Scot Brown, associate professor of history at UCLA, focused on the innovative techniques of Roger Troutman, a key figure in bringing national recognition to funk music with his “talk box style,” in a talk Thursday on the post-war period Ohio music scene.
In his lecture at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, Brown described Troutman as an innovator because he used the talk box, which alters the vocal and instrumental frequencies, as a “laboratory of technology,” allowing him to “mix traditional sounds with futuristic ones.” This technique was harnessed by Ohio funk musicians of the ’60s and ’70s, such as Troutman’s Zapp band and the Ohio Players, who defined the genre.
Throughout the lecture, the audience enjoyed samples of Troutman’s music, including one of his most widely recognizable pieces, “More Bounce to the Ounce.” The song popularized the use of the talk box throughout the music world well into the 1990s.
Brown said that funk played an important and unique role in music’s evolution from the post-war period to the present. While soul became closely associated with the civil-rights movements and hip-hop with the rising role of industry, Brown said funk could be identified as a transitional music form that followed the decline of soul and ushered in the ascendancy of hip-hop.
According to Brown, Troutman’s legacy continues in the works of hip-hop artists such as Tupac Shakur, T-Pain, and Snoop Dogg, who introduce his music to new generations of music listeners. Troutman’s music has been sampled by a host of contemporary artists in songs like Tupac’s “California Love” and Notorious B.I.G.’s “Going Back to Cali.”
“Roger’s contribution to a sound… has constantly resurfaced as a kind of imposition. An example of the past imposing itself on the present,” said Brown.