Maroon wanted to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its cult favorite album The Funky Record this year. But it didn’t want to live entirely in the past, either.
So the hip-hop duo — Will E.P. (William Pflaum) and MK Chilly Dog (Cherrytree Music Company founder and Chairman Martin Kierszenbaum), who recorded the album while studying at the University of Michigan — reunited once again to record a new track, “Time Bomb,” which is premiering exclusively below and will precede an expanded reissued of The Funky Record that comes out April 27.
“We riffed on it over the phone — which sounds so antiquated. We should be doing it on some server or via email,” Kierszenbaum, who resides in Los Angeles while Pflaum lives on a farm in upstate New York, tells Billboard. “We came up with the idea about having 20/20 vision — hindsight is 20/20. We got kind of obsessed with that whole idea of time capsules. That’s what Maroon is, a message from your younger self into the future, especially since hip-hop became so huge, so much bigger than it was when we started listening to it and doing our own.”
“Time Bomb” references Maroon’s adventures in the genre, from homegrown DIY escapades in Ann Arbor to trips to New York to hype themselves to record labels, attend the New Music Seminar and audition their material for the influential Stanley Platzner at his Music Factory store in Times Square. “‘Time Bomb’ just seemed like a funny way to look back on all of that,” says Kierszenbaum, who recorded the track at Cherrytree Studios in Los Angeles while capturing Pflaum’s vocals in New York. “We also played with the concept of how when you’re young, old guys are a bunch of losers and it’s funny that those young guys are going to become old guys. It’s funny to be making music together 30 years later.”
Pflaum continues that, “Any time in life you might say, ‘If I could go back and talk to my younger self…’ You can’t, but your younger self is still a lot of your older self. Your younger self wouldn’t want your older self to say, ‘That guy was a loser.’ No, he’s not. He’s still there. So it’s that — and, plus, it’s fun.”
The Funky Record anniversary edition, which will include the set’s first digital release, will feature the original 13-song album plus another 13 bonus tracks, including singles such as “I Ain’t Runnin’ For Pope” and “Let The Music Take You Higher.” The album — which made Robert Christgau’s year-end best-of list in The Village Voice — will also include tracks Maroon recorded for its 15th (“Nitrogen”) and 25th (“Back To The Old School”) anniversaries. Def Jam President/CEO Paul Rosenberg wrote liner notes for the new collection, noting that “I’ve marveled at their bold, quirky and progressive work. The fact that they even existed in such a remote rap place given the climate of the music at the time is truly remarkable.” Pflaum also writes a lengthy letter about the group’s history.
Kierszenbaum — who went on to produce Sting (who he now manages), Lady Gaga, Robyn and others — is quick to note that he and Pflaum “weren’t huge by any means, but we were there,” which makes it valuable to have The Funky Record available again. “It’s very comprehensive — probably more Maroon than people want,” he notes. “But it’s nice to have a destination now for people to inquire and want to know.” And given his continuing work with Cherrytree, and Pflaum’s love of quiet rural life now, it’s unlikely Maroon will reactivate as a full-time concern — although Kierszenbaum notes that, “It depends on your definition of active. We do an anniversary track every five, 10 years — that’s not active?”
Which means we shouldn’t be surprised if we haven’t heard the last of Maroon, no matter how long it takes next time. “Will and I have stayed pretty close over the years, just as friends even if we haven’t made music consistently,” Kierszenbaum says. “And when we talk now it’s just like how we used to talk when we were 19.” Pflaum, meanwhile, adds that, “The genre of hip-hop came along when we were kids, and one of the things it’s about is friendship — being friends and being creative. That’s what it was then, that’s what it is now, for us at least. So what’s the difference?”