Music News

Baby Elephant

The idea of a collaboration between Prince Paul and Bernie Worrell — with guest appearances from George Clinton, Shock G, and others — is a self-fulfilling prophecy, right? The quirky hip-hop producer and the P-Funk keyboard wizard are going to make some sort of Dope Dogs '07, because, well, that's what they oughta do. That's what hip-hop guys do when they team up with Funkateers: They try and give the old guys a little relevance, and in turn, the young bucks get a few albums' worth of free, live "samples" to use at will. The thing is, in 2007, Prince Paul is just about as "old school" as Worrell (reality check: On Fire came out 21 years ago), and neither of them is likely harboring any illusions of breaking through to "the kids," so instead of doing what they oughta do, they're doing what they wanna do. In this regard, Baby Elephant delivers a gloriously self-indulgent piece of hip-hop-informed freak-funk that the Roots would give their hairpicks for. Well aware of their stature as icons — and iconoclasts — within their respective genres, Paul and Bernie use their position as a license to be creative rather than an edict to be redundant; thus, the P-Funkiest cut on Turn My Teeth Up! features David Byrne, and the fluffiest pop tune includes George Clinton. That's not to say that Baby Elephant doesn't deliver the funk; indeed, "Even Stranger" grinds along a rumbling, hard-driving organ line so relentlessly raunchy that it shames much of the work Worrell did inside the Mothership. The self-aggrandizing samples and plugs for the upcoming Worrell documentary DVD that function as the disc's between-song skits are unnecessary: Just one listen to the broad palette of sounds Worrell engages on this disc is all you need to understand just how powerful a musician the man is.