Rare Essence, Washington’s premier go go band for more than three decades , has built a devoted fan base that spans multiple generations, drawn to the indigenous funk sired in the mid ‘70s by the late Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown. Using a beat adapted from Grover Washington Jr.'s 1974 hit,"Mr. Magic" Brown and his band the Soul Searchers played continuously, linking songs together over percussion breakdowns—a raw, non-stop party groove fueled by congas, cowbells and timbales, with call and response interactions that obliterated divisions between a band that wouldn’t stop playing and audience that couldn’t stop dancing.
“The Beat,” an irresistible, jubilant meld of funk and go-go, was soon incorporated into the songs as well and go-go became the signature D.C. sound, the pulsing soundtrack for the city’s African-American community. No single type of music has been more identified with the Nation’s Capital.
Rare Essence would be one of Brown’s earliest, and have remained his most enduring, progeny, with a consistently combustible live show honed through countless performances in the Washington region. Go-go thrives live and that’s where reputations, and legacies, are cemented. As the Washington Post noted in a 2010 review, “....this band has performed more than 5,000 times. Like so many Rare Essence concerts, it’s easy to believe you’re seeing the best one.”
Little wonder they were dubbed “The Wickedest Band Alive” by rap pioneer Doug E. Fresh, who has collaborated with Rare Essence, one of many artists to incorporate go go's percolating percussion, and some of its key players, into their own recordings.
In 2000, Rare Essence and the cultural and musical traditions they embody received official recognition by being included as part of the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival; their show with Chuck Brown drew the biggest crowd ever for a Festival concert on the National Mall.
2013 found Rare Essence still working the local and regional concert circuit full-throttle, with several special events highlighting their historical importance. In February, they headlined the legendary Lincoln Theater after a screening of “Straight Up Go-Go,” a 1992 documentary tracing the music’s development from the 1970s through its national and international explosion in the ‘80s.
Meanwhile, Rare Essence’s fabulously fluorescent Day-Glo concert posters, crafted by Baltimore’s renowned Globe Poster Printing Corp and tacked to telephone poles and trees along every major city thoroughfare—the so-called “Talking Drum” network— were featured in the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s "Pump Me Up: D.C. Subculture of the 1980s," a major show commemorating the city’s graffiti, go go and hardcore punk scenes.
And on May 17, Rare Essence honored Chuck Brown on the first anniversary of his passing with a free concert outside Washington’s WTOP television studios, drawing hundreds to a celebration of the Godfather of Go-Go and the sound of city that they helped define.
Slick Rick released his first solo album in 1988 titled The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. It hit No.1. on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop charts and was one of the first hip-hop records to go platinum. Rick was preparing to record his sophomore effort, The Ruler’s Back, but three weeks of recording sessions were followed by five years in jail. Clearly, there are moments of deliberate ambiguity in the Slick Rick Experience (enough to make P.T. Barnum blush). Still, plenty of facts uphold the mythos. The eye patch, for instance, is legit, courtesy of a glass shard that flew into Rick’s eye when he was an infant. And the British accent is genuine — its casual refinement belies every dumb gangsta stereotype. Throw in some gleaming grills, some bejeweled outerwear and – voila – you have the genius of Slick Rick. He’s no reticent wallflower – he’s larger than life.
In short, there’s nothing like the Slick Rick Experience. Every album is a parallel universe where old-time radio and urban culture collide. Aural theater merges with ghetto fantasy. Rick becomes a character actor with voice-throwing chops a ventriloquist would envy and narrative powers greater than Stephen King. In theory, it all seems preposterous – impossible to pull off. But because Rick has such a genuine gift on the mic – dexterity, cleverness, wit, articulation, fluidity – it works like gangbusters.
The Soul Rebels
Imagine blending the sounds of Mardi Gras funk, soul, R&B and reggae so seamlessly it defies category. Now shrink that idea into an eight-piece brass ensemble, add a hip hop sensibility plus 100 years of New Orleans jazz tradition, and you get the New Orleans sound known as The Soul Rebels.
Described by the Village Voice as “the missing link between Public Enemy and Louis Armstrong”, The Soul Rebels grew from their traditional New Orleans brass style out of the desire to play the music they heard on the radio, but with respect to the New Orleans brass band tradition. The band has gone from a local New Orleans favorite to collaborations with Metallica, Green Day, George Clinton, Galactic, Juvenile, Trombone Shorty, Roy Hargrove, and many others.
The Soul Rebels have traveled the U.S. and abroad, bringing their live and uncut rhythms and grooves to the United States, Canada, Europe, South Africa, Brazil and beyond. The band has performed at many prestigious music festivals and on stages across the world, including stops at Bonnaroo, Electric Forest Festival ,Umbria Jazz Festival, WOMAD Festival, Antibes Jazz Festival, the Wanee Festival, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, to name a few.
Since Hurricane Katrina, the band has been more successful than ever serving as an international ambassador of the New Orleans sound. Now a hardcore touring band with a solid-as-ever lineup, the band has recently represented its hometown on television, appearing in the season finale of the HBO series Treme, the Discovery Channel hit After the Catch, and the NBC broadcast of the parade before the Saints’ winning 2010 Super Bowl.
The Soul Rebels have shared the stage with notable artists from many corners of the hip hop, pop and rock world, including Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, The Roots, Arcade Fire, Bootsy Collins, Seal, Robert Plant& Jimmy Page, Counting Crows, Drive By Truckers, James Brown , Allen Toussaint, Chuck Brown, Terence Blanchard, The Gap Band, Dr. John, Better than Ezra and many others.
In January of 2012, the band released its first international album, Unlock Your Mind, on Rounder Records. This new song-driven studio effort includes guest appearances by Trombone Shorty, Cyril Neville, Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli and others.
The Soul Rebels continue charting new territory today, combining top notch musicianship and songs with grooves that celebrate life in the time-honored New Orleans style.