There’s no question that the mainstream music industry has been attempting to repackage funk through pop artists such as Pharrell Williams and Bruno Mars, but few groups have been able to channel the sharp percussion, blaring horns and tight rhythms that categorized the movement as seamlessly as the Grammy award-winning duo that make up Tuxedo.
Based on a partnership that began almost 10 years ago with the exchange of mixtapes, soul vocalist Mayer Hawthorne and veteran producer Jake One have combined their years of production, vocal, and composition experience into a ‘70s–inspired, self-titled debut album. Tuxedo combines the dance spirit of the funk era with modern sound engineering and DJ stylings to create a record that is as infectious as it is unique.
From its first track, Tuxedo’s emphasis on authentic funk percussion and modern synth rhythms make the album both deeply nostalgic and openly accessible. The album’s high production quality is no surprise considering One’s reputation as one of the most sought after producers on America’s west coast, boasting liner credits from hip-pop and rap artists including 50 Cent and Drake. One’s multi-instrumental, diverse creativity is pronounced in the catchy beats that characterize album tracks such as “Number One”, “Lost Lover” and “Tuxedo Groove”, all of which are coloured by strong synth and tight percussion backups.
Mayor Hawthorne’s soulful vocals shine through as the perfect backseat complement to One’s beats and instrumentals. Little imagination was put into the album’s vocal arrangement or lyrics, but their catchy, repetitive nature stay true to the record’s ‘70s inspiration.
Along with the creativity of the album is a playful, almost goofy commentary on the sultry nature of classic funk. This good natured humour paints the lyrics of tracks such as “Roll Along” and “Get U Home” which conjure up images of the smoky lounges and pastel-suited wedding bands that epitomised the funk era as much as the club-packing headliners.
Driving the satire home is the album’s final track, “Number One”, which is inspired by samples from Snoop Dogg’s raunchy 1993 track, “Ain’t No Fun.” With new lyrics and quiet horns, Tuxedo miraculously transforms the early rap single into a feel-good, pop-funk romance track. If that’s not imagination, nothing is.
It is this humorous honesty that keeps the album from falling into the trap of attempting to mimic the work of ‘70s staples such as Earth, Wind and Fire and the Commodores. Tuxedo is not attempting to join the Funk Hall of Fame: instead, the duo has sampled decade old styling while tying in their own hip-pop and soul backgrounds to make something danceable, fresh, and undeniably unique.