Friday, December 5, 2014

Living Colour, "Funny Vibe"

The single remix and music video for "Funny Vibe" are helplessly stuck in the 1980s, but its message sadly isn't.

I don't know whose idea it was to give "Funny Vibe" a pop-rap remix, complete with the most embarrassing tagalong rapper this side of the New Power Generation's Tony M., but thankfully it's the original, from Living Colour's still-smashing Vivid, which graces the band's setlists. Exhibit A for Will Calhoun's Drum God status.

As a grade school boy falling in love with heavy metal, this song made me a little uncomfortable when I first pored over Vivid. I didn't think Corey Glover was going to rob, beat or rape anyone--why would he even bring that up? Even Vernon Reid's jangling, complicated leads are discomforting. There weren't any riffs or hooks to latch onto, like "Cult of Personality" or "Glamour Boys." Change the joke and slip the yoke...

Growing up with progressive schools and families, I was taught about acceptance and diversity from an early age, never getting a decent sense of issues with names like Driving While Black, Racial Profiling or Fear of a Black Planet. But Living Colour dropped them on my doorstep (even the last one--"Funny Vibe" includes guest spots from Chuck D and Flavor Flav, three years before they teamed up with Anthrax.) "Funny Vibe" weirded me out. I didn't associate my unease with racism, but by putting those thoughts about rape, robbery and assault in my mind, Living Colour taught me more about the way people saw them than they ever would have by singing "White people think I'm a bad guy." For a kid who believed racism was solved at the end of Eyes on the Prize II, it was quite a shock.

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