Funk’s chief physician is back with a star-studded surgical procedure
On the opening track of ‘Invite The Light’, Junie Morrison of Parliament-Funkadelic fame broadcasts from a dystopian, futuristic outer space. Junie’s transmission brings bad news: there’s a future without funk and my god is it bleak. Intergalactic dystopia, however, is an oversubscribed theme. So how come Dam-Funk’s latest album is so difficult to dismiss?
“Funk is the underdog, the black sheep of black music,” says Damon Riddick, the quote generator, 70s baby and self-professed “funksta” who has been tasked with keeping the genre alive. He’s been doing a stellar job so far. Under the moniker Dam-Funk, Riddick has produced a stack of entertaining records, including the self-titled 7 Days Of Funk album, his acclaimed 2013 collaboration with Snoop Dogg. His first full-length since then, ‘Invite the Light’ further flaunts Dam’s funky chops.
From danceable grooves to sub-genre explorations, Dam forces 70s funk under the knife. ‘We Continue’ boasts P-funk’s most celebrated features – spacey synths and squelchy basslines that take us back to the heady days – but the rest of the album makes forays into unconventional territory. This music is incredibly versatile – and Dam wants to be sure we know it. Take ‘Floating On Air’, for example. With a deft incision, Dam replaces traditional funk drumming with ambient trip hop percussion. Featuring Flea and Computer Jay, it revives what Dam has dubbed “head-nodding” modern funk. “Floating on air, dying,” he breathes over chiptune strains, while haunting synths keep it extra weird. In contrast, ‘O.B.E.’ flirts with house, another “black sheep of black music”.
Then there’s the G-funk. Dam enlists Snoop Dogg in the archetypal ‘Just Ease Your Mind From All Negativity’ and Snoop’s lackadaisical technique steals the show. As far as the guest rappers on the album go, he comes second only to Q-Tip, who features on ‘I’m Just Tryna Survive (In The Big City)’, discussing the trials of urban America. “Who’s carving the apple pie we eating?” spits Q-Tip, in keeping with P-funk’s sociopolitical streak. Like ‘Acting’ and ‘Surveillance Escape’, ‘I’m Just Tryna Survive’ projects contemporary concerns into a different dimension, but serious thought is eventually grounded with a dose of cool. In true funk style, ‘I’m Just Tryna Survive’ reprises later on with a danceable “party version”.
‘Invite The Light’ is a big album. Not only are there 20 tracks, it’s also musically and thematically sweeping. According to his label, it is a “beginning to end” vision of Damon Riddick’s life in the last six years, but it has other layers too. Throughout the record, Dam emphasises positivity in his listeners – inviting the light – and issues dire warnings of what could happen in a world in which mankind has “lost its awareness of funk”. Thankfully, Dam-Funk is here to show us the way. “If we invite the funk, it will never let us down,” he declares. You know it.