Best Old-School Radio Programming

The History of Funk

Apparently the East Bay is now teeming with Friday night radio alternatives for the frugal (or misanthropic) music head. Can’t get out to the club? Just tune your radio dial to KPFA — yes, you heard right. Alongside its roster of bluegrass retrospectives and strident political talk shows, KPFA features the grittiest funk mixes you’ll find this side of 1984 (the year that 1,000-watt soul station KDIA Lucky 13 met its demise). Launched on UC Berkeley’s KALX in 1985, The History of Funk moved to KPFA seventeen years ago, after host Ricky Vincent sold Third World music director Bari Scott on a marathon James Brown tribute to protest the singer’s incarceration. Since then it’s garnered a large following, playing a nostalgia-based soundtrack of lesser-known garage bands and low-rider jams, alongside standard-bearers like Sly Stone, Bootsy Collins, and George Clinton. Laced with crunchy electric bass riffs, junk-your-trunk drum beats, busy horn sections, and peppy vocal hooks, the songs on History of Funk all have an infectious groove and real staying power. Not to mention that Vincent, who shouts out East Bay legends Benni B and G Spot as his DJ peers, has the perfect voice to host an old-school funk program. He’s deep and velvety in a way that would appeal to listeners across generations, and he’s one of the few DJs who can drop old-school slang without sounding contrived.

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