How Chuck Brown Made Me Appreciate Go-Go

I was born and raised in Baltimore. I was also raised, musically, in a bubble. As eclectic as my mom was, musically, there were some genres she didn’t rock with in the house too much. Because of this, even with its somewhat funk roots, I saw go-go as “pots and pans” music because of its live instrumentation, live feeling (even down to some tracks not having “studio magic”), and rally songs. It felt somewhat foreign to me.

Please forgive my ignorance, folks. I grew up mostly on Rod Lee, K-Swift, Miss Tony, and other instrumental forces in Baltimore Club and the Baltimore hip-hop scene in terms of regional (read: DMV-based) music. As unique as my mom’s tastes were, I didn’t make the venture to “the other side” until I heard R.E.’s “Overnight Scenario” about twenty years ago as a kid.

A live-feeling track with a simple premise (the club let out and going home with a freaky girl), this was my official introduction into liking the D.C.-based genre. After hearing it on a fuzzy feed of WPGC one Sunday night after 92Q stopped spinning old-school club, I fell in love with the track and wanted more of it.

So, I began to do my research. What I found was astonishing in its own right. Just as Baltimore Club found its origins in Chicago House and other forms of house music, I found that go-go–the “Overnight Scenarios,” the “Sexy Ladies,” the “The Butts,” the “Roll Calls” and so on–seemingly all originated from the blood, sweat, and tears of one man.

Chuck Brown.
The “Godfather of Go-Go” as he was often called, Brown’s career spanned decades. But, I didn’t get introduced to Brown’s music en masse until I happened across that iPod I first played Lupe’s Food & Liquor on. See, when I found that iPod, it was loaded with a plethora of music. Some of the tasty jams came from a greatest hits CD from Brown.

I, being the researcher I am, knew that Brown’s jams had been sampled in songs such as Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.” I knew that “Ashley’s Roachclip” was one of the most-sampled tracks of all-time. But, until that fateful day in 2006, I’d never heard a lot of the source material.

Sufficed to say, I was blown away by the instrumentation. “Where has this been all my life,” I asked myself. “Why was I so sheltered from this blend of funk, soul, and so many other genres?” “Is this what go-go really is?” With that CD, I found myself becoming more of a fan of go-go–even in the face of some of my Baltimore-born friends still dismissing the genre. 
Now, that’s not to say I was at UMD beating my feet or anything. I still rocked off solely to B’more Club (I couldn’t really dance to go-go or get behind some of the more “aggressive” cuts). I did, however, become more appreciative of the vibes that came with the genre-blending sound. I even went out of my way to listen to Brown’s discography any way I could.
If it was on iTunes, I copped it. If I could stream it, I’d stream it. If there was a bootleg, I tried to stay away–but sometimes I’d still listen just to get everything I could. If it was a mix dedicated to Chuck Brown, I’d find myself enthralled with his mastery of so many sounds and his voice. Man, his voice reminded me of so many cookouts and get-togethers with my family. There was just something about it that felt like home. So, when Chuck Brown passed on, I knew what it meant.

A city lost a legend and a forefather of its musical identity, go-go and otherwise. They lost a father, musically and in other ways.
The same feeling D.C. and parts of the DMV felt when Brown died was identical to when Baltimore lost K-Swift, so I felt the pain. I knew it too well. But, I felt it doubly because I’d just been introduced to Chuck Brown’s music not too long before his death. So, like with K-Swift’s death bringing about a tribute of her mixes to my ears, I blared Brown’s go-go sound through my speakers that day.

Five years after his death, I’m here writing this piece jamming to some Chuck Brown with some other go-go, old-school and newer-school mixed in. While I’ll never be a megafan for the genre like some of my contemporaries, Chuck Brown introduced me to something that was real, that feels organic and natural. And for that, I thank you, Mr. Brown. May you rest in piece.

Last, but not least, be sure to check out Chuck Brown’s music for yourself if you’ve never experienced it (and even if you have, pay homage to the man). Your earholes will thank me later.

Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on

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