Like many people, I have a vivid, almost visceral memory of the first time I heard Parliament-Funkadelic, known to its votaries as P-Funk. The setting, profoundly unfunky, is the Upper East Side mansion of a world-renowned media icon. I’m sprawled on the carpet of an upstairs bedroom, savoring the acrid hospitality of his stoner son, my back braced against the bed as the blast from his floor-to-ceiling speakers really does tear the roof off the sucker—and, I feel certain, the attic and the servants’ quarters, too. More to the point, it tears the roof off my mind.
In the vast, sunlit vacancy thus created, something new is springing up. Ecological succession, fast-forwarded. It’s a thrumming, sentient forest. It’s an Afro-futurist dopamine machine. It’s a fugue at once gross and sublime: a living, burgeoning edifice of beats and beams, of riffs and hooks, of interlocking girders and entwined lianas, of words twirling absurdly on trapezes, blithely defying the depths of unmeaning below.