The late great George Duke was a master of the musical approach he termed “Funny Funk” in a 1974 song on his album “Feel.” He’s not alone in this category, sharing the ability with esteemed funkers such as Rufus Thomas, The Time, Joe Tex, Jimmy Castor, Junie Morrison and of course George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and their Parlafunkadelicment Thang. In truth, most funk artists include some humorous asides in their songs, lyrics and grooves, but George Duke was a true master at it! Todays spooky funk song features Duke spinning a yarn about the type of incident that is humurous only in the tragicomic sense. “Creepin” is a tale of those folks who want to have their cake and eat it too, the people for whom “One Fun at a Time” simply will not do.
The song begins with a theatrical aside, George Duke playing some dramatic, tense, close piano intervals with a slight horror/troubled soap opera feel while the drummer John Roberts plays some simmering cymbals. George is rapping with bassist Christian McBride, telling him he saw his woman doing something she “shouldn’t be doing” recently. Before long the sinister groove kicks in, a funky riff influenced by the old horror film music. The groove weighs in as extra large on the funk scale because its played by Christian McBride’s upright bass, teh bass clef notes of George Duke’s piano, a muted guitar, some sort of synth string patch and vocals singing in their deepest bass voice about a dude creeping at the club when his girl is asleep. Duke’s groove makes the act of stepping out on your loved one sounds like the truly precarious, harrowing experience it is, both in terms of the plots one has to undertake to make it out undetected as well as the emotional, financial and even physical danger the Midnight Creeper risks.
After the basic groove slithers its way in, a brief horn riff is introduced as well. The drumming is a tight, funky and slightly swinging modern day funk/hip hop fusion, taking that hip hop swinging drum style created on drum machines and putting it back in the hand of a live player. It could also be a mix of live and electronic drums. Along with the horn riffs Duke and co also deliever wordless spooky singing. This is followed by a more meditative passage where Christian McBride’s upright bass is allowed room to play a passage. When the lyrics return we learn you have to be “Jeckell and Hyde with a strong alibi” to creep. The acoustic bass passage returns with George Duke sprinkling some piano lines on top. Around 2 minutes and fifty two seconds in George Duke comes in with a acoustic piano solo, mainly spinning single note melody lines, very melodic yet very fluid at the same time, working all the way up to the high register of the piano. After that the spooky chorus comes back with more instructions/commentary on the methods of the Creeper. The song ends with a dramatic yet rhythmically funky string interlude, essentially sealing the fate of the Creeper for us.
George Duke and his band utilize their tremendous musical skills to have fun on this song, while also talking about something very serious. As I mentioned earlier, the predicament of the Creeper is truly tragicomic, as it sometimes includes hiding in cars, under beds, in closets and various other sundry places. Yet, people have always done it and will continue to get it in. It’s a tribute to Duke’s songwriting skills, mastery of music, and understanding of the human predicament that he made a jam about Creeping both humurous and spooky at the same time, just like the activity he was funking about!