The District celebrated one year of Go-Go being the official music of D.C. (Photo by Micha Green)
By Imani Wj Wright
Special to the AFRO
Go-Go music has been an intricate facet of Washington D.C.’s culture since the mid-1970s. Bands like Aggression and the Young Senators are two of the genre’s earliest contributors. Go-Go further solidified once Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers set the genre’s soundscape in 1978 with their single “Bustin’ Loose.” Through its longstandig significance to the District, on February 19, 2020, Go-Go became the official music of Washington, D.C. This designation is not simply for the sake of formalities; there is now an allocated budget committed to the preservation and advancement of Go-Go music.
During last year’s signing of the District of Columbia Designation Act of 2019, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said: “Today, we are proud to say that DC’s official music will always be Go-Go, because there is no D.C. without Go-Go and there is no Go-Go without D.C.!”
On Feb. 19 of this year, The Go-Go Museum and Kennedy Center Culture Caucus hosted the one-year anniversary celebration. The event was hosted virtually via Facebook Live, and had been viewed by nearly 40,000 people by Feb. 22.
Activist Ronald Moten, kicked off the celebration on behalf of the Go-Go Museum. After introducing the performance lineup, which included the Critical Condition Band (CCB), Scooby & Ms. Kim, and the “Mighty” JunkYard Band, Moten had a conversation with the Godfathers of Urban Sportswear- Ty Johnson (Madness), Shooter Rob (Shooter Sports), Kenny Westray (We Are One Clothing), and Curtbone (Aldaz). The senior member of the group, Johnson, spoke extensively on the evolution and influence of Go-Go’s clothing scene.
“We never really wanted to work for anybody, and we’ve always been fashion oriented… We were selling so many t-shirts at the Go-Gos, that we had to make a clothing apparel shop, and we moved up to Georgia Avenue in ‘81 or ‘82, and it’s been history ever since,” said Johnson.
Moten asked Johnson if Hip-Hop mogul Puff Daddy had gotten his “idea of clothing” from D.C.’s fashion scene, while he was attending Howard University. Johnson confirmed with assertiveness, saying: “Yeah it’s true, and Puff Daddy would be the first one to tell you. When he was attending Howard University, he was coming up to the Madness shop looking for ideas. He was very creative, even back then. He saw what we were doing, and he took it to the next level.”
The conversation touched on several topics including investing into D.C.’s apparel scene, the current state of Go-Go and humorous stories of the genre and culture’s past.
Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D- Ward 5), who was instrumental in passing the Go-Go Bill, described Go-Go as the “soundtrack of the entire DMV.” He also reassured viewers that $3 million has been secured in D.C.’s budget for the advancement of Go-Go.
“ has been the way that so many musicians and entrepreneurs have been able to showcase their talent for a higher world to see,” said McDuffie. “Let’s take an opportunity today to sit back, enjoy, reflect and celebrate this milestone of making Go-Go the official music of Washington, D.C.”
One pillar of the Go-Go scene is the length in which performances can last. There was no variation in that principle during the celebration as the event lasted several hours. All three bands headed back to the roots of original Go-Go, covering Rhythm and Blues songs such as Al Green’s, Let’s Stay Together,” and Tevin Campbell’s, “Can We Talk.” There were also touches of Hip-Hop throughout the event, with renditions of rap favorites from artists such as Notorious B.I.G. Songs seemed to transition effortlessly without missing a beat, keeping the same vivacity and pungent characteristics as the city itself.
Relive the Celebration Below: