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Damu The Fudgemunk Breaks Down His Latest Album

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Earl Davis is a hip-hop musician. Steeped in the beats of Washington, D.C., he goes by the name Damu The Fudgemunk. He's collaborated with the great jazz saxophonist, Archie Shepp, and plenty of rap artists. Here's "Raw Poetic," featured on the opening track of Damu The Fudgemunk's new album "Conversation Peace."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "POWER OF MIND")

RAW POETIC: (Rapping) Hallelujah. Nothin' to ya. I love the music. I do it to ya. I feel it in ya, just the same thing. Listen, now, are ya ready?

SIMON: Damu The Fudgemunk joins us now from London. Thanks so much for being with us.

DAMU THE FUDGEMUNK: Thanks for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

SIMON: And we should explain, that's a conversation peace - P-E-A-C-E - isn't it?

DAMU THE FUDGEMUNK: Yes.

SIMON: OK. Let's get this out of the way. Your performing name - how did you come up with it?

DAMU THE FUDGEMUNK: Well, I'm originally from Washington, D.C., born and raised, product of D.C. public schools. And initially, Chocolate City was the name that Parliament-Funkadelic gave the city. And I was big into the Shaolin monks and kung fu movies and also Willy Wonka. And so it's just, like, an amalgamation of several different ideas that I came up with as a teenager. So Damu The Fudgemunk, the monk of music from the Chocolate City with the chocolate skin.

SIMON: This album on Def Presse Records - it's the first in a series called "Crate Diggers." I had to learn what crate diggers means. Could you help us?

DAMU THE FUDGEMUNK: Well, yeah. The term, I guess, originates from the DJ culture, which originates, I guess, as a part of the hip-hop culture and people that go around looking for vinyl and sampling or just great music. People were using milk crates to store records versus shelving. So crate diggers - trying to excavate sounds and, I guess, artifacts, anything that moves your spirit.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Well, what kind of crates did you go through for this album?

DAMU THE FUDGEMUNK: Well, I got a chance to go through all of the KPM music library, production music library, of a company based in London - a world-famous production library. Been around for decades - I think since the late '50s.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHNNY PEARSON'S "HEAVY ACTION")

DAMU THE FUDGEMUNK: The "Monday Night Football" song - bum, bum, bum, bum, ba dum, bum, bum, bum, bum (ph). That's part of the KPM Library - just a vast library of music for production use and entertainment. So whether it was B movies, television commercials, radio spots, music beds, elevator music - you name it. And the library consists of sound effects, ethnic instruments, big band, synthesizer, experimental records, didgeridoos, vocal groups, choral groups.

SIMON: So years ago, when somebody was trying to make a bank commercial, they'd say, let's give a listen to what - see what we can find in the KPM files, and maybe there's something that's good.

DAMU THE FUDGEMUNK: Exactly. I want to say it's the first time that they've opened the doors to the crate-digger generation or DJ producers to go in and create new art. It has been used and sampled previously just because the records do exist in secondhand stores. You may find a KPM album. So they've been sought after in the DJ culture. And a lot of them go for money. They're hard to find. A lot of DJs and producers have been seeking these records. It has a certain sound and has a certain groove.

SIMON: Let me get you to help us take apart one of the tracks on this album, the one called "God Speed." This is one of the original sample tracks from the KPM library that you used to build this song. Let's take a quick listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Nice jingle for, I don't know, gardening or lawn service or something.

DAMU THE FUDGEMUNK: (Laughter).

SIMON: But here's how it ends up - "God Speed" ends up on your album.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOD SPEED")

SIMON: It's like you're rediscovering history that was left in a crate. I mean, it was there, just kind of waiting to be uncovered, wasn't it?

DAMU THE FUDGEMUNK: Oh, exactly. I mean, just - for me, it was like going through a time capsule. I mean, you can see all the trends, especially starting in the late '50s on up into the '60s. You can see what sorts of sounds and genres and techniques were dominant throughout that time, and things were changing rapidly, you know? You're going from some jazz, kind of loungy percussion, and then, you know, eventually rock creeps in, and then, you know, jazz fusion, or the synthesizer is invented, the invention of stereos, all the disco, disco rock, these subgenres. Just the anatomy of a lot of things in the catalog - it was very well-produced and well-recorded and had great sets of musicians.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the track "Reporting," because I - you play some instruments yourself on this album. We hear your playing vibes (ph) and rapping on this track.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REPORTING")

DAMU THE FUDGEMUNK: (Rapping) A lot goin' on, man. Too much. A lot of madness, a lot of confusion, a lot of craziness, illusions, delusions. I'm out here in the cold desert. Where's the oasis? It could go either way, you know? It's a toss-up. I can't lose sight. Faith is the most powerful weapon I got. Yeah. Insert whatever...

I mean, in the year, like, 2020, there was a lot going on for everyone. So I just absorbing what we were witnessing just from, you know, the chaos, the - some of the civil unrest happening globally that's still unfolding, the pandemic, the effects of the pandemic, the economy, just trying to find your place and your voice in a world that's changing, and you don't really know where things are going.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REPORTING")

DAMU THE FUDGEMUNK: (Rapping) Active duty of an extra in a movie, reboot troops for sequels, Parts 2, 3, 4. The worse or better in store, for now or never. Rain checks expire as the weather's getting wetter.

And then I was facing some family challenges where, you know - losing some family members and dealing with the effects of that and planning funerals and things and just - really just trying to stay strong and be positive. And I was very thankful to just have some kind of peace of mind and happiness. So when I did that, it was really just me just venting, but also just trying to show that I'm humbled by what's going on, but very appreciative. And I know that it's my responsibility, to a degree, for my own happiness and peace of mind. And the fact that I have it - I can't lose sight of that benefit.

SIMON: Earl Davis, also known, of course, as Damu The Fudgemunk - his new album, "Conversation Peace," spelled P-E-A-C-E. Thank you so much for being with us.

DAMU THE FUDGEMUNK: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REPORTING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.