In 2016, there may be no greater ambassador for the art of Funk than Damon Garrett Riddick. A protégé of R&B OG Leon Sylvers III, he was a session musician on some of the hip-hop records (MC Eiht, Mack 10) that helped define the West Coast “G-Funk” sound pioneered by Dr. Dre. He’s been carrying the torch for the Funk ever since, founding the Funkmosphere club nights in LA, and dropping solo records on Stones Throw Records under his stage name, Dâm-Funk.
On July 1, Riddick dropped Nite-Funk, a collaborative EP with Nite Jewel’s Ramona Gonzalez, who told the LA Times in a profile that she doesn’t like…collaborating. They first connected 7 years ago “in the Myspace days”; the 4-song EP is the result of a slow-burn collaboration that finds Riddick at his most entrepreneurial (it was released by his newly formed Glydezone Records), and Gonzalez, free from her old major-indie label, at her most experimental. The result is a confident, considered record that clocks in at well under 20 minutes, but still finds enough time to make a statement.
In that LA Times profile, Gonzalez said she made an exception to her dislike for collaboration with Riddick because while they typically involve “someone in the room who doesn’t have full confidence or composure with their art,” that in no way describes him. “He knows what he’s doing. He has the sounds. He has the progressions. He has a talent. He has the facility with his instrument. It’s wonderful to watch and be a part of,” she said.
Nite-Funk pairs some of Gonzalez’s early disco-leaning productions with the heavy signifier of Funk’s keyboard bass synth sounds — those extremely distinctive wawww-wawww tones that immediately create the funky atmosphere. The EP’s standout track, “Let Me Be Me,” is the pinnacle of what the pairing can create; confident and assertive, it still bounces enough to be loose and fun.
The album is as much a product of LA as it is the two artists; beyond being the ancestral home of G-Funk, LA’s swirling sherbet sunsets and synthetic neon aesthetic loom large across all four tracks, and Riddick doesn’t shy away from admitting its influence. Ahead of the EP’s release, he told the Fader of how the 7-year collaboration — which started with the single “Am I Gonna Make It” — finally coalesced into a coherent vision: “Being in the same room as Ramona, looking out the window of the Downtown L.A. studio, as the sun was setting, with an orangeish, bronze sky over skyscrapers, completed my vision of the music,” he said.
Stream the album below via Spotify.