It's tough to tell when Clarence Reid is yanking your chain. An interview with the famous South Florida soul/disco songwriter and producer -- from awhile back when he headlined a Pimp 'N' Players Ball in Ybor City, FL -- immediately devolved into a rapid-fire volley of laughter, lyrics, anecdotes and apocrypha.
Regarding the taller tales, involving everyone from James Brown to Old Blue Eyes, Reid will warn you straight-up to check your facts before you print anything. One thing that's easy to believe, however, is that long before Clarence Reid had an R&B hit in 1969 with "Nobody but You Babe" or co-wrote Betty Wright's platinum 72 smash "Clean Up Woman," his raunchy alter ego, Blowfly, was gradually perfecting the art of the filthy sex-rap send-up.
Reid/Blowfly, who turns 60 on Valentine's Day and plays Charlotte on Friday, Jan. 20, is definitely serious about "shaving the bush, cause the bush gotta go!" Running with comedy-rapping heir Afroman as VP candidate, Blowfly outlines his "Blow-Fro 2008" party platform and "Pimpin' Policy" on Fahrenheit 69 (pun-intended), recently released on Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles. The bootylicious message of Reid's concept album -- with its campaign slogan, "I won't promise you'll all get paid, but vote for me and you'll all get laid" -- must reach all American voters before the next election.
Reid's funk-fabulous "Blowfly for President," which disses MTV, Clear Channel and the current vice president, echoes the George Clinton/Parliament masterpiece "Chocolate City," with its mandate to "paint the White House black." Blowfly's solution to the current oil crisis and environmental problems can be found in the bilingual Spanish-English "The Booty Bus," which taps the asses of minority voters. And the sing-songy "Diggin' Boogers" is his version of "Just Say No."
Blowfly is more than worthy of being the First Negro President (discounting Bill "Bubba" Clinton), his pioneering sex raps having long preceded hip-hop jesters and amateur pornographers including Too Short, Snoop, Ol' Dirty Bastard and those First Amendment poster boys of "Me So Horny" fame. As a youngster in Georgia, Reid says he went to work early to provide for his family, and blotted out long hours of labor by making up childishly dirty alternate lyrics to the popular tunes of the day. His own grandmother gave him his nickname when she overheard him singing; she pronounced him as nasty as the carrion-eating insect. "My grandmother hated it. The black people hated it. And the white girls loved it," Reid says with a laugh. "So I kept doing different stuff."
He soon left home and made his way to South Florida, entertaining and soliciting donations from those who picked him up hitchhiking by performing his perverted versions. A series of odd jobs and a boss who overheard his talents led him to gospel/R&B recording mogul Henry Stone, and jobs in Stone's warehouse and studio. During off hours, Reid recorded his first proper composition in 1962, a gender-bending dig at hippies called "Odd Balls." It was followed three years later by "Rap Dirty," a song many consider the first rap track, though it wasn't widely noticed until shortly after the Sugarhill Gang released the groundbreaking "Rapper's Delight" in 1979.
"Then they did some research, found out Blowfly went back to '62, '63, when they still called it soul-talkin'," Reid says. He doesn't claim to be the grandfather of hip-hop; in fact, he takes pains to recognize stuff like Tex Williams' rhythmically spoken 1940s country hit "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)" and the fluid, sexy rhymes of 1950s and 1960s late-night pop and soul DJs. He definitely presaged 2 Live Crew, Lil' Kim and the like by decades, however.
And he built a huge cult following over the next 20 years, getting seriously sex-funk-nasty as Blowfly, while Clarence Reid enjoyed mainstream status as both an in-house production and songwriting asset at Stone's disco/funk/R&B label TK Records and an occasional hit-making performer. The exquisitely puerile new album is sure to alienate black pop's uptight audience, as Blowfly is one of the few to call out R. Kelly's perversions ("I Believe My Dick Can Fly") and the NAACP ("Ugly People"). Also, the Doors-on-crack rock aesthetic of his "You've Got Your Dick on Backwards" doesn't fit urban formatting. Still, Blowfly enjoys a busy performance schedule. And new generations of young fans also continue to discover his scatological parodies and provocative raunch-rhymes in cycles, thanks to various compilations and anthologies of his often offensive catalog.
"I got a lot of shit on the Internet," says Reid. "Kids look at the title, see 'Can I Come in Your Mouth,' or something, and you know, they've got to check it out."
Blowfly plays the Milestone's Grey Trash event with ANTiSEEN and Mad Brother Ward at 10pm Friday, Jan. 20. Tickets are $10. Check www.themilestoneclub.com for details. Blowfly's Punk Rock Party drops in May.