Dam-Funk always comes prepared. As L.A.'s ambassador to the funk gods, he's always equipped with the booty-rotation essentials he's acquired from years of digging in the crates. (You can bet his show tonight at the El Rey Theatre will be no exception.)
The man reigns so supremely over everyone else on the scene, it's almost too easy for him. That's why we decided to issue him a challenge. We wondered -- could he find funk in a Best Buy?
And so, we met up at the Westfield Culver City mall and challenged him to pull, from the corporate-scrubbed, focus-group-tested bins, five must-have records. Game and good-natured, Dam said: I'll see your five and give you ten. Here's what he found.
Black and White America
"Nice challenge," Dam says, perusing the racks. Turns out he's shopped Best Buy before. Last time he snagged a Rush CD, and this time he decides to start his search in the rock and pop section as well. He finds Lenny Kravitz's new one, Black and White America, which he hasn't heard. "I heard he went back to the funk," he says.
And, while he's in the "K"'s, a brief digression: "KISS is one of my favorite groups, even though they're not funk. I went to one of their concerts at University Amphitheatre when I was a kid. Mötley Crüe opened -- they'd just come out with their first album, and a lot of people were there for them. But KISS still destroyed. I like harder metal, Saxon, Iron Maiden, Venom, Armored Saint."
Old School Volume 10
"Oh, let's see. This is a good one -- it has 'Candyman' by Mary Jane Girls, 'Walking into Sunshine' from Central Line. If you ever want a genre like funk in a store like Best Buy, it's good to go to the 'Various Artists' section. They don't really order much from the back catalogue of someone like Slave."
"This is a fun challenge," he says. Fun meaning hard.
"Westside Connection is rap, but they used a lot of funk. I would get Bow Down just to get it back in my CD collection. It's got a lot of reinterpretations of samples. That's what I liked about West Coast rap; they didn't just outright sample. I played with Westside Connection during this era, but it was a song called 'Let It Reign' from movie called Thicker than Water. And I did a lot of session work. But I don't even remember what I did!"
Book of David
"If I found some Quik ..." They only have one DJ Quik album in stock. "Yeah, I'll get this, cause I don't have it yet. Quik's music has a backbone of funk. This is definitely a funk selection."
"This is a fantastic album, classic. It has 'Ghetto Life' on here, and we play that a lot at [my weekly party at Carbon in Culver City called] Funkmosphere. Lotta funk on here. Came out during the great era of '81-'82. From the album cover to the concept, just classic."
"I'd get this just based on his legacy. The first track's called 'G-Funk,' so there you go. I'd love to find some new funk, but that's what I'm trying to work on, representing the new style of funk that's out, modern funk. You've got Onra, Benedek, B. Bravo, Ink. I saw Ink at M Bar. They do great modern funk, a mix of Minneapolis and AOR-like stuff."
"'Square Biz' is a great track."
Dam considers an Earth, Wind & Fire Greatest Hits CD. "This selection is just scratching the surface, but they're a quality group. They did funk with a touch of jazz and soul. 'Can't Hide Love' is a good ballad that's related to funk, and 'Get Away' is a funk track. Greatest hits compliations have value depending on who compiles them. Sometimes they have good liner notes. But I like when they go deeper -- discographies, full retrospectives. Like this box set, the Prince Ultimate, has a lot of stuff -- 'Uptown,' 'Hot Thing,' 'Let's Work.' Most definitely funk."
Best Buy's selection includes two Gap Band albums, and Dam grabs each, studying them carefully. "Sorry, long pause. I wanna see what songs each of these compilations has. Get Icon, cause they have a rare one on here, called 'I'm Ready (If You're Ready).'"
Below: Dam decides what he's going to buy!
Live in New Orleans
We arrive to the "budget" section. "Knowing how they do funk, it'll be in the budget area," he says. "Live in New Orleans -- a DJ named DJ Soul Sister told me this really changed New Orleans; it was really an event. Everybody had this in their house."
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So now it's time to check out, and Dam is debating which of his selections he should purchase. "Lenny is questionable. Have you heard this album? I'm really debating about the Lenny."
In the end, however, he in fact settles on the Kravitz and the Quik, if only because they're new and he doesn't have them.
And then he is off -- gliding out of the mall parking lot in in his seafoam green '85 Pontiac Grand Prix, a blue plastic Best Buy bag dangling out his window.