- If you've ever been in the Los Angeles area on a Monday or Thursday night during the past decade, you might have caught Funkmosphere. Described as "LA's longest-running party for '80s-inspired funk, boogie, electro and modern funk," the weekly party was founded by SoCal native Dâm-Funk, an artist whose dedication to the music is only rivaled by his encyclopedic knowledge. Damon Riddick, who's now in his mid-40s, has slowly carved out a notable career as a DJ and musician, growing from a prolific solo artist with recordings that date back to the late-'80s to a collaborator with icons like Snoop Dogg and Steve Arrington of Slave. But regardless of his rise in popularity, Riddick has never ditched or dissolved Funkmosphere—when he's in town and available, you can see him at The Virgil, spinning his vast record collection and hopping on the mic to sing, give a shout out or share some uplifting words. Any fan of funk would be hard pressed to find a better night out.
As far as contemporary DJs go, Riddick has an old-school style and an uncompromising ethos in the booth. So when the Dâm-Funk DJ-Kicks begins with the man saying, "What's happenin'?" it's less a question than an invitation to experience the charming idiosyncrasies that are part and parcel to what he does. Lo-fi recordings, classic effects, bleeding-heart earnestness, casual mixes and sub-120 tempos are all defining qualities of this mix, and it shouldn't be any other way. With 19 tracks spread over 81 minutes, the set is patient and considered, as selections often play in near entirety. It's testament to just how much Riddick respects these obscure classics. A simplistic, bubbly groover like Verticle Lines' "Theme From Beach Boy" would make a good transition tune for some DJs, but here it's given the full six minutes to shimmy and clap. Save for the occasional filter sweep, delay or 808 kick used as an accent, each track here is played in its original form without edits.
Riddick is a purist, upholding this music's history as sacrosanct, and for his kindred spirits, that reverence will be a boon for the mix. Others, however, could find the lack of momentum and slow mixing hard to stay engaged with. Things don't really get moving until track seven, when Index's "Starlight," a late disco favorite, sets up lusty '80s electro jam "Dial-A-Freak." Gemini's late-'90s house gem "Log In" then jumps into a jazzy swing at 126 BPM, the mix's peak tempo. There are plenty more highlights afterwards—Reggie B's "Poison Candy," a heavy funk tune that Riddick adlibs over, and understated Dâm-Funk exclusive "Believer," to name a couple—but nothing follows up on the midsection's energy.
The only unexpected inclusion is "Broken Clouds," a beatless, drowsy synth piece from Gaussian Curve's excellent debut album Clouds. Aside from the song being gorgeous in and of itself, the way Riddick uses it to move from hard-smacking funk to a more sentimental zone is remarkable. "Broken Clouds" slips effortlessly into the stepping, melodic groove of "True To Yourself" by Tony Palkovic, an early '80s musician who was recently reissued by Washington, DC, label PPU. The transition is followed by contemporary artists like Henning and Nite Jewel/Dâm-Funk collaboration Nite-Funk, as well as True Design's '84 boogie belter "I Wanna Break" and the minute-long closer from the sole Crystal Winds album, '82's First Flight. It all ends with the DJ himself calmly encouraging the listener. That final third of DJ-Kicks might not be its strongest section but it no less feels like the most emblematic of Riddick's timeless appeal—connecting funk's past, present and future with an unbreakable thread of authenticity and positivity.
01. Moon B - Oof
02. Nicci Gable - Close To Who?
03. Randell & Schippers - Love Jam
04. Verticle Lines - Theme From Beach Boy
05. Brandon - Suzy Hijack
06. Take Three - Tonite’s The Night (All Right)
07. Index - Starlight
08. Uncle Jams Army - Dial-A-Freak
09. Gemini - Log In
10. Nexus - Stand Up (Instrumental)
11. Reggie B - Poison Candy
12. L33 - Keepin It Tight
13. Gaussian Curve - Broken Clouds
14. Tony Palkovic - True To Yourself
15. Henning - Arrival / Departure
16. Nite-Funk - Can U Read Me?
17. Dâm-Funk - Believer
18. True Design - I Wanna Break
19. Crystal Winds - Funk Ain't Easy