Funky Disco Party
When a mysterious three-song EP entitled Tuxedo Funk dropped two years ago, the music world took notice with a puzzled curiosity. Delivered via a heretofore unknown Twitter account, it arrived with one simple message: “Tuxedo is here! Stay classy, Twitter.” Full of infectious funk and disco grooves and flawlessly produced, the three songs were difficult to categorize into any existing genre. Though elements of the band’s sound recall various elements of pop, soul, funk and disco, Tuxedo’s mélange of flavors was completely unique. Topping it off, nobody was quite certain who or what could be behind these funky pop gems.
The speculation was finally cleared up when it was revealed that the members of Tuxedo are well-tenured, Grammy-winning producers Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One. While both are members of Los Angeles music label Stones Throw, Hawthorne has a background in poppy neo-soul, while Jake One has produced for some of hip-hop’s heaviest hitters, like Kendrick Lamar and Drake. Years prior, the two musicians had exchanged mixtapes, with future plans to collaborate. The future is now — the super-duo’s debut full length, Tuxedo, takes all of the promise heard on those initial tracks and expands on it without relying on much filler or diluting the dynamics.
In an interesting choice, the most radio-ready songs appear at the very end of Tuxedo. While quite a few of the first 10 songs could very well serve as singles and have hooks aplenty, they are mainly focused on delivering a funky groove to listeners. With a disco-violin intro, the album-opener, “Lost Lover,” is one such track that could find a place on Top 40 radio, as is the hooky vocal delivery of “Watch the Dance.” Maybe it is just the tuxedos talking, but most of these songs would be the perfect antidote to a gauche wedding playlist.
The guys in Tuxedo have the chops to slow things down from time to time as well. “Two Wrongs” has a soulfully-funky keyboard line and gentle falsetto vocals, giving off some seriously sexy vibes — move your baritone over, Barry White. “Get U Home” is another slowed-down track, and its funky reggae verses add an additional, if somewhat ill-fitting, dimension to Tuxedo’s sound. Throughout the album, it is no surprise that these are producers moonlighting as musicians, as the production is polished to a sparkling sheen.
Closing out the album are “Do It” and “Number One,” and as mentioned earlier, they are the two songs most suited for radio play. As a testament to its accessibility, “Do It” was sampled by rapper Pitbull as the backing track and hook for an album-cut on his Meltdown EP. Meanwhile, “Number One” borrows heavily from Snoop and Nate Dogg’s G-funk classic, “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None),” in the process transforming a song that would make Prince blush into a breezy, dance floor-ready ode to their “special lady.”
While this polished disco-funk project may get some additional attention for Hawthorne and Jake One, it is unlikely this project will ever become a full-time gig. Despite being a solidly fun record, Tuxedo feels extremely tongue-in-cheek and mainly just an opportunity for two hard-working and accomplished producers to goof around and blow off a little studio steam.