Go-Go: The Music You Never Knew You Always Loved

Rare Essence, who have been lauded as one of the greatest go-go bands of all time, performing live.

By Hailey Nuthals, Highlighter Editor

What you don’t know might hurt you, especially if what you don’t know is go-go music. Missing out on this irresistibly funky genre of jam-style percussion and call-and-response style audience interaction has got to be one of the biggest ways you can hurt yourself (even worse than not knowing about every wonderful thing you can do when you put kale in your smoothies).

Jokes aside, go-go is a discouragingly overlooked genre. It has influenced music we know and love today – everything from Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” to Salt N Pepa’s “Shake Your Thang” has its roots in the rhythms. The sound rose out of Washington, D.C. in the 1950’s and 60’s as a blend of funk, R&B, and early influences of hip-hop. The name came out of the black slang for a dance hall in the 50’s – a “go-go.” Early influencers of the genre, like Chuck Brown and the Young Senators, would play top 40 hits and blend them seamlessly into one another so that the dancers would never have to stop.

Easily enough, the go-go artists developed their own sound, and unsurprisingly, the majority black scene leaned heavily towards funk and hip-hop. Today, the scene still thrives in D.C.. Rare Essence, a group that has been selling out multiple shows each week for over 40 years, are releasing their 15th studio album this Friday. Rare Essence has performed and collaborated with names like Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Wu Tang Clan, and Run-DMC.

Their new album “Turn It Up” takes a small step away from the classic go-go sound the band has perfected and a small step towards today’s hip-hop. Featured artists include DJ Kool, Art Sherrod and Ms Kim. From the first beat – an accented brass chord quickly followed by drum beats you can’t help but move to – the album is guaranteed to get you dancing. It’s the latest piece from an essential band within an essential genre. Their collaborations over various tracks keep the album from being simply the same material they’ve already done. Each track grooves and bumps in a way that twenty-somethings and their parents could jam to alike.

Give Rare Essence a shot. Give go-go a shot. More than likely, you already love it.


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