Bootsy Collins‘ music is at its best when he’s letting loose with his unique, over-the-top brand of unbridled funk insanity. The good news for disciples of P-Funk is that Collins’ singular madness shines through on the best tracks of his new album; the bad news is that it’s too often buried under a heavy coating of cheesy cameo appearances that bog down Collins’ own contributions to his record and prevent Tha Funk Capital of the World from being a great album.
Though he’s kept busy with a long list of side projects, including funk-metal supergroup Science Faxtion, Rock the Vote campaigns, and the online music school Funk University (as well as releasing one of the most entertaining holiday records of all time in 2006’s Christmas Is 4 Ever), Collins’ Tha Funk Capital of the World is his first studio release proper in almost a decade. The album gets off to a promising start with “Spreading Hope Like Dope”, a Bernie Worrell-backed spoken-word intro that wastes no time embedding into the P-Funk canon, telling a story about outer space, Bop Guns, and the “high trinity of funk”: James Brown, George Clinton, and Collins himself. (Collins’ former frontmen are name-checked throughout the album, as are many of his former collaborators and influences, which does give the album the feeling of a legend reflecting on a long career – Collins has described this record as a “musical biography”). This introductory track feels like it fell off a vintage Parliament recording, and leads into the album’s best song, “Hip Hop @ Funk U”, which features guest vocals by Chuck D, Ice Cube, and little nephew Snoop Dogg.
The celebrity cameos don’t stop there: Tha Funk Capital of the World also features musical guest contributions by George Clinton, Bobby Womack, Bernie Worrell, Buckethead, Bela Fleck, and Victor Wooten; a few non-musicians, including Reverend Al Sharpton, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Joyner, and Cornel West; and even appearances by a few dead people, including Catfish Collins and clips from interviews with Jimi Hendrix. Unfortunately, only a handful of these cameos really work, and many feel like an appearance just for the gimmick’s sake. It makes for a fun first listen, but the disc doesn’t hold up well to multiple spins.
Speaking plainly, the cameo appearances quickly become exhausting, and when all of Tha Funk Capital of the World’s 16 song titles are followed by the word “featuring” and multiple names, it’s especially troublesome. Many of the guests (particularly the non-musicians) sound like they’re having a lot of fun on the record, but regrettably, they’re often having a better time than the listener. Throw in a few real dud songs (“The Real Deal”, “Kool Whip”, “Silento Bombo”) and you’ve got an album that fails to live up to what it could and should have been. When Collins’ distinctive voice and bass work have been limited to side projects and guest appearances on others’ albums for this long, it’s disappointing when he seems to be hiding on his own album.