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Is Funk Still Fly When Used in Commercials?

July 13, 2002|Oscar Garza and Greg Braxton

In case you haven't noticed, funk is making an in-yo'-face return.

Eddie Griffin is bouncin' a big Afro in "Undercover Brother," Beyonce Knowles will be flouncin' an even bigger 'fro in "Austin Powers in Goldmember," George Clinton and Bootsy Collins are layin' it down in those time-warp Nike commercials, and "Strawberry Letter 23"--that ultracool slice of '70s funk--is the soundtrack to ... a TV spot for Special K Red Berries cereal?

Yep, that's what you hear as someone prepares their breakfast bowl, adding strawberries (get it?) to the mix.

We're happy for songwriter Shuggie Otis, who's collecting royalties, but why is it buggin' us that this song is being used to sell cereal?

On the other hand, is it any different than the High Priests of Funk selling sneakers?

We could've asked the responsible advertising parties for their take, but instead we opted for Aaron McGruder, creator of the irreverent, Afro-centric cartoon strip, "The Boondocks."

"I love all that music, and the Nike commercial with Snoop was really fly," said the cartoonist. "But I really hate it when a song I like turns up in a commercial, because then I can't hear the song without thinking of the commercial."

Case in point: The shampoo commercial that incorporated the Isley Brothers' classic, "Who's That Lady."

"I just hated that," McGruder said. "I would just scream."

Bottom line: "I hate to see anything good used for corporate ends. Black culture has always been at the vanguard of popular culture, and I'm very anti-advertising. Funk is this incredible music form that's not going anywhere. I just hate that it's being used for this."

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