Parliament – “Chocolate City” 45
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2009
Though the shoddy quality of the vinyl makes this track pretty difficult to listen to, the fantastic satire of Parliament’s “Chocolate City” comes through loud and clear. “God bless CC and its vanilla suburbs,” George Clinton sings midway through a song full of excellent one-liners. “They still call it the White House, but that’s a temporary condition too, can you dig it CC?” is a great one. Clinton & Co strike a perfect balance of tongue-and-cheek (“Richard Pryor, secretary of education”) and searing social commentary (“Hey, uh, we didn’t get our forty acres and a mule/ But we did get you, CC, heh, yeah”). Where Parliament are best known for their weirdness and unbeatable funkiness, “Chocolate City” grooves on a powerful, yet minimalist bass line, some synthesizers, terrific backing vocals, and a spoken word delivery to pay tribute to the inner cities abandoned by white folks and acquired by African-American communities almost by proxy. Though the song has a fine sense of humor, it has an even finer desire to forge a sense of unity, community, and pride amongst the inhabitants of the “Chocolate Cities” popping up across America throughout the 70s (“We’ve got Newark/ We’ve got Gary/ Someone even told me we got LA/ And we’re working on Atlanta”). It’s potent stuff, perfect for a college essay on America’s often troubled relationship with African-American culture.