Dope-idelic: The soul funk genesis and evolution of Paul Hill
By Chris Campbell
Sometimes you discover an artist whose sound hits you like a ton of bricks or an oncoming freight train. And when that sound reaches in and grabs your insides, it makes all other artists, bands, albums and sounds you may have encountered before that a moot point. That is the essence of a musical rapture and a movement.
Detroit-born and bred soul crooner Paul Hill is more than just a soul singer, he is a movement onto himself. His upward trajectory in the medium has been shaped by a number of significant influencers.
Hill came up on the music of soul men Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Frank Sinatra and Al Green, but it was under the tutelage of the President of the Mothership Connection, Mr. George Clinton that enabled and empowered Hill to find his voice and cultivate his inner groove.
Hill’s mark can be felt on the P-Funk brand in not only serving as a continuum in its constantly evolving organic soulful funk sound, but also on the stylistic and visual aesthetic of the collective.
But P-Funk isn’t the only reservoir from which Hill has had the opportunity to hone his craft. Hill has performed/toured/collaborated with and/or produced acts ranging from Beyonce and Prince to Alexander O’ Neal and New Edition’s Michael Bivins.
My introduction to Hill’s solo work was from his 6-song EP that featured the yearning soul opus “Need Me Some U,” which indicated that Hill would be a future tour de force to be reckoned with.
The track, which got a remix and re-imagining from the iconic Kenny Dixon Jr aka Moodymann would go on to worldwide acclaim, becoming a featured tune on global tastemaker Gilles Peterson’s “Brownswood Bubblers” compilation series.
With the release of his latest album “I Gotta E’Pee,” Hill stands poised to unleash a lifetime of high-quality musical craftsmanship and lyrical wordsmithing that will both stir the imagination and make listeners look inward at their capacity to love.
The 9-song album is a masterwork wrapped in cinematic sound-scaping, sensual lyrical poetry and spread across a canvas of mystical funk. The first and lead-off single “U’r Thoughts” features an impeccable cameo from friend and mentor George Clinton and is a rhythmic, rolling bluesy ditty that evokes late nights at a 1930s/1940s era juke joint patronized by a highly style-infused Harlem Renaissance-inspired clientele.
“Clone” follows a similar blueprint, while “The One” is an atmospheric and sensual romp which finds Hill opining for the object of his affection. “After Effects” and “Sexy Voice” are two mid-tempo ruminations that will easily translate to ballroom and hustle dance floors around the world as his rich tenor effortlessly glides in between various harmonies and melodies.
“4Life’ is an understated organically-syncopated ballad that percolates and brims with orchestral flushes while “Mama Proud” is an inspirational ode to Hill’s mother and by extension mothers everywhere, articulating a child’s natural inclination to make them proud.
“3’Ology” is a multi-layered, multi-textured meandering that nicely sets-up the album’s final track, “Till We Meet Again,” which brings the project to a powerful close with a stripped-down, almost acoustic-inflected alchemy, where Hill expresses his love to the object of his desire, but also by extension to his supporters and listening audience.
With “I Gotta E’Pee,” Hill has managed to present a release that will be seen as a foundational point of reference in the ever changing world of adult contemporary R & B/funk.
It is by all turns lush, bewitching, exhilarating and bluesy — a touchstone that adds another dimension to his already 3-dimensional musical palette.
Hill is the man that women want to be with and who men want to emulate. His elevated sense of romanticism on this masterwork recalls the great classic crooners such as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Marvin Gaye while incorporating contemporary thought styles and production techniques that will resonate with denizens of the global soul and electronic music community.
Hill keys in to the oft-discussed topic of love, but also touches on a deeper side of humanity in a breathtaking and unencumbered way. More importantly “I Gotta E’Pee” signals that Paul Hill is an artist ready to take flight and musically ascend to a higher level, one that elevates the heart, mind and inner groove of his growing legion of fans.
Hope you enjoy the ride and the view.
Chris Campbell is an author, taste maker, DJ and host of The Progressive Underground, a music show that broadcasts on National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate 101.9 FM WDET and is a correspondent for NPR Music (National Public Radio) penning reviews for its “Songs We Love,” and “Heavy Rotation” columns/segments. His books “The Essential Neo Soul” and “The Essential Neo Soul 2.0” chronicled the history of the progressive modern-day soul music movement.