Dâm-Funk is living proof that if you can't find the music you want to hear, then you should make it yourself. An avid record collector and long-time session musician, LA artist Damon G. Riddick started making his own jams in the late-'00s, inspired by a wide swath of classic funk. With Toeachizown, his five-part debut album, he picked up where funk left off, continuing a tradition that counts legends like George Clinton, Prince and Snoop Dogg among its practitioners.
For the longest time, funk has felt like a dirty word. An anachronistic genre trapped in a time capsule, the enjoyment of which was best spoken about - like jazz and disco - in hushed tones. Acceptable to the mainstream in few forms - perhaps reworked into samples for hip hop or dance tracks - but not to be imbibed undiluted. Leaving hardcore fans relegated to highlights on Craig Charles’ Radio 6 show, while populists consoled themselves on wedding dance floors and over-30s nights.
It's accurate but rather misleading to consider Invite the Light to be the first D?m-Funk album in six years. Toeachizown, a quintuple-LP set issued in 2009, provided enough high-caliber content to keep funk fans satisfied through an extended creative hibernation, but Damon Riddick was active through the release of his second proper album. He teamed up with Steve Arrington and Snoop Dogg for Higher and 7 Days of Funk, was behind a clutch of shorter-form releases and collaborations, continued to DJ, and even backed Todd Rundgren for a lengthy U.S.
It's been six years since Dâm-Funk last released a solo record, but it feels like he's hasn't really been away that long. That's because since 2009's Toeachizown, the Pasadena, California native has been steadily issuing a number of collaborative projects and a few intermittent loosies to keep a visible profile. Prior to making an unlikely connection by touring earlier this year with Todd Rundgren, Dâm-Funk issued 7 Days of Funk, a collaborative album with Snoop Dogg and Higher, a collaboration with the inimitable former Slave vocalist Steve Arrington, both in 2013.
If history has taught us anything about the funk, it’s that the funk is a cyclical thing. Its powers and influence ebb and flow in waves; over the years, funk has ridden out these changes with an easygoing grace, confident in the fact that any low period will be inevitably followed by a swing back up. Right now we’re living in an especially strong time for funk–in fact, it should go down as one of the highest points in funk history.
Few producers in the game have as adept a grasp of Funk like Dâm-Funk. The L.A. producer cultivated underground fame in the 2000s before catching the attention of Stones Throw’s Peanut Butter Wolf. Ever since then, he’s been trailblazing the indie circuit, first as a master remixer, and now as a go-to producer, receiving adulation along the way from notable Hip Hop veterans like Pete Rock and Snoop Dogg.
Five years ago, Los Angeles-based minor groove deity Dâm-Funk unleashed a two-hour mix on Mary Hobbs’ BBC Radio 1 show. Imperiously titled “The Future of Modern Funk,” its 19 tracks ran quite the gamut. There’s genre-hopping Earth mother Fatima’s “Warm Eyes,” an introduction from Dâm-Funk’s now-deceased drummer Jovan Coleman, a.k.a.
Dâm-Funk has made a name for himself create near note-perfect replications of a very specific type of synthetic funk, one that came to prominence in the early part of the 1980s. Where others generally explore similar sonic territory ironically, Dâm-Funk’s approach is nothing but earnest, often bordering on the reverential. That he manages his highly mechanized beats and often thin synthesized approach to funk and R&B with a straight face is a testament to his dedication to an often overlooked or unfairly maligned era of popular music.
As generally far-out as Dam-Funk is, there’s an increasing number of contemporary comparisons to be made in talking about the California funk auteur born Damon Riddick. Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, from March, became a prog-rap masterpiece thanks in part to contributors like funk pioneer George Clinton, versatile producer/multi-instrumentalist Terrace Martin, and modern jazz visionary Kamasi Washington. A few months later, another Compton rapper, YG, raided Clinton’s catalog on his excellent Terrace Martin-produced single “Twist My Fingaz”.
This epic follow-up to 2009’s debut solo set from Pasadena producer and multi-instrumentalist Damon “Dam-Funk” Riddick lasts almost as long as its six-year gestation period. As the man who plucked Snoop Dogg from the cod-reggae abyss, Riddick’s G-funk credentials are unimpeachable. With bass lines fat enough for their own Channel 5 documentary and the squelchiest keyboards since the Gap Band last played underwater, he has certainly put his apprenticeship as a West Coast rap session player to good use.
On Junie’s Transmission, the opening track of Dam Funk’s third album, P Funk legend Junie Morrison describes how “the upheaval suffered by the human race” began when society removed “the funk”. It sets out the general mission of this slightly flabby, 20-track odyssey: to revive classic funk, while abolishing the comedy stereotypes – think Jheri curls and Cameo codpieces – that have been affiliated with the genre. Narcotic dizziness hangs heavy throughout its 96-minutes, with guests Ariel Pink and Snoop Dogg bringing lo-fi swampiness and g-funk glamour to the floor.
Damon Riddick's CV is rather impressive. The Los Angeles artist has been a session musician for Ice Cube and Mack 10, worked with Snoop Dogg's Snoopzilla alias on '7 Days Of Funk' and provided beats for Eglo Records artist Fatima.Snoop's on his latest LP, too, with rapper Q-Tip also making an appearance on the zippy, starlit 'I'm Just Tryna' Survive (In The Big City)'.The squelchy synths and intergalactic funk of the record's first half stand tall, but at 20 tracks long, it becomes a tad tiresome at the halfway mark.He's Dâm good on the buttons, so it's a shame that this clocks in at about 90-minutes long. .
As the self-appointed Keeper Of The Funk Flame, Damon Riddick (aka Dâm-Funk) has been producing his distinctive take on the genre for decades now, beginning with his G-Funk session work in the mid-90s, before going solo with 2009’s debut album, Toeachizown; collaborative projects with ex-Slave singer Steve Arrington and Snoop Dogg followed. Anyone already au fait with the man’s oeuvre will know what to expect on this sophomore effort. Eighties-indebted synth-heavy funk bombs layered with crisp hip-hop beats are Dâm’s stock in trade.
For an artist that trades under the name Dam Funk, it shouldn’t be surprising that this music tends to the funky end of the musical spectrum. Like fellow Los Angeles resident Thundercat, Dam Funk’s Damon Garrett Riddick is a proselytiser for a sound that has its root in the past, but its electronic underpinnings and creativeness guarantees that that this is album is not overfed on nostalgia. "We Continue" with its squelched bassline poses similarities to his 2012 standout single "Hood Pass Intact'"in its vocal melodies and sets the record out on a familiar path.