Damon Riddick is the one-man band, producer, and DJ known as self-termed "modern funk" artist Dâm-Funk. A self-produced musician since his teens, Riddick started background session work in the 1990s and fully bloomed the next decade as a distinct player in noncommercial R&B with Toeachizown (2009), a quintuple LP for Stones Throw. Although Riddick followed up six years later with the less-solitary triple album Invite the Light (2015), his discography is just as notable for its multitude of solo and collaborative projects with a far-reaching crowd of associates that includes Steve Arrington, Snoop Dogg, Nite Jewel, Ariel Pink, and Christine and the Queens. First and foremost a catalyst in funk's postmillennial evolution, Riddick has also indulged in his love for atmospheric soundscapes with a trilogy of Private Life albums credited to Garrett, his middle name. He's also nodded to his deep house influences with releases like 2021's Above the Fray. Damon Garrett Riddick grew up an only child in Pasadena, California and was infatuated with a range of music throughout his childhood, such as heavy progressive rock, synth pop, and funk. He took to synthesizers above all other instruments and laid down his first homemade tracks during high school. Shortly after graduation, Riddick became a familiar face in Los Angeles recording studios, first with Double Action Theatre, a new jack swing act guided by maverick producer and mentor Leon Sylvers III (the Sylvers, Solar Records). For the bulk of the next ten years, Riddick's session gigs were mostly on rap records, including AllFrumTha I's self-titled album, Master P's I Got the Hook Up, and MC Eiht's Tha8t'z Gangsta. The last of those recordings credited Riddick's production and instrumentation to Dam.funk. Riddick officially stepped forward as Dâm-Funk in 2007, when he remixed Baron Zen's cover of the Gap Band's "Burn Rubber." This forged an alliance with Peanut Butter Wolf's Stones Throw label. Within a matter of weeks, Dâm-Funk was also on the label's compilation for 2KSports, 2K8: BBall Zombie War. In 2008, he released "Burgundy City," a 12" single that affirmed his M.O.: synth-funk, mostly instrumental, that put a contemporary and off-center spin on the work of late-'70s/early-'80s funk and post-disco giants like Junie Morrison (Ohio Players, Parliament, solo), Roger Troutman (Zapp, solo), Mtume (the band), and Prince. Riddick was not afraid to reveal those inspirations, either. As a DJ at his L.A.-area club night, dubbed Funkmosphere, he let the crowds know what he was spinning, proud to go against the common DJ practice of maintaining secrecy. After stockpiling hours of material recorded by himself in his garage studio, Riddick put together Toeachizown, a five-volume LP series released across 2009 that was slightly whittled down for a two-CD set issued that October. By that point, he had also wooed indie rockers with his remix of Animal Collective's "Summertime Clothes" and self-released a 7" single as Wavelength. Previously unreleased tracks recorded from 1988 through 1992 were compiled in 2010 for Adolescent Funk, issued on Stones Throw. Although several years passed before the proper follow-up to his first album, Riddick was productive, with remixes, EPs, and singles -- including a cover of Donnie and Joe Emerson's "Baby," recorded with Ariel Pink, and "I Don't Wanna Be a Star!" -- as well as a number of collaborations. Toward the end of 2013 alone, album-length projects with funk legend Steve Arrington and rap veteran Snoop Dogg (aka Snoopzilla) were released, respectively, as Higher and 7 Days of Funk. In 2015, he backed Todd Rundgren, another one of his longtime inspirations, during a spring U.S. tour in support of the album Global. As the dates were wrapping up that June, an instrumental four-track Dâm-Funk EP titled STFU was released as a prelude to his second album. Invite the Light, a warm triple-LP, arrived that September with appearances from Junie Morrison, Leon Sylvers III, and Jody Watley, as well as Flea, Q-Tip, and Snoop, among other voices. Less than nine months later, the !K7 label issued Riddick's first commercially available mix as part of its extensive DJ-Kicks series. Dust hadn't yet settled on DJ-Kicks when Riddick relaunched his Glydezone label with Nite-Funk, a self-titled EP made with Nite Jewel. That, the Architecture EP, and a 12" collaboration with left-field U.K. pop duo Ekkah were out before the end of 2016. Riddick's studio sessions across the next couple years counted two Private Life ambient LPs as Garrett (the vinyl editions of which were pressed by the Music from Memory label), the EPs Architecture II and Fresh Air (the latter a meeting with DJ Spinna), and a 12" pressing of European Nights (previously a CD-R circulated only at gigs). He was also featured on Christine and the Queens' "Girlfriend" and Mac Miller's "What's the Use?" The seven-track STFU II followed in 2019 while Riddick continued his global mission as a record-spinning funk envoy. Private Life III appeared at the tail-end of 2020. In 2021, he released Destination: Known/Paradise, containing two tracks averaging 15 minutes each, as well as an EP for Spanish deep house label Saft, Architecture III. Above the Fray, an uplifting album of synth-funk and house, appeared through Riddick's own Glydezone Recordings.
© Andy Kellman /TiVo
© Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released May 27, 2016 | !K7 Records
On his volume of !K7's DJ-Kicks series, Damon Riddick, aka Dām-Funk, affably replicates the spirit of his weekly Funkmosphere club night. Nearing a decade of existence when the mix was released, Funkmosphere -- started in a Culver City space prior to a move eastward to L.A. -- has made strides in the support and advancement of what night founder Riddick calls modern funk. As first-wave funk and its living museum-style scions continued to be embraced by the rock-centric music press and historians, Riddick and associates have correctly asserted that funk never ceased its development post-disco. The best electro, house, techno, hip-hop, and contemporary R&B does tend to have at least some funk informed by the late-'70s/early-'80s era championed by Funkmosphere. For that crew, certain synthetic percussion sounds and synthesizer wriggles are as much a part of funk's evolution as a chicken-scratch guitar line or James Brown grunt. Though Riddick has never shied away from spinning commercially successful tracks released on major labels, he takes the opportunity here to spotlight obscurities. As is the case with early funk, piles of quality recordings were pressed independently or privately later on, only to lie dormant in bins before they were vitalized by small circles of diggers, compilers, selectors, and DJs. True to form, Riddick's in no rush. He allows most of each selection to be aired out and does so with no tricks. One of the most appealing stretches arrives early, just after a dazed house opener from Moon B, among the few selections waxed during the 2010s. Nicci Gable's buoyant "Can't Get Close to You" reimagines the Mary Jane Girls as a Cameo side project, or as a response to "Single Life" (though it was co-produced by Shakatak's George Anderson). It gives way to an ebullient and breezy electro-funk instrumental from Verticle Lines, one of a few early-'80s aliases used by Barry Michael Cooper before he neologized new jack swing and co-wrote the screenplay for New Jack City. Then comes the thwacking bliss-out "Love Jam" by Randell & Schippers, a yearning/cooing male-female duo who sound like circa-1985 Loose Ends with limited ends. Riddick also moves the spotlight to a variety of contemporary producers, including one-man band Reggie B in Prince-D'Angelo mode, and Dutchman Henning, whose inclusion sounds like a rescued outtake from DJ Quik's Rhythm-al-ism sessions. Riddick also adds a couple previously unreleased productions of his own: "Can U Read Me?," a moonlit Nite Jewel duet, and its following "Believer," a dreamlike solo instrumental that would have highlighted Invite the Light. Since the track list is supplied, there's no need for Riddick to identify what's spinning, as he does in clubs, but he does make the occasional declaration and enhances the kicked-back mood by singing along a bit. © Andy Kellman /TiVo