By JR Valrey, The Minister of Information
Elijah Baker is a multi-talented instrumentalist who is most known for his work with Tony, Toni, Tone although he had an extensive career playing behind Oakland rap legend Too Short, as well as leading his own band, Park Avenue, which features lead singer Adrian Marcel. With the Bay Area being one of the capitals of the Funk in the country, after having birthed Sly and the Family Stone, Tower of Power, and having Parliament record a live album in East Oakland’s Coliseum, the very gifted Elijah Baker is right online with the Bay’s Funk legacy, now that he has just dropped a solo funk album called “A Real Mother Funker”.
If you are a lover of Funk, live music, or even West coast HipHop, “A Real Mother Funker” is the album for you, considering that the West Coast’s Hip Hop sound was built on the Funk of the past generation, just listen to the music of Digital Underground, Ice Cube, Ant Banks, Paris, The Coup, Too Short, and Askari X for the evidence. Check out Elijah Baker as he gives us some music history, as well as some insight into how he is maintaining creatively through the pandemic.
JR Valrey: What is the story behind how you learned to play instruments?
Elijah Baker: I learned to play instruments from my father growing up as a kid. Him and his friends would always plug in, and play in the living room, gospel quartet music. We didn’t have many digital toys at that time, so when I saw that amplifier power light come on, that was like a toy to me, and I was interested ever since with my brother Eric.
JR Valrey: What defines Funk? And when did you fall in love with funk?
Elijah Baker: I fell in love with funk when I was a kid listening to Bootsy, Parliament, Brass Construction, Cameo. My older brother Greg used to always play funk in the house, and we grew up in a religious household. That’s how I fell in love with it.
JR Valrey: I know that you helped to write one of Tont, Toni, Tone’s classic hits with DJ Quik, how did that go down?
Elijah Baker: It was Raphael, myself, DJ Quik, and G1 in the studio recording “Let’s Get Down”. They pretty much completed the record, but towards the end there was a lot of dead space, so I told them that I had an idea to put this part right here, and that’s when I came up with the catch phrase, “I got to get my groove on”. I sung the whole line, in one take, and they all liked it. They all agreed with it, and it stuck. That’s how I became a part of that classic. Raphael, Dj Quik, and G1 approved it, that’s how I made the record.
JR Valrey: When did you get started recording your new album, “Real Mother Funker” and what is the concept behind it?
Elijah Baker: I started during the pandemic, in 2020. I was trying to complete my other project with 3TOB. We all had other projects going on, so I said let me do a funk record because I am really passionate about it, and no one is doing it any more, so let me take the initiative and bring real authentic funk back. So I called a lot of players, who I admire their style with the Funk, Derrick DOA Allen, John Roberts from Atlanta, and Greg Thomas from Chicago. I called some of my go-go cats, I-can and Scooby, out there in DC, and I called my nephew Tre Med out there in the South. I called Eric Walls in LA. I called Big Man. I called a lot of fellas like Jubu, of course, and the list goes on. I put together some MP3’s. Everybody was in their own house. I’d send them the MP3, and they would send it back, and I would piece it all together, and make “A Real Mother Funker”, a true funk record.
JR Valrey: “A Real Mother Funker” has a retro feel to it, what was your intention while you were making the record?
Elijah Baker: With “Real Mother Funker”, I just wanted to make some authentic Funk. I didn’t want to water it down. I didn’t want to compromise the sound because I love traditional Funk so I just wanted to stick to the traditional concept of live horns, live instruments, wurlitzer, guitar, bass, live drums. I just want to keep it authentic.
JR Valrey: How would you compare the music that you played with the Tonies to the sound of this album?
Elijah Baker: The Tonies was a real commercial project, we did things to get on the radio. My album is a lot more funkier, that’s always been my niche. I like quartet music and Funk so I don’t compromise it. We had to compromise it with radio because the guys were going for more of a pop feel/crossover and I just like Funk. I love it. So I just do what I love.That would make it different from the Tonies album, I’m not going to compromise the Funk. I’m just going to play what I feel in my heart. It’s not for the radio.
JR Valrey: What’s been going on with your group Park Avenue?
Elijah Baker: Well, Park Avenue is a neighborhood full of talented musicians, and we just get together to put a record together. It’s all my concept. I just get together with a whole bunch of talented musicians, to put a record together to showcase everyone’s talent. I split the front mic with everybody, anybody gets to lead. When I write songs, I just write them how I hear them, and most of the time they are not in the right key for me to sing, so I just call who I hear for that record and put it together. So man, we will get together at another time and do another one. I just like to put a record out, and to caboose everybody’s careers, and give it a kick start. This is no life long thing, this is something that I like to do from time to time.
JR Valrey: How has the pandemic affected you musically, has it made you more creative or has it stumped your creativity?
Elijah Baker: Actually, it has made me more creative, you get a lot more thinking time. It’s like being confined, and being in jail, a lot of people don’t know about it, that’s when you get your most creative. That’s when you get the most creativity, being confined because you have time to think. It gave me the idea to definitely finish this record “A Real Mother Funker” with no problems.
JR Valrey: How could people purchase your record?
Elijah Baker: On all digital outlets, but if you really want to support me go to AmbitiousRecords.net is where I will see all of the money, me and the fellas.But if you need convenience, I’m on spotify, apple music, Tidal, youtube, you know all of the digital outlets streaming.
JR Valrey: How can people keep up with you online?
Elijah Baker: People can keep up with me online through Elijah _EB Baker on Instagram, Elijah EB Baker on Facebook, twitter, Elijah Baker 45 on Tik-Tok, Ambitious Records Inc on youtube, and that’s about it. Thank you for having me brother.