The reigning ambassador of L.A. funk, Damon Riddick, arrived with a simple message at Exchange Los Angeles during the oft-chaotic record release party for "7 Days of Funk," his collaboration with rapper Snoop Dogg. Delivered on the wings of groove, bass and rhythm, Riddick, better known as Dam-Funk, spit out the command among a barrage of invectives: "Drink a Dr Pepper! Eat a Wienerschnitzel!"
OK, it wasn't that simple a communique. But within the spontaneously delivered call to action lay a larger message, one that permeated Tuesday's celebration of the R&B subgenre: Let loose. Hit the pavement. Sip a carbonated drink. Eat a hot dog. Funk hard.
Through four hours of music hosted by DJ and Stones Throw Records label chief Peanut Butter Wolf and Wallpaper singer (and daughter of Sly Stone) Novena Carmel, the downtown dance club witnessed luminaries including Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins, influential Angeleno producer-rapper Egyptian Lover, '70s funk singer Steve Arrington of Slave, Red Hot Chili Peppers/Atoms for Peace thumper Flea, former Bride of Funkenstein Sheila Washington, rappers Daz Dillinger and Kurupt and others.
As Dam-Funk observed during one of his invective-fueled rap-rants while working to get the place moving, "This is one of them house parties!" Who knew a Tuesday night could be so funky?
Most would agree that funk music hit its creative and commercial peak in the '70s and '80s, but among those who say otherwise is Riddick. Over the last half decade, the producer has with pure focus and affection worked to revive the sound of synthetic R&B.
His love affairs include movements in Minneapolis (Prince, the Time/Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis), Detroit (George Clinton and his many Parliament-Funkadelic projects) and the Rust Belt, where acts including the Ohio Players and Slave worked to, in the words of Arrington, "hit you with some of that Midwest ooh-ee."
Along the way, Dam's earned a loyal following, among them Snoop, who has perfected the art of musical parachuting. Moving from his Grammy-nominated reggae effort as Snoop Lion, the Long Beach rapper, with the help of Dam, morphed into Snoopzilla for "7 Days of Funk," released Tuesday by Stones Throw.
Snoop has described himself and Dam as "babies of the mothership," a reference to Funkadelic's preferred method of cosmic commuting, and the team presented its argument while some of the music's godparents looked on.
For better or worse, though, Dam-Funk's house-party description was accurate and a bit too casual of an affair for the price. To paraphrase Funkadelic, the evening felt on the verge of getting it on more often that it actually got it on.
Equipment malfunctions stalled things a few times. An angry, unfocused Dam-Funk grooved while calling out haters and ordering some ambivalent onlookers to pay attention -- then worked out a massive keytar (the '80s strap-on keyboard that's played like a guitar) solo. Peanut Butter Wolf's transcendent video DJ set was cut short when the overhead screens went dark. They eventually returned, but the result was a crowd at times confused as to the evening's progression -- even if parts of it were fun to experience.
Arrington flew in from Dayton, Ohio, to sing Slave jams including "Weak at the Knees" and "Watching You," but though he offered enthusiasm, he had a hard time securing the crowd's full attention.
Snoop and Bootsy sang along to the recorded version of Funkadelic's "(Not Just) Knee Deep" like they were at a Koreatown karaoke bar, not a bad thing necessarily, but it felt more like a private moment than one for us. An odd cameo from Flea followed, which saw him plugging in his bass and jamming along to the song (except he was barely audible).
The evening closed with Dam and Snoop singing along above instrumental tracks from "7 Days of Funk." After so much bass and groove, so much celebration, it came as a relief to finally hit some sort of climax.
The pair bounced hard while the rubbery first single, "Hit Da Pavement," revived a crowd that was starting to get antsy, and got even more wobbly when Snoop dove into the album's most liquid love song, "Faden Away."
With Dam-Funk's synth tones easing out a distorted melody, the erstwhile Snoopzilla stomped his way through the track, repeating a simple mantra: "Girl you got me fadin' away/Ain't no other words to say." Stepping back, he let the sound of funk consume the room. Somewhere deep below downtown, the vibrations are still registering.
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