In 1988, Full Force, Brooklyn’s family of fresh funk artists, backed up the Godfather of Soul

By on August 28, 2019

Get ready to have your brains rocked with Full Force, “Brooklyn’s family of fresh funk artists,” as Pat Prescott tells us towards the end of this nearly hour-long vintage episode of “Night Flight” which first aired on July 8, 1988, and you’ll now find streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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“You’re looking at three brothers and three cousins, so when you speak with one you speak with all,” says the electro-funk band’s headbanded frontman “Bowlegged Lou” (Lucien George Jr.) at the beginning of this segment.

“We all listen to each other, so we work it well that way. While two are doing one project, and two are doing another project, all six may do it, or one may do it, but it’s all together.”

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The short segment actually features two videos, Full Force’s “Your Love Is So Def,” and “I’m Real,” one of their collaborations with the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, which was the title track of Brown’s then-recent album.

The latter video — directed by Nate Osbourne — divides time between Brown’s performance with Full Force, and inserted scenes of all sorts of faked-up groups — hip-hip, power pop and whatnot — that Brown felt weren’t the real deal (by 1988, literally every rap act with a contract had used samples of his music, even his horn blasts, on their records).

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Advertisements promoting the single’s release — published in industry rags like Billboard and black-oriented mags like Jet, Essence, and Ebony — quoted from Brown’s rant at the beginning of the song:

“All you copy cats out there get offa my tip! ‘Cause I’m James with Full Force — ain’t takin’ no lip!”

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Brown’s lyrical rap in “I’m Real” was essentially his way of staking his claim that he was not only the original rapper, but that he was frustrated that his music had been sampled over and over by contemporary hip-hop artists, often without credit.

He felt they weren’t giving him what he was owed (“take my voice off your record — until I’m paid in full!”) and had already refused to allow samples of his music to be used on tracks that he felt had a “negative” vibe.

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Brown, who was fifty-five years old in 1988, had already attempted to stake his claim as a still-relevant and major R&B and soul artist a few years earlier.

In 1985, he’d recorded “Living in America” for the Rocky IV soundtrack, and although it charted at #4 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 and spent eleven weeks on the pop charts, longtime fans were disappointed with the single’s schmaltzy sound.

This is actually what attracted Full Force to the idea of working with the Godfather of Soul, but the album I’m Real only managed to make it to #96 on the Billboard pop albums chart.

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Read more about Full Force below.

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The three brothers in Full Force are Bowlegged Lou, “B-Fine” (Brian George, in charge of drums and drum programming) and “Paul Anthony” (vocalist Paul Anthony George), and the three cousins are “Shy Shy” (bassist Junior Clark), “Curt T-T” (guitarist Curt Bedeau) and “Baby Gee (keyboardist Gerry Charles).

By the late ’80s, Full Force had already been a longtime presence on the R&B and hip-hop scene, since 1976, and they continue to the present day.

Their first big hit was co-writing and playing on Kurtis Blow‘s classic track “Basketball.”

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They’ve recorded for more than a half-dozen labels and have had hit-making associations (production, performing with, etc.) with acts like U.T.F.O. (producing the 1985 hip-hop classic, “Roxanne Roxanne”), Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam (“I Wonder If I Take You Home,” Head To Toe, “Lost In Emotion”), not to mention they’ve overseen and participated on projects with Samantha Fox, Patti LaBelle, B.B. King, Jasmine Guy, La Toya Jackson, Selena, the Force M.D.s, Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync, Rihanna, the Black Eyed Peas, Bob Dylan (they provided backing vocals on two tracks recorded during sessions for Infidels) and literally dozens or maybe hundreds more.

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Full Force are also noted for their appearances in Krush Groove (1985), House Party (1990), House Party 2 (1991) — as the gangster enemies of Kid ‘n Play — and other major motion pictures.

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In 2014, Bowlegged Lou told Vibe how they’d lined up the gig, working with the Godfather of Soul:

“I remember it like yesterday. James Brown was on Scotti Brothers Records at the time, and when we did an interview with Billboard we spoke of our love for Mr. Brown. We worshiped him… are you kidding me? And then Johnny Musso from Scotti Brothers got in touch with us and said, “Hey man, we heard about your love for Mr. Brown. How would Full Force love to do a whole James Brown album?” I was blown away. I got that phone call and was like, “Yes, let’s do it…we’re ready!” Then I remember going back to my brothers and my cousins in Full Force and I told them we were going to produce James Brown. They were literally jumping on me [laughs]. We were so excited.”

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In the interview, Bowlegged Lou goes on to say that they contacted Dan Hartman, who’d produced “Living in America,” for advice about working with Brown, and says that Hartman recommended that they call him “Mr. Brown.”

The single “I’m Real” charted at #2 R&B, and turned out to be Brown’s final chart hit (it was released after “Static,” another single from the album, which charted at #5 R&B).

Watch Full Force — with and without James Brown — in this July 8, 1988 episode of “Night Flight,” now streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.