Before Nile Rodgers & CHIC set the Tiny Desk show off, the icon established a sort of mission statement for the group’s sound: “If we can funk in this, you know we can funk.” They surely can. In stints since 1972, CHIC has assured its position as funk ambassadors — a position its members clearly relish — and no space is resistant to their grooves. When Rodgers asks singer Kimberly Davis to show the audience “how we do it in the CHIC organization,” she launches into high-powered vocals that vaporize every note. And when he asks drummer Ralph Rolle to lead them to “maximum funkocity,” Rolle ignites call-and-response with an electrified crowd. As the ringleader of the CHIC experience, Rodgers crams a lifetime’s worth of nightlife into every strum of his guitar.
Rodgers’ career is epic in both scope and impact. The 1979 CHIC album Risqué was a disco milestone that became a hip-hop cornerstone. Standing at inflection points for two different genres is enough to make a career, but Rodgers was far from done. An incomparable songwriter and session musician, his call sheet as a producer is emblematic of his immense range: David Bowie, Diana Ross, Madonna and Mick Jagger, just to name a few. His work is embedded in the very fabric of popular music, and he continues to add to his resume decades after first making changes to the sonic landscape.