Go-Go Legend Big Tony Celebrates 35 Years of Moving the Crowd

John Richards, Special to The Informer | 7/17/2013, 11 p.m.
Known for their "very raw and hardcore" style of go-go, Trouble Funk and their legendary frontman Big Tony is one ...
Big Tony, lead singer for legendary D.C. go-go band Trouble Funk Photo by Mark Mahoney

WI: I always believed that major labels just totally mismanaged go-go groups when they got them and watered down the sound.

BT: Yeah, what they do is they forget how this thing originated from D.C. They try to give it national appeal, there's nothing wrong with that, but you can't water it down trying to give it national appeal you know, what I'm saying. There are other ways to giving it national appeal without watering it down. The national appeal comes with your lyrical structure, and the right mix. The mix always had to match the music, you can't play hardcore go-go and give it an R&B mix, it ain't gonna work. Sugar Hill was the only record company that actually enhanced what we did. The problem we had with Sugar Hill is that they wasn't trying to pay us.

WI: [Laughs]

BT: [Sugar Hill Records founder/CEO] Joe Robinson understood what we had — he really could have took this thing and blew it up big. The only problem was he was only thinking about Joe Robinson. He wasn't thinking about the welfare of the group. So that right there didn't last long.

WI: I know we've touched on it throughout this interview, but in your opinion, what is the current state of go-go?

BT: I think go-go is at a very critical stage right now. It's becoming extinct because nobody's really stepping up to do what it takes to keep it alive. Even groups from back in the day have lost so much of their originality. Right now since Chuck Brown has been gone, this thing is up for grabs.

WI: You've been in the business for 30-plus years, what keeps you going? What keeps you inspired?

BT: My love for music and the grace of God. I've been through a lot, man. God is good, you know? I definitely give God the glory, man. I'm not a very religious person, but I'm a very spiritual person. I definitely believe that there's a higher power that keeps me going. I'm a man of very strong faith and I pray a lot and I just think that gives me the edge. I did the drug thing, the drinking, the smoking and I survived all that man. So looking back on it I think I'm still here when maybe I should have been gone a long time ago. I think God kept me here because he got a plan for me.

WI: So what's next for you and Trouble Funk?

BT: It's been a long time since we had something out. We're gonna make a drop a new single in a couple of weeks, it's really hot, it's called "Humpty." And we're working on a whole new album, our 35th-anniversary album, called "Unfinished Business."

Follow John Richards on Twitter @jrichards202.