Rare Essence, Washington’s premier Go‑ Go band for more than three decades has built a devoted fan base that spans multiple generations. Originated in the mid ‘70s by the late Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown, Go-Go links 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 doesn't stop playing and audience that won't stop dancing. 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. The Rare Essence catalog on their own Rare One Records label, includes dozens of titles, many of them live recordings (their P.A. tapes and CDs easily top 100), and their shows continue to feature such fan-favorite radio staples as “Lock It,” “Work The Walls," and "Overnight Scenario." Like any long-lived style of music, Go-Go has undergone changes over the decades but Rare Essence maintains and sustains its original sound and spirit. One of their album titles puts it best: “We Go On and On.” Rare Essence remains the most enduring and consistently combustible live bands honed through countless performances in the Washington region, working the local and regional concert circuit full-throttle. Go-Go thrives live and that’s where reputations, and legacies, are cemented. As the Washington Post noted in a 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.”
Slick Rick, born Ricky Walters in the United Kingdom (1965), is the most successful British-American rapper in music history. After moving from England to the States at Age 12, Rick gravitated toward the makeshift music of the streets. He struck up a friendship with fellow visionary Doug E. Fresh, and in the summer of 1985, the duo released their historic single, “The Show and La Di Da Di.” Fresh’s beatbox and Rick’s smooth lyrical delivery turned rap music on its head. Before long, Rick would establish himself as one of the architects of hip-hop. His career in full swing, Rick moved to New York City, where he signed with Russell Simmons and Def Jam Records. In 1988, he released his first solo album, 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. While on bail in 1991, Rick hurried to record his sophomore effort, The Ruler’s Back. But three weeks of recording sessions were followed by five years in jail, as Rick was charged with attempted murder. In 1994, work-release privileges allowed Rick to live at home, where he conceived a new album. However, after
just six months, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service informed Rick of its plans to deport him. All work- release privileges ceased, and authorities sent Rick back to prison. He served his time dutifully, though, and even released his third album, the aptly named Behind Bars. A fourth Def Jam recording, The Art of Storytelling, appeared in 1999. It featured a plethora of big-name rappers, i.e. Nas, OutKast, Raekwon from the Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg, Kid Capri, Canibus and Doug E. Fresh.
These days, much of Slick Rick’s story remains untold. The myriad articles about prison and shootings may sell magazines, but they tend to overshadow the rapper’s prodigious and influential body of work. Ultimately, Rick’s well-publicized legal entanglements have obscured his art. It’s a strange dichotomy though, because Rick’s mystique is an integral part of his stagecraft…his allure. The eye patch; the British accent; the sinister demeanor…it’s bewildering. Which part is real, which is shtick? 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.
But what about the music? Does it hold up under scrutiny? YES. 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 genuine gifts on the mike – dexterity, cleverness, wit, articulation, fluidity – it works like gangbusters. Going forward, there is much to celebrate. On May 23, 2008, New York governor David Paterson granted Slick Rick a full pardon. In essence, the esteemed guv closed a dark chapter in the Book of Rick. Now hope springs eternal. A direct quote from Governor Paterson’s official statement: “Mr. Walters has fully served the sentence imposed upon him for his convictions, had an exemplary disciplinary record while in prison and on parole, and has been living without incident in the community for more than 10 years. In that time, he has volunteered at youth outreach programs to counsel youth against violence, and has become a symbol of rehabilitation for many young people.” Let the good times roll. Slick Rick, one of hip-hop’s founding fathers, is poised to rule again. The master of modulation, meter and tone is back. This time, he’s a permanent resident.
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.