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. Encompassing the Minneapolis sound's stiff minimalism, the feel-good vibes of P-funk and the sinuous groove of G-funk, Toeachizown was a one-man-band masterpiece, Dirty Mind style. Riddick has since proven himself a dynamic and fiery live performer, proselytizing for his genre as well as the power of music and positive thinking. He's worked with his heroes—producing an album for Steve Arrington, opening up for Todd Rundgren on tour and, most remarkably, getting the best recent performance out of Snoop Dogg on their collaborative 7 Days Of Funk LP. There's something easy to love about Riddick's music, and it's earned him a sizable audience.
Six years after his debut, Riddick has come back with a new solo LP. It's expectedly long—clocking in at 80 minutes, exactly the limit of what you can fit on a single CD—and charmingly handmade (once again recorded mostly by himself at home). But just as Riddick's appeal has grown in the years since, so has the scope of his music. On Invite The Light, he's surrounded by some of his favorite musicians. (Notably, funk legend Junie Morrison narrates an intro and outro telling the cautionary tale of a future where funk has been forgotten.) Riddick's songwriting has also grown tighter. Where previous work featured low-key vocals—often chanted or muttered phrases rather than full-on lyrics—he sounds like a new man here, crooning his heart out with the same intensity he brings to live performances. All of which is apparent from the outset on "We Continue," a classic Riddick track that celebrates funk's endurance with a slick hook and rich synth line stretching out across the background.
As the title implies, Invite The Light is all about positivity and focusing on the good things in life, though Riddick isn't spouting empty rhetoric. He stresses the need for happiness and good vibes, but also wrestles with the harsher realities of everyday life. He yearns for a place where "the stars shine brighter" on "Somewhere, Someday," prays for society to change on "Virtuous Progression" and reaffirms dedication to his craft in the face of an apathetic world on "I'm Just Tryna Survive In The Big City" (a highlight that comes in two versions with a dextrous verse from Q-Tip). At the album's center, the shorter tracks outline a mini-saga that begins with the gruff "HowUGonFu*kAroundAndChooseABusta" and bottoms out on the mournful "It Didn't Have To End This Way." It picks up again with the bittersweet "Missing U," a bite-sized portion of old-school vocoder funk that ramps the album up into its slam-dunk second half.
Riddick uses Invite The Light to scale the whole spectrum of emotions, which means the highs are pretty damn high. Appropriately, "Floating On Air" sounds like he's got his head in the clouds, finishing the track off with a silky, expressive guitar solo. "O.B.E." is like his take on Prince's "D.S.M.R," a lengthy drum machine workout that finds joy in its repetitious eight-plus minutes. And in case Riddick's message wasn't clear, "Just Ease Your Mind From All Negativity" is like a plush hammer over the head leading into the final quarter. It's a duet with Snoop Dogg and basically the perfect Dâm-Funk song, with Riddick's powerful vocals outlining just how far he's come in the past six years.
There is a feeling of accomplishment throughout Invite The Light. Where he used to sound permanently chilled-out (or maybe stoned), here he sounds happy, proud of himself and others around him. And why shouldn't he be? He's stuck to his guns and become a torch-bearer for the music he's loved since childhood. In an interview with RA in 2010, he spoke about his first experience with Steve Arrington, who said he was "watching" him and that he should keep doing his thing. And he did. Back then, Riddick was still "Searching 4 Funk's Future." Little did he know that it was him all along.
Tracklist01. Junie's Transmission feat. Junie Morrison
02. We Continue
03. Somewhere, Someday
04. I'm Just Tryna' Survive (In The Big City) feat. Q-Tip
05. Surveillance Escape
06. Floating On Air
08. The Hunt & Murder Of Lucifer
09. It Didn't Have To End This Way
10. Missing U
11. Acting feat. Ariel Pink
13. Glyde 2nyte feat. Leon Sylvers III & IV
14. Just Ease Your Mind From All Negativity feat. Snoop Dogg
15. Virtuous Progression feat. JimiJames, Kid Sister, Nite Jewel, Novena Carmel & Jody Watley
16. Scatin' (Toward The Light)
17. Junie's Re-Transmission feat. Junie Morrison
18. I'm Just Tryna' Survive (In The Big City) Party Version feat. Q-Tip
19. Kaint Let 'Em Change Me
20. The Acceptance