More Congas, Less Crime

by Belle Waring on February 7, 2012

Answers to Questions No One Asked Me, Part 1 of n+1 where n > or = 0
Belle, what’s go-go music? Many a time I have heard that question not asked by someone moving to the DC area, or not asked by a person who hasn’t heard about go-go and knows I went to high school in DC. I have failed to be asked this question on literally countless occasions. That’s all over now. Go-go is a distinctive sub-genre of music popular only in the DC metro area (including Baltimore). It has always been dance music (as in “Going to a Go-Go”) and has always relied on this one beat. As far as beats go it sounds a distinctly Latin one, but there’s no Latin influence on any of the rest of the music ever. Wikipedia claims that “unique to Go-Go is an instrumentation with 3 standard Congas and 2 “Junior Congas”, 8″ and 9″ wide and about half as tall as the standard Congas, a size rare outside of Go-Go. They were introduced to Rare Essence by Tyrone Williams aka Jungle Boogie in the early days when they couldn’t afford enough full sized Congas, and are ubiquitous ever since.”

Yeah OK, but Chuck Brown, with or without The Soul Searchers, is considered the “Godfather of Go-Go,” did everybody change their kit later? And do all mostly black musical sub-genres have to have someone named “Brown” be the godfather of them? And “it was because they couldn’t afford bigger congas” has urban legend written all over it. Anyway, yeah, a whole bunch of congas and bells and whatnot. The only time a white DC audience ever heard that many drum solos was when Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” concert was in town. (Before Randy Rhoads died in that tragic plane accident at Ozzy’s ranch. Who knows what magic might be flying off the fretboard of his distinctive “Flying V” right now. I’ll tell you all about my deep, deep love of “Tribute” and how I cry when I listen to “Goodbye to Romance” another time.)

Yeah, anyway, why two Rare Essence songs? OK, they’re my fave go-go band. But also I think this shows the evolution of the genre from something like funk to an intriguing version of hip-hop backed with live percussion and horns. It has continued to evolve, and is still popular in the DC metro area despite never making it anywhere else. Well, that’s not quite true, in that the music has been heavily sampled for other hip-hop songs which are then, perforce, go-go.

This is ye olde skuel, “Body Moves.” It’s special because it includes the DC slang word “sice” in the call and response at the end. “Sice” is more or less entirely equivalent to “psych,” (I’m siced for this party!) but can’t be negative (you can’t “sice someone out.”):

Back in the crack epidemic years go-go clubs were the site of lots of crime and shootings, and since the DC City Council is a bunch of morons, they decided to solve this problem by banning certain clubs from playing go-go. Ha ha pretend. NO RLY! One wonders whether, if such a club were to play, say, Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” (not that it would be a good idea, mind you) whether the club would be in violation, since the main loop is a sample from Chuck Brown’s “Busting Loose.” (Notice Chuck saying “give me the bridge now,” in 1978, that’s the oldest song I know that does that.) “It’s go-go!” “But it’s just a sample. It’s as if there are invisible quotes around the go-go that make it safe!” I could imagine the liquor license board debates getting pretty metaphysical. Next up is Rare Essence’s most popular ever song. It even made it to Yo! MTV Raps, as you can see (video way worth watching).

It is a testament to how not gentrified parts of DC are that I still don’t know where the hell Montana or Minnesota Avenues is. They’re getting the shout-outs, I assume they’re in S.E., but damn, that’s a lot of not knowing shit about your hometown. Go-go’s just weird in that none of its practitioners have ever hit the big time, even though it’s more or less next to New York. Even little old Savannah, GA has had more success in this regard (Outkast). I was originally going to defend disco from its detractors in the Don Cornelius thread who complained there was only one beat and the bass could never stray, and that was bad, by showing a) the bass can walk all over the damn place, and b) no harm in having generic constraints. Do you hate Loleatta Holloway and the SalSoul Orchestra, I intended to ask? Do you hate dancing (N.B. there is a go-go break in that song, “212 North 12th St.”)? Do you hate life itself? Then I got distracted. Squirrel! What? John insisted on the title. Brought to you by Stuff White People Like.

DISTURBING UPDATE: People born on the day Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” was at #1 are old enough to comment on youtube now. I mean, I know stray dogs comment on youtube, but still. Possibly more disturbing: I have a sweet-tooth weakness for this song.

NOT PARTICULARLY DISTURBING AT ALL UPDATE: If you find the openly proffered go-go unpalatable, then listen to the more funk-like Chuck Brown track linked above. You will probably like it more. If you like funk, which you probably do, because it’s funk, and all.

I Don’t Believe In The Sun

by John Holbo on February 7, 2012

I’m teaching Plato – again! But I like it that way! Also, I don’t see why Belle should be the only one posting YouTube videos. So here’s a really really nice Magnetic Fields song, allowing me to combine my interest in Platonic themes with my interest in linking to YouTube.

Calling All Adjuncts

by Tedra Osell on February 7, 2012

Sorry, this isn’t a job posting. Instead, it’s a request for adjuncts or recent adjuncts to add their salaries to a database, intended to “recognize the schools that are doing a great job . . . [and to] expose those schools that have chosen to ignore the basic human rights of their employees and shortchange their students and their communities by devaluing the very education they pretend to celebrate.”

Having worked, for precisely one semester, at an adjunct job that paid about $2k, if memory serves, along with other indignities, I totally endorse this project.