Arts Desk

Head-Roc’s Mouth: Go-Go Appreciation Concerts in Anacostia

An occasional feature in which esteemed D.C. rapper Head-Roc shares what’s on his mind.

Guess what Washington, D.C.? Hey, I know some of the folks in power trying to eradicate indigenous black cultural expression may not like it, but for the vast and overwhelming majority of us who are actually in love with this chocolate city, I have good news for you: Go-go music seems to be making a comeback!

Block, block-a-boom boom!

Last Saturday, I had the high pleasure of being in the presence of the on-point and cranking Outta Body Xperience Band (OBX) at the first ever Ivy City Reunion Celebration and Cookout. In the grand tradition of Chocolate City "people of culture" coming together to help one another, OBX came to rock with the people, and did so for free. On top of that, the good brothers were the first ones on site to begin setting up. They waited patiently for what seemed an eternity while a second generator was acquired because the first one didn’t work—before putting on a go-go “band and show” clinic for three hours on a beautifully sunny day in front of a energetic crowd of about 200 people in one of D.C.’s first, oldest, and most sabotaged black communities.

Me? I was serving up barbecued chicken, hot dogs, and burgers during the community fellowship and empowerment event organized by Joel McPherson of Empower DC—D.C.’s most gangster community organizing group. So gangsta is Empower DC about organizing the residents of Ivy City toward realizing self-determination in our gentrification agenda-legislated Nation’s Capitol that zero elected public officials—from the Mayor to ANC members, and not even officially sanctified church folk—showed up join a community long in need of love. For me, this dynamic parallels go-go’s plight dealing with racism and discrimination within the local music community that has seen its presence and influence run out of the city over the years. So, go-go and Empower DC working together  seemed like a match made in Heaven. On this glorious day, even the sound company was called Empowered Sound. Yeah, that’s all right right there...

The original funk expression from the people of Chocolate City, go-go music over the last 20 years has been marginalized and pushed out of the city’s competitive sphere. Unfairly stereotyped and used as a scapegoat for politicians and businessmen to adopt policies and practices that disenfranchise the most populous voice in Chocolate City, go-go music has become persona non grata in its own home. I’ve heard ridiculous stories of clubs in town using tactics like actually banning congas in their clubs to silence the signature go-go sound when black bands show up to rock.

Block, block-a-boom boom!

There is a definite movement to right the wrongdoings wrought against our beloved go-go music. One of the longest is the campaign to get the godfather of go-go, Chuck Brown, inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame for his prolific career. Most people know Chuck’s name and holla it loud when sounding off the names of go-go music’s royalty. Another name, though maybe not immediately recognized at first to non-locals, is Sugar Bear of Experience Unlimited (E.U.) who took the entire world by storm with the 1988 national go-go hit “Da Butt.” The song ended up being the lead track for Spike Lee’s School Daze. Everybody knows “Da Butt,” family. It’s played at weddings and graduations. The song is practically a national treasure—a shining example of how when the conditions are right, and go-go music is given the spotlight, it will steal the show.

As it happens, there is a huge spotlight on go-go music this Saturday in Anacostia. At 1 p.m. the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum—which is just up the street from the former Panorama Room, a famed go-go venue from back in the day—is hosting the event "Evolution of the Go-Go Beat in Washington, D.C." It features an in-depth discussion with none other than Sugar Bear himself, along with go-go goddess Sweet Cherie. Adding more go-go big weight, name draw, and legitimacy to the event, there will be an actual go-go band rocking live and direct at the museum: The Faycez U Know band, of which my own personal music mentor and GODISHEUS partner in crime, Dwayne “Super Bad III” Lee, is a member.

A lot of folks have misconceptions about go-go music and think that the mere sound of the music promotes violence, and that's just pure nonsense. However, the stigma is so out of control that to escape it, some bands and promoters use the term “grown and sexy” to distinguish themselves from the younger go-go acts that many in the political and entertainment establishments have a problem with. To that extent, F.U.K is cemented in its reputation as one of the baddest “grown and sexy” go-go bands rocking these days, but the term that best describes this superhero squad of go-go veterans is classic. If you’ve never ever been to a go-go, then Saturday's event shouldn't be missed. It’s a family-friendly affair running from 1 to 4 p.m., and is free.

Also tomorrow evening, and less that 500 feet away from the museum, the Anacostia Art Gallery and Boutique is hosting a “Concert Under the Stars” featuring R&B icon Howard Hewitt performing live along with D.C.’s Be’la Donna (Sweet Cherie’s band) with sounds provided by DJ Rico. “Concert Under the Stars” is brought to you by a fabulous sister named Juanita “Buzy Bee” Britton, who has been hard at work bringing life-sustaining cultural events, goods, and services to the much underserved communities east of the river for quite a number of years. The fact that she has a superstar like Howard Hewitt coming out to rock with our own locally based rock stars says a lot about the sister. The gallery is  2806 Bruce Place SE, and starts at 7 p.m. $25-$30.

Perhaps I will see at either or both events, Chocolate City!

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