Best Funk Guitarist

B'nai Rebelfront

The guitar remains an essential element of funk music. Yet funk guitarists rarely get their props, often being obscured by flashier lead singers (see: Ernie Isley) and/or extra-colorful band members (see: Michael Hampton). Funk is an ensemble music, and though its axemen have been known to toss off jaw-dropping solos (see: Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain”), they’re not as celebrated as their heavy metal counterparts, most likely due to the fact that the genre emphasizes rhythm and groove over metallic bombast. Still, if the Guitar Hero videogame ever comes out with a funk edition, our pick for placement alongside such notable funkmeisters as Jesse Johnson, Eddie Hazel, and Isaac Hayes is Oakland’s B’nai Rebelfront. Discovered by Prince alumni Rosie Gaines at the young age of eighteen, Rebelfront has proved his live mettle over the years as the six-string slinger for Lyrics Born and the Coup. In recent months he’s been stepping out of the sideman shadows and moving to the front of the stage with his own material that’s funkier than a mosquito’s tweeter. Obvious influences — from Hendrix to Hampton to the Purple One — abound in Rebelfront’s sound, a mixture of R&B, soul, rock, (and, duh, funk), which recalls both ’70s Funkadelic and the early ’80s Minneapolis sound. Rebelfront is still coming into his own as a singer, but as a guitar player he’s already there. If you’ve been lucky enough to catch him live, you know he can shred with the best of them — or simply lay down tasty melodic nuggets of blissful groove.

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