What is initramfs?
Wikipedia defines initramfs as:
initramfs, abbreviated from "initial ram file system", is the successor of initrd. It is a cpio archive of the initial file system that gets loaded into memory during the Linux startup process. The Linux kernel mounts it as root file system and starts the init process from it. This will complete certain tasks before the real root file system is loaded; thus, initramfs needs to contain all of the device drivers and tools needed to mount the real root filesystem.
Do I need an initramfs?
The reason to build a kernel with an initramfs is mostly for interoperability (e.g. live-cd's) and special features like an included busybox, ssh, etc. But mostly, and that's why we are doing this here now, to have a proper kernel up and running quick'n dirty in a reasonable time without fighting hours and days until a more or less exotic hardware is perfectly run by the kernel. After having a proper basic kernel running with the help of an initramfs, I really recommend you to go a step further and build a true kernel with all features includes without an initramfs. However, relying only on a kernel to boot a system can be quite time consuming, so we have provided several initramfs options for Funtoo.