It’s 2 a.m., and the beating feet inside DC Tunnel move to the rhythm of the Bounce Beat Kings. The widely-popular go-go band, Take Care of Business (TCB), has just started performing their ever-popular I Want A Girl” set. The entire crowd goes crazy and sings in unison, “I want a girl that can really blow my mind mami, And not an ordinary, one of kind mami!” The passion; unbelievable. The love; overwhelming. His heart, thankful.
The Bridge sat down with go-go legend Bobby Superstar to discuss the impact and significance of go-go in D.C. For over a decade, Bobby has been the man behind a long list of your favorite songs. You can thank him for My Fatty, Butterfly, Roll Call, and I’m Classy, to name a few. Bobby remembers when go-go bands were treated like rock stars; when girls stalked their tour buses; when groups were overbooked, and your favorite hang-out spots were go-go spots.
Since then, go-go’s presence in the DMV has declined. In 2012, “The Godfather of Go-Go,” Chuck Brown, passed away. The following year, creator of the infamous Bounce Beat and TCB front man, Polo, passed away at the age of 42. Rap has become more popular in the city. Gentrification has uprooted communities. And go-go bands have opted for popular radio remixes in place of original content.
At the height of the genre, go-go was a multimillion-dollar industry. Some artists like Bobby Superstar continue to benefit from that era. “You can find Critical Condition on Spotify and Apple Music. Look it up. That’s streaming dollars; I still receive royalty checks from go-go tracks I wrote years ago,” Bobby said; explaining that original songs are not only crucial for the authenticity of go-go, but also for its economic value, and, the economic benefit is limitless.
The mainstream success of local legends like Chuck Brown, Polo and music producer Rich Harrison validate go-go’s status as a legitimate art form. Meanwhile, chart-topping hits like Migos’ Stir Fry, Beyonce’s Crazy in Love, and Amerie’s One Thing, secures go-go’s place in music history. Just this month, Teyana Taylor sampled the go-go classic, My Fatty, on her highly anticipated album K.T.S.E. The track is entitled Hurry and features Kanye West. So, go-go has proven to be valuable outside of the boundaries of the DMV.
The new wave of up-and-coming go-go bands must elevate go-go music to the same level as jazz, hip-hop, and rhythm and blues.
“I’ve always treated go-go like hip-hop,” says Bobby. “We have to treat go-go like any other treasured art form by maintaining authenticity through original work and thinking strategically about image and logistics.”
The new wave of bands also need support, he said, and he recognizes that there is more money to be made together than in conflict.
“There is room for everyone to eat,” he said.
If go-go was a soul food staple, Bobby says it would be homemade fried chicken. You can eat your mother’s fried chicken hot out the grease or hours later. It’s still the bomb. And the same goes for go-go. At its peaks, go-go is a movement. At its lows, go-go is resistance. Either way, it is just as valuable. Go-go is not only a category of music but an attitude, a feeling.