Originally published in NYTimes.com
In the classicist sense, there are things a D.J. does beyond playing records — namely, talk. Over a sprawling, exuberant two-and-a-half-hour D.J. set that kicked off well after midnight on Tuesday at APT, Dam-Funk understood the gig perfectly.
He thanked the club and the party’s host. He told the crowd when he was about to change tempos. He shouted out artists, song titles and years of release for his obscure selections — “Savanna! ‘Never Let You Go’! 1982-2-2-2!” — and instructions for appreciating his work: “Ladies, if any guys ask you to dance, do not refuse. I repeat, do not refuse-use-use.”
But Dam-Funk also said something few if any D.J.’s have probably ever said: “Animal Collective in the house!”
In a set filled with unabashedly sexy electro-R&B records from the late 1970s and early ’80s, this may have sounded particularly out of place. But Dam-Funk recently remixed Animal Collective’s “Summertime Clothes,” giving its yawing vocals a hard-slapping undertow.
Dam-Funk, who is from Los Angeles and whose real name is Damon Riddick, is a passionate advocate of ’80s funk — softer, more bulbous and frillier than its older cousins, teeming with a tender masculinity. As he shouted into his microphone: “1983, y’all — a great year for funk,” that’s a sentiment not shared by many D.J.’s, rappers or collectors, particularly on the East Coast, which has historically prized funk’s brusquer years.
His own productions echo that ’80s mood: a pair of recent singles, “Burgundy City” and “Let’s Take Off,” and an album, “Toeachizown” (Stones Throw), to be released later this year. Dam-Funk’s D.J. sets run headlong toward shimmer, with glorious winding synths that are a Los Angeles hallmark. Apart from the G-funk that defined early-’90s Los Angeles hip-hop, that texture has been largely absent from popular music since. (Dam-Funk was a session musician on records by MC Eiht, Westside Connection and others.)
Semi-hits like Aurra’s “Patience” featured muscle-popping funk over sun-dappled synths, and an unreleased Slave track perfectly encapsulated funk’s glamorous side.
Dam-Funk’s set was slow and low, suited to specific activities — roller skating, maybe, or long nighttime drives in old, oversize American cars, or popping and locking. One attendee tried out those moves in a corner of the club. That was early in the night, when the room was packed. But even at 3:30 a.m., with just a handful of people left, mostly seated, Dam-Funk was still doing what a D.J. does, playing records and telling the crowd why: “Going with that rider tempo here at the end.”