naughty by Nature: "Hip Hop Hooray"

Jewel-T: "I Like It Loud"

Biz Markie: "Spring Again"

Common: "Blows to the Head"

Mos Def:

Nas: "Get Down"

Digable Planets: "Where I'm From"

Cash Money & Marvelous: "Marvelous' Drawers"

Underground Posse:
"Gangsta/Hype Mix"

Solar Twins: "Rock the Casbah"

The 45 King feat. Lakim Shabazz: "When a Wise Man Speaks"

Stetsasonic: "Sally"

The Stop the Violence Movement: "Self Destruction"

Super Lover Cee & Casanova Rud: "I'm Back" + "Do the James"

Sir Mix-a-Lot: "No Holds Barred"

Maestro Fresh Wes: "Let Your Backbone Slide"

Big Daddy Kane:
"Mortal Combat"

"Blasé Blasé"

Snowman: "Funk-It-Up"

Beastie Boys: "Shadrach"

Lightnin Lee and Poppy P: "Big Time Chillin"

Kwamé: "The Rhythm"

Kris Kross: "Jump (Super Cat Mix)"

True Mathematics: "For the Lover in You"
Gang Starr: "2 Deep"

Sir Fresh & DJ Critical: "Sir-Vere"

Aaron Dee and C-Nice: "Born to Rap"

Marauder and the Fury: "Get Loose Mother Goose"

Awesome Dre and The Hardcore Committee: "Frankly Speaking"

2 Live Crew: "Coolin'"

Breeze: "Great Big Freak"

Credit to the Nation: "Call It What You Want"

Jaz feat. Jay-Z: "The Originators"

Mellow Man Ace feat. Cypress Hill:
"Hypest From Cypress"

Fader Gladiator: "Battle of the Planets"

MC Player:
"Heavy Metal Microphone Maniac"

Ligit: "Settin' It Strate"

Lethal Bizzle feat. Donaeo: "Go Hard"

Marvelous JC: "Get a Grip"

The Hard Boys: "Groupies"

Grandmaster Flash:
"Fastest Man Alive"

Kev E Kev and AK B: "Listen to the Man"

Sweet Talking J: "Come on Baby and Dance"

Sweet Tee and Jazzy Joyce: "It's My Beat"

Hostyle: "Partners in Crime"

Lupe Fiasco: "The Cool"

Ludacris: "Two Miles an Hour"

Daedelus: "Lights Out"

Candy Flip:
"Strawberry Fields Forever"

Alyson Williams: "Sleep Talk"

Enigma: "Carly's Song"

Front Line Assembly: "The Blade"

Korn & The Dust Brothers: "Kick the P.A."

Sublime: "Scarlet Begonias"

DJ Icey: "Tricks Theme"

George Michael: "Waiting for That Day"

Sinead O'Connor: "I Am Stretched on Your Grave"

Fine Young Cannibals: "I'm Not the Man I Used to Be"

Pizzicato Five: "Baby Love Child"

Baby D: "Let Me Be Your Fantasy"

James L. Venable: "Powerpuff Girls Theme"

Vanilla Ice: "Stop That Train"

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James Brown (30), Clyde Stubblefield (1)