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|Funky 4 + 1|
|Origin||Bronx, New York City|
Sugar Hill Records
|Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five
Funky 4 + 1 was an American hip hop group from The Bronx, New York. They were the first hip hop group to receive a recording deal, and the first to perform live on national television. The group was also notable for being the first to have a female MC.
Formed in 1976, the original four members were the Voice of K.K., aka K.K. Rockwell (Kevin Smith); Keith Keith (Keith Caesar); Sha Rock (Sharon Green); and Rahiem (Guy Todd Williams). The group was the first hip hop group to have a female MC, Sha Rock. Rahiem later left the group to join Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. Sha Rock temporarily left as well. They were replaced by Li'l Rodney C! (Rodney Stone) and MC Jazzy Jeff (Jeffrey Miree), becoming the New Funky Four. With the return of Sha Rock, they became the Funky Four Plus One More.
None of the Emcees were older than 17 when the group signed with the Enjoy label in 1979. The same year they released their first single "Rappin' and Rockin' the House" a 16-minute rhyme over interpolated elements of Cheryl Lynn's "Got To Be Real". The track was recorded by a live band led by drummer Pumpkin, arguably hip hop's first production hero.
Shortly afterwards the group switched to Sugarhill Records, losing the "Plus One More" and adding 4 + 1 suffix. The group made its debut for Sugarhill in 1980 with the 9-minute "That's the Joint" a song arranged by jazz-funk organist Clifton Jiggs Chase. Its performances at Bronx club parties included full-blown dance routines.
"That's the Joint" was interpolated from A Taste of Honey's "Rescue Me". Music critic Robert Christgau of The Village Voice named it the best song of the 1980s. In his 1981 review of the single, Christgau gave it an A rating and wrote of its musical significance, "The instrumental track, carried by Sugarhill bassist Doug Wimbish, is so compelling that for a while I listened to it alone on its B-side version. And the rapping is the peak of the form, not verbally--the debut has funnier words--but rhythmically. Quick tradeoffs and clamorous breaks vary the steady-flow rhyming of the individual MCs, and when it comes to Sha-Rock, Miss Plus One herself, who needs variation?"
The group never recorded a full studio album.
The group split up in 1983. After a dispute with Sugar Hill Records, Li'l Rodney C! and KK Rockwell left the group and started the Original Double Trouble. Sha Rock joined two other female rappers in Us Girls. MC Jazzy Jeff went on to have a solo career and scored a moderate hit with "King Heroin" on Zomba/Jive Records in 1985.
After leaving Sugar Hill, Rodney C! would marry Angie B (Angela Brown) of the Sequence, now better known as the Grammy-nominated soul singer Angie Stone.
In 2008, its song "That's The Joint" was ranked number 41 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop.