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Andy Clark
 
Funky 4 + 1
Funky 4 + 1
Funky 4 + 1 were one of the first hip-hop groups that contained a female MC and were certainly the first group of their kind that released records commercially. Further, the group were the among the first wave of Bronx crews to release records after the initial success of the Sugarhill Gang in 1979. The Funky 4 consisted of DJ Breakout, K.K. Rockwell, Keith Keith, Lil' Rodney Cee, Jazzy Jeff, and the "plus one" -- Sha Rock. Among DJ Breakout's peers in the early to mid-'70s were such hip-hop pioneers as DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash. In fact, one of the earlier members of the Funky 4 -- Raheim -- left to join Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, who was replaced by Lil' Rodney Cee. A unique aspect of the group was that Sha Rock wasn't portrayed as a sex object but was more or less considered equal among the male members of the group. Aside from the minor success of the all-female Sugarhill Records rap crew Sequence, Funky 4 + 1 signified the last moderate success of a woman in the rap industry until Roxanne Shanté and Salt-n-Pepa came along in the mid-'80s. Aside from the novelty of having a woman in their ranks, they are one of the most influential but overlooked old-school hip-hop groups -- having been sampled by a wide assortment of later hip-hop artists including the Beastie Boys (on their Paul's Boutique record). Along with Grandmaster Flash, they began recording 12" singles for Enjoy Records -- releasing what is considered the longest rap song ever: "Rappin' and Rockin' the House" (at over 15 minutes, it outlasts the lengthy "Rapper's Delight"). After they grew displeased with what they considered to be Enjoy's poor distribution, they followed Grandmaster Flash to the Sugarhill Records label. There they cut the all-time classic "That's the Joint" but never went on to release a full-length record. After only moderate success, the group went their separate ways in the early '80s with Lil' Rodney Cee and K.K. Rockwell forming Double Trouble and Sha Rock joining Lisa Lee and Debbie Dee as part of US Girls (who appeared in the 1984 film Beat Street). While no full-length ever was released by Funky 4 + 1, many of their singles can be found scattered on old-school hip-hop compilations. ~ Kembrew McLeod, Rovi
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