GoGo Get Down: Pure Ghetto Funk from Washington DC


Joey Negro compiles pure ghetto-funk from Washington D.C. GoGo Get Down is the latest compilation from Dave Lee (aka Joey Negro) to be released on the Z Records label. A mammoth and rare retrospective of Washington D.C.'s spectrum of ghetto-funk, this collection showcases the visionary side of the go-go scene while bringing its key artists the modern exposure they deserve. Joey Negro gives us insight into the vintage rhythms and chiming cowbells as well as the dedicated soul screams that pierce through the retro soul rhythm that gives go-go its distinctive sound. "As a record collector in the '80s, I was fascinated by the percussive, bumpy groove from Washington D.C. known as go-go. Here was a unique strain of funk that had a massive local live scene with a host of bands playing every weekend in large community centers, yet it meant virtually nothing outside the U.S. capital. Similarly, many of the records never made it beyond DC, let alone over to Europe. From a personal perspective I had bought Chuck Brown's genre-defining Bustin' Loose in a second-hand record store in the early '80s and was also aware of Trouble Funk, who had some releases on Sugarhill, but I don't think anyone outside Washington knew these acts were part of a bigger scene. In '83, there was suddenly an attempt to break go-go in the UK, spearheaded by Island Records who had picked up the rights to quite a few of the key artists. Journalists were flown over to D.C., ensuring plenty of press coverage, a special go-go division of Island's dance label 4th & Broadway was set up and for six months, go-go was all over clubland. The then-powerful soul mafia of DJs jumped on it as they needed something new to play and hated the increasingly popular electro. There was even a movie commissioned: Good To Go, staring a mis-cast Art Garfunkel, but unfortunately, this arrived too late to really help the cause. However, the issue with go-go as a chart force was that it just is not radio-friendly enough, featuring more party chants than songs. Little Benny's genuinely popular 'Who Comes to Boogie' was the closest go-go got to a UK hit, reaching number 33 in the UK Top 40. Maybe it could be argued that Grace Jones 'Slave to the Rhythm' is a go-go track, featuring E.U.'s Juju House on percussion. Throughout this period, Chuck Brown and Trouble Funk were regular visitors to Europe as live acts. Despite the lack of crossover success, go-go flourished on the underground as it fit in so well with the rare groove, electro and early hip-hop being played in lots of cooler clubs. In fact, it was commonplace to hear rap acts such as Run DMC and Salt & Pepper utilizing go-go beats in their productions. As we got into the late '80s, the go-go being released on vinyl had become more synthetic and was dominated by loud, brash drum machines and rapping. For many of us, it had lost some of its original spirit and, to a degree, funk. It was just after the UK interest had waned that go-go had its biggest success back home when stalwarts E.U. released 'Da Butt,' a call-and-answer chant that somehow connected with the American public and reached number 35 in their Billboard Hot 100, which is no mean feat for that sort of tune. In many ways, this later go-go sound can be credited as at least an influence on what became known as 'swing beat.' Back in Washington, the scene still carries on to this day, regardless of its brief forays into the mainstream with Rare Essence, Chuck Brown, Junkyard Band and many others still playing regularly." --Joey Negro, March 2012