Every city has something they call their own, deep dish pizza, buffalo wings…you know stuff like that. Washington DC has Go-Go, a Black music genre as old as hip-hop, but one that stayed wrapped up and pure inside "Chocolate City" limits. Chuck Brown, the genre's hero—the fire starter, pioneer, and member of the family—was Go-Go's Godfather if there ever was one. He and his massive band of Soul Searchers busted loose on the scene in the late 1970's and kept banging until, well today.
Here's the thing, if you're from DC, Go-Go gets all up in you (I'm not even sure how, it's not like someone passes it down like a biscuit recipe). It just gets in you, maybe while you're in Rock Creek Park doin' it, or in a basement party or at the 9.30 Club. Go-Go gets to you, in you, through you— and you hold on to it long after you leave the Beltway.
Well, that's my story. Go-Go goes where I go.
I remember being in college at NYU in the 80's, I was a total new wave, first-wave hip-hop, retro-house looking chickster and I remember the time clearly, that Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers came to a very cool downtown NYC club called the "World." The band started in with "Wind Me Up Chuck," I was the ONLY person in the crowded club screaming and chanting….and I didn't stop.
It was almost involuntary Go-Go. Perhaps my passion didn't make sense to the too-cool kids to my left and right, but for me it was simply natural.
I remember feeling proud to be the only Black girl from DC in that spot, in that moment, this was culture only I knew, a chant that I exchanged with Chuck. It was tribal, authentic and sexy. It was Go-Go y'all.
Just two summers ago I was in DC and went to see Erykah Badu, B.O.B and Common. The stadium was packed; B.O.B was hip, but only the hip 20-somethings were singing along, Common of course made the 30-somethings swoon and stomp, but when Chuck Brown came on, EVERYBODY from 16-60 was on their feet singing and dancing. Chuck's music, his scene was completely cross generational…a connector…a phenomenon.
Chuck Brown may be gone, Chocolate City, but we can be sure he has found the soul he's been searching for and that the angels are hitting cow-bells in heaven upon his arrival.
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Founder, MAD FREE