The old dog can learn new tricks, but are the tricks worth learning?
An elder statesman takes on the sounds he helped invent while using constant dog imagery. The jokes write themselves.
George Clinton knows he’s an old (Atomic) dog. Once Funk faded from the popular consciousness, his long reign was recast through scores of rappers, producers and DJs who worshiped at the altar of Funkadelic-Parliament. “Atomic Dog” became one of the most sampled songs of all time and his name became shorthand for grooviness with a side of LSD. His solo run in the late ‘80s and ‘90s didn’t yield anything even in the same galaxy as his previous work, but his legend still grew. Though he didn’t see a cent from all that sample flipping. But a series of co-signs and reverent songs throughout this century seemed to reinvigorate him.
So in 2018 he reformed Parliament while proclaiming he’d quit from touring, likely making Medicaid Fraud Dogg the last of this wonderful dynasty. But, despite the name on the tin, it’s not a straight Funk album. Trap, hip-house and a fair smattering of R&B are genre touches just as strong as the baseline groove. Clinton is relishing in the sounds he helped invent, at least inadvertently. A few lines flow like Kendrick Lamar impersonators swinging by, a nice nod to Clinton’s narrator role in To Pimp a Butterfly. It’s all over the goddamn place; nearly as much as the B-side collections that collapsed through a lack of cohesion. With the polished production, the raunchier winking comes off as tired. And the horny horns don’t sound too horny, instead they’re nearly elegant. The lounging beat of “Backwoods” deserves better than Tracey “TRA’ZAE” Clinton’s wavering rapping, though his singing is soulful. And if all of that sounds nuts, let’s talk about the nearly two hour run time.
There is absolutely no reason for Medicaid Fraud Dogg to be this long. Even the epic scope of To Pimp a Butterfly can’t match this absurd hour and 50 run time. The length does create a druggy, surreal feeling to accent the lyrical haze around drugs, but good lord there are more subtle ways to do it. There’s a good album somewhere in here, but it damn sure isn’t two hours long.
But, despite occasional dad jokes like “Antisocial Media,” Clinton has a good handle on his successor’s work. “I’m Gon Make U Sick O’me” is stomping synth-funk with a modern, DAM-Funk twist and the opulent swing of “Pain Management” has Clinton flipping between Auto-Tune and his own croaked howl. Medicaid Fraud Dogg is never able to pinpoint a central ideal, but when Clinton’s harsh crow focuses on a deteriorating body, it’s at its most harrowing and strong.
But, eventually, Medicaid Fraud Dogg fades into the haze. Pleasant, but incubational. Clinton ditching the animal suits and rhinestones for the Future branded shades is admirable, and shows Clinton’s flexibility is still one of his finest talents. The old dog can learn new tricks, but are the tricks worth learning? Medicaid Fraud Dogg doesn’t give any answers, nor does Clinton.