The legendary godfather of P-Funk, George Clinton has created a sound and established a musical legacy that spans decades and is continuing to branch out, through his musically gifted family.
The current ensemble of Parliament Funkadelic that travels the world touring includes, the next generation of the Clinton family tree, his grand-daughters Patavian Lewis and Tonysha Nelson.
The longevity for Parliament Funkadelic comes through in their music and live performances. It is a whole package from the eclectic space like vibes, trippy voice changes, and uplifting beats, P–Funk will have you floating through an utterly unfamiliar dimension of music.
“Music is supposed to speak to people. When you feel it, you just feel it,” Nelson explained. “Every time the song, Maggot Brain is played during one of our live performances, I can look into the audience and see the crowd just vibing. It is simply a guitar and drums and to watch all kinds of different people, some with their eyes closed in their own place just appreciating the music.”
One day, while watching cartoons, Clinton had the idea that it was far more interesting for the band to masquerade as characters than to be themselves. His thought process was people will get old, but a good character could live forever.
Combining the split personality of Parliament and Funkadelic, actually evolved from contractual complications, and brought to the forefront the importance of having a strong persona.
During the early 1970s, Funkadelic were woven with the Detroit rock scene, matching the wailing anarchy of proto-punk acts like the MC5 and the Stooges.
When the new vision got amped up, the band members began dressing in costumes ranging from diapers, spacesuits, martial-arts uniforms and wizards’ robes. P-Funk’s songs and album took on a whole different look with sleeves sketched out an extended, predominantly black cosmos of heroes and villains.
The group combined the hard rock of Jimi Hendrix, the funky rhythms of James Brown, and the show stopping style of Sly and the Family Stone to fashion an outrageous tribal funk experience. P-Funk emphasized the aesthetics of funk as a means of self-fulfillment; to “give up the funk” meant to achieve transcendence.
More than a hundred and seventy people have played in Funkadelic and its alter-ego band, Parliament, commonly referred to together as P-Funk. This doesn’t include the twenty or so bands that have spun off from the core.
Both Lewis and Nelson are aiming to make this list of bands and much more.
Birth of Kandy Apple Redd
Nelson and her cousin Patavian Lewis have been singing together since they were kids. Lewis is four years older than Nelson, and has played a mentoring role with helping her appreciate and embrace her singing voice.
For Nelson, the music industry was love at first sight. She leaped in headfirst as a young child, with her mother managing Clinton’s career and being able to find her own singing voice. These were the moments that helped shape her for wanting to make this her profession of choice.
“As a kid it is an eye popping experience, getting to travel everywhere, to sitting inside a limousine and even riding on a private jet,” Nelson said. “I was lucky to have the access that I had from such a young age. From attending concerts beginning when I was really young to having access to recording studios. This all played a part in my own destiny.”
At age four Nelson, tells a story about her grandfather George Clinton working on an album called Dope Dog. The duo got their official debut as they were allowed to be on a song, which included Lewis rapping lyrics during the entire song and Nelson doing ad libs.
“Really, I was just born right into the music industry. My first time being in a recording studio, I was only four years-old and got to take part in recording a song.” Nelson said.
When Nelson and Lewis were in their early teens they approached the family and shared their intentions of becoming a singing group and wanting to pursue their musical passions at the next level.
Next thing on their list was to find an appropriate name, which is no easy task.
Nelson pointed out, that after some lengthy discussions the duo thought they had a winner with the name ‘Model Citizens,’ until they went to register and trademark the name and it was already taken.
They went back to the drawing board, until Clip Payne from the Parliament Funkadelic band made his suggestion with ‘Kandy Apple Redd.’
“At first we hated it. We thought it sounded too provocative and freaky,” Nelson said. “We had actually passed on the name for a good six months and kept searching for other possible names.”
Maybe it was meant to be, as Nelson and Lewis kept trying different names, but ended up revisiting the ‘Kandy Apple Redd’ idea. This time it felt different and had a certain ring to it. They both agreed to move forward with it.
At 20 years-old, George Clinton allowed his grand-daughter, Tonysha to begin touring with Parliament Funkadelic. This opportunity allowed Nelson a creative space and opportunity to showcase her skills by singing background on the band’s famous musical library of songs.
Clinton also allowed his grand-daughters an opportunity to perform some of their own songs in front of sold out shows and packed venues.
“To be able to have the opportunity to have that kind of platform, when we both started out was amazing,” Nelson said. “I was really excited. Not too many music artists can say their first opportunities on stage were with a mega group.”
Perception is Reality Or?
Nelson and Lewis were motivated and driven to achieve their dreams of taking Kandy Apple Redd to that next plateau.
One of the challenges they began to run into is music executives and producers having their own vision of what they should be. When the music industry movers and shakers, were aware of their relation to their famous grandfather things would get shall we say ‘interesting.’
“When you come from a musical legacy, people have their own preconceived opinions and thoughts of what your music should look and sound like,” Nelson said. “This can have its pros and cons, as they will definitely listen to your music, since they are aware of your family connection, but sometimes you really want to remind people that we are our own entity.”
The image the talented ladies of Kandy Apple Redd are striving for is a classy, professional R&B singing duo showcasing their vocal skills while not afraid to try different things musically.
While touring with Parliament Funkadelic, the ladies are taking their frequent flier miles into the VIP gold level hitting between 150 -200 cities during the course of a year. They have been able to perfect their craft while learning about the business side.
“It has been super beneficial, as I love the singing and performing on stage part of live performances,” Nelson said. “Besides the actual shows, I help out with the itinerary, booking the hotels for the band and things of that nature.”
Nelson took a course specializing in concerts and touring at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, which has helped her immensely with some of her administrative duties.
‘The Creative Flow’
Currently, Kandy Apple Redd has close to 30 songs in their catalogue. Not all of them have been released to fans and admirers.
When they are combining their artistic contributions, Nelson explained that typically she will come up with a concept and her cousin is a poet that will formulate the best way to word the lyrics.
“We work really well together,” Nelson said. “When we are fully aligned with a creative idea and work through things to put it in motion, it is like fire. It is amazing watching everything from start to finish.”
Two tracks that are available on all streaming platforms are “All I Want” and “This Club.”
Nelson explained that the single “All I Want” is simple and sexy, and is inspired by Motown legend Marvin Gaye’s hit “I Want You.”
According to Nelson, the second track, “This Club,” has a strong 90’s R&B flavour, with an upbeat theme.
No one can predict the future. Nelson pointed out that in July 2021, her grandfather will be turning 80 years-old and she doesn’t foresee the band continuing to tour at the same pace as they have the last few years.
In the meantime, Nelson is working on both her music and providing guidance to both newcomers and others already involved in the music industry through her company ‘Funk the Influence.’
They had an impressive launch in February 2020 in Los Angeles, with a symposium featuring Clinton, along with founding member and bassist, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Nelson said the vision for ‘Funk the Influence’ is to educate, along with empowering and teaching music artists about the importance of branding.
She pointed out over the next few years, her goal is to build her own brand and would love for Kandy Apple Redd to become its own entity and household name.
“The ultimate goal (for Kandy Apple Redd) is to be able to share our music with others, along with being able to grow and blossom into its own brand and become a stand-alone entity,” Nelson said.
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