The end for the P-Funk clan came in 1980, when a variety of evils--many self-inflicted--silenced Funkadelic and made Parliament look and sound silly.

Today, the question remains: Does the 52-year-old Clinton still possess his once-overflowing talents, and, if so, can he make himself relevant in the 90s? This puzzle was brought into sharp relief this month, when both his new album and the four "lost" Funkadelic albums were released within weeks of each other. Hey Man . . . Smell My Finger, Clinton's new release on Prince's Paisley Park label, is a solid, modern, hip-hop/funk album, which is not much of a compliment when you're talking about George Clinton. Now, instead of setting trends, he's following them. "Wherever hip-hop is going, I'm going with it," he says quickly, not liking the question. "I always took what was happening and moved a step faster. Hip-hop is just a new way of doin' it. It's a different route, but, man, it's still funky." Hey Man . . . Smell My Finger does have a huge, accomplished cast, headed by many of the old P-Funk faces--Bootsy, Gary "Mudbone" Cooper and Robert "Peanut" Johnson--and spiced with younger Clinton devotees like Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Ice-T. The Purple One himself gets into the act, playing bass on several cuts. Working with Prince makes Uncle Jam chuckle.

"He's so quiet. I mean, the dude is bad," Clinton says, laughing. "He expect everyone around him to be bad, too. He'll look at you and say, 'What, you surprised that you did it that good? Shit, that's what you here for.'" Clinton says his plans for the future are modest. No Motherships, no dual bands, no all-night parties. Yet from the outside, his current tour looks a lot like the old days. The band he'll bring to Phoenix this week has 37 players. The set list includes both old and new material. Clinton says he doesn't want to talk about the past or the future. He only knows the present.

"Man, who knows? Many lawsuits as I've been through, I could be gone soon. Right now, I just want to get the band rollin', get out and get jammin'.

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