Funk Upon A Rhyme, Kokane

Funk Upon A Rhyme, Kokane

Ruthless, 1994

We know Kokane for his numerous appearances as a guest and his ability to make sung choruses, a bit like Nate Dogg, but in his own style. We’ll see why a little later. Moreover, he steals Nate’s spotlight on Snoop Dogg’s album Tha Last Meal, released in 2000, where he does many choruses. Tha Last Meal is probably the album that made him discovered by the public, yet Kokane had already a long history in rap.

Born in New York to a singer mother and a composer father, Jerry Long quickly moved to Pomona, California. Here, he joined the 357 Gangster Crips gang where he met Cold 187um from Above The Law. Already in the middle of the 80’s, he starts to rap and sing, and is spotted by Eazy-E who signs him on Ruthless Records in 1989. Close to Above The Law, also signed on Ruthless, he will make several appearances on the albums of the label, in particular Livin’ Like Hustlers or on the soundtrack Deep Cover. Not being allowed to use his pseudo for legal reasons, he released his first album under the name of Who Am I? in 1991, Addictive Hip Hop Muzick. But at this time, Kokane did not yet have his characteristic style that makes him an attractive character, in fact his album passes rather unnoticed.

By the time he released Funk Upon A Rhyme in 1994, Ruthless was no longer in his heyday. Dr. Dre and Ice Cube are gone and blow them up with diss tracks. Both are also gone with the commercial success of Ruthless, and unfortunately, Kokane arrives a little late in the Ruthless period. However, he manages to forge a personality and a G-Funk style of his own, finally quite close to the style of Above The Law, which he helped create with Cold 187um on the achievements of the group, and especially on Black Mafia Life and Uncle Sam’s Curse.

Kokane is a personality with his characteristic saturated and raging voice. A personality comparable to an Ol’ Dirty Bastard on the East Coast. Completely out of control, his weed probably burns too slowly. Kokane is lost in his beats, concocted mainly by Cold 187um on keyboard and with Mike Smoth on guitar. Laid-back sung flow or fast and jerky flow, he varies with excellence the rhythms. These sung refrains are excellent with his squeaky voice, present on most of the tracks of the album. His funk bangs are told throughout the album with a wacky sense of humor. Mo Water’s sexually suggested is simply amusing. He doesn’t forget to blast Snoop, Dr. Dre and Death Row, accompanied by Cold 187um for almost 9 minutes on Don’t Bite The Phunk. The Alkaholiks make an appearance on All Bark No Bite, just to quench their thirst from the excessive smoking.

The album doesn’t follow any structure, the choruses and verses are intermingled without any real coherence. In fact, it looks a bit like George Clinton rap version, with the completely delirious mimics of the first mentioned. Kokane plays with the rhythms and appropriates them without any cohesion with abstract and smoky lyrics. It’s both furious and confusing.

Cold 187um includes a lot of P-Funk samples. It sounds G-Funk, but not of a genre we’re used to. The ultra-high and saturated synth riffs rape our ears, very present on From The Funk To The Back. As on the cover, they make the vinyl grind with razor blades, it’s abrasive. The melody is there, the tunes are funky, there is a messy side, with a lot of back vocals, a kind of chaos under control. Fantastic G-Funk beats with super heavy bass lines and big, whiny, shrill synths, just like Kokane’s voice. The beats are definitely made for him. A sort of mix between George Clinton funk and West Coast rap for an extravagant G-Funk mix where Kokane tames the rhythm.

What did I listen to? Ah yes, Kokane, it’s probably the most delirious album I’ve listened to. Experimental G-Funk, very trippy. It goes further than G-Funk, it’s eccentric, it’s smoky, it creeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaks.

By Grégoire Zasa

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