To many outside of the Washington, D.C., area (or “ureah” as we would say), go-go seems like some random localized fad whose percussion-heavy beat is often unbearable after a few minutes of listening. To those of us, though, who grew up with the music, it is as much a part of who we are as hip-hop is to New Yorkers. Unlike hip-hop, however, go-go featured men playing real live instruments – which is something Washingtonians love to point out.
Many outside of D.C. only know the popular songs that went mainstream like “Da Butt” made popular by D.C.’s Experience Unlimited (EU) or Salt N’ Pepa‘s early hits “My Mic Sound Nice” or “Shake That Thing.” There was a whole go-go culture that began in the ’70s with Chuck Brown‘s “Bustin Loose” and continues today, though.
Go-go’s trajectory mimics hip-hop in that it began as party music, music of expression by young men primarily who used it to connect with their peers. It was music for us and by us. Coming of age in the eighties, go-go was at the heart of the D.C. social scene. We laughed, did naughty dances, met boyfriends and girlfriends there, sweated out our new relaxers and asymmetric hair cuts and a fight was pretty much the worst thing that could happen. It was pre-NWA, and life was a party.