Welcome, one and all, to Funkytown. Taking you through 20 years’ worth of funk music — from The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing” to The Whispers’ “Rock Steady” — Big Gigantic will be your tour guide today.
But first, a few words about your hosts. Made up of saxophonist Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken, Big Gigantic’s band members got their start performing in jazz and funk groups before teaming up to produce electronic hip-hop and dance music as a pair. From there, they became essential players in the 2010s-era EDM inception — but with a twist.
Instead of copying and pasting the time period’s trending blend of 808s and edgy synths, Big Gigantic added a unique layer of, that’s right, funk. It was only made possible, however, by doing something that was completely revolutionary for electronic music at the time: playing live instruments.
Rather than following suit and simply playing their beats using a set of equipment onstage, the duo committed to showcasing Lalli’s saxophone skills and Salken’s drumming prowess in real time at their performances. And as more and more people from places outside of their home state of Colorado started turning up to their concerts, they knew they’d done something right.
“Funk wasn’t cool until the last few years,” Salken told Billboard of Big Gigantic’s innovation. “Now it’s cool to play an instrument, whereas there was a period of time where these kids didn’t even know instruments existed. It was all electronic. Now, through electronic music, instruments have been brought back in. It’s a cycle for sure.”
At this point, the guys behind Big Gigantic are bona fide funk experts, which is why Billboard Dance asked them for their expert list of the genre’s 30 best songs ever. Keep reading to see their picks but proceed with caution: it’s about to get funky.