Arts Desk

Go-Go Bites: Country Cousins

trouble2liveTaking a different approach to this series, I wanted to look at the less obvious influence of go-go, rather than direct and blatant biting. Yesterday I ran an old interview with Miami bass legend and 2 Live Crew godfather Luther Campbell on my own site. At some point our conversation shifted to D.C. and its music:

[W]hen I was a rough kid my mom sent me to stay in DC, I stayed in Oxon Hill with my brother... Man, Rare Essence, Chuck Brown, that was my thing. I used to go to a lot of the go-go shows at The Armory and when they used to have it at the Cap Center I’d be there. That’s really where I got a lot of call and response from. I was a DJ and I did call and response, but I never [knew] how to apply it on a record. So when I did spend my time up there, I would go to these shows and I would see Chuck Brown up there and Rare Essence and I would see the battles. Because back then, they would be battling and shit, they would be getting down, it’d be like battle of the bands. So I heard that and I kind of applied a lot of that into me as an artist. Keeping the party started, coming up with different call and responses. I learned a lot from go-go music.

This is not an uncommon sentiment. I've dedicated a large chunk of my life to phone conversations with old school Southern hip-hop artists and it's surprising how many of them, often tipped off by a 202 area code, start reminiscing about go-go music and whatever tenuous connections led them to it in the '80s. New Orleans bounce godfather DJ Jimi mentioned discovering the genre while living in P.G. County, Geto Boys DJ Ready Red (a N.J. transplant who had his biggest impact in Houston) used to cop go-go 12-inches through an uncle in Silver Spring. (Another short term Geto Boy, Big Mike, once reminisced on "jamming that Trouble Funk" at New Orleans block parties with "Southern Thang.")

Quiet as kept, those early D.C. jams went big throughout the South. While not technically being hip-hop, go-go was in a sense one of the earliest branches of "regional rap" to pop up. And in a lot of ways it provided the blueprint for what would the South would turn into an international industry in the years that followed—the heavy call-and-response factor that Luke mentions, the local specificity of it all, the aspect of black-owned labels. Echos of these trends could be heard throughout bounce, bass, and crunk music. And sure, similar things were happening in the early days of New York hip-hop as well, but that as that city began to move toward a more lyrical and cerebral focus, it was D.C.'s formula that helped keep the party going in the rest of the country. (And, in a bit of cyclical influence, the sound of current day southern rap can be heard in plenty of modern go-go.)

Here are a few explicit musical crossovers from the south:


Beatmaster Clay-D – "My Go-Go Beat" (Miami, 1988)


2 Live Crew & Trouble Funk – "The Bomb Has Dropped" (Miami, 1989)


DJ Jubilee – "Go-Go Bounce (Remix)" (New Orleans, 1996)

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