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Dropping the Bomb: DC GO-GO

Highlights from The DC Issue

EU's Rock Yuh Butt (Go-Go USA, 1988)

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Thursday, November 20, 2008



The following piece appears in Issue 37: The DC Issue. For more on this issue, click here

Click here for an online-exclusive slideshow of these album covers


DROPPING THE BOMB

By Andrew Noz


Go-Go music is the rhythm of DC. The conga-heavy, post-funk genre has rocked three generations of music listeners. Dozens of bands still rock live venues with nightly extended jams while the “in the pocket” beats pour onto the streets from open car windows. But the style remains largely unknown outside of the 495 Beltway. Sure, traces of go-go DNA are found in more recent pop hits like Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” and a small spattering of singles — Trouble Funk’s “Drop the Bomb,” EU’s “Da Butt”— saw national burn back in the Eighties. But those records are mere facsimiles. The true legacy of go-go music lies in largely underdocumented live bootlegs and a sparse selection of officially sanctioned recordings. Here are just a few of those legit classics.


Rare Essence:
Live At Breeze’s Metro Club
(Kolossal Records, 1986)

Live and uncut from the legendary Metro Club, this definitive set finds RE at their rawest, cranking on extended vamps and shouting out every audience member and local crew by name. “The Album That Kept the Whole Neighborhood Rocking,” indeed.


EU:
Rock Yuh Butt
(Go-Go USA, 1988)

Though it was likely just a piecemeal attempt to cash in on EU’s Spike Lee-certified mega-hit “Da Butt,” Rock Yuh Butt may also be a more accurate document of their late Eighties sound. Where “Da Butt” was a stiflingly overproduced exercise in club compliance (but don’t get it twisted — it remains something of a classic), EU, like most of their peers, just sound more comfortable in a live setting.


Redds & the Boys:
Hitt’n & Holding Live
(Love Boat, mid-Eighties)

Redds and Co. deliver this slap-bass-heavy go-go set, nodding to the P-Funk mothership and their own hit, “Put Your Right Hand in the Air,” a playfully risqué call-and-response number that calls for listeners to put the other hand “down in your underwear.”


Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers:
This Is a Journey Into Time
(Raw Venture, 1991)

Nearly two decades into his career, Chuck had not only solidified his status as the godfather of the genre, but also as a chief ambassador of grown folks go-go. Journey is a testament to his adaptability, placing Soul Searchers classics like “We Need Some Money” and “Wind Me Up” alongside adaptations of “Harlem Nocturne” and Gershwin compositions.


Backyard Band:
On the ’95 Tip
(Zee-Bra, 1995)

By the mid-Nineties, go-go was becoming more explicitly informed by hip-hop and Backyard led this charge. On On the ’95 Tip, BYB favors interpolations of the grimier, hoodies-and-Timbs strain of NYC boom bap: Gravediggaz, Black Moon and Lords of the Underground are channeled through the indelible rasp of lead talker Anwan “Big G” Glover.


Click here for an online-exclusive slideshow of these album covers

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