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The Washington region has a rich musical history. It’s been home to many well known and underground musicians, and has birthed musical styles like go-go and hardcore punk.
While nostalgia for the golden ages of those genres runs deep in D.C., contemporary musicians are still playing innovative hip hop, r&b, indie, jazz, electronica, and yes, go-go and punk as well. Today we explore what’s happening in D.C. music scenes right now and hear the songs making Washingtonians bop their heads this summer.
Produced by Mark Gunnery
- Tone P Artist and producer
- Natalie Hopkinson D.C. Cultural Historian; Author, "Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City"
- Kayla Randall Arts Editor, Washington City Paper
- Erin Frisby Musician; Board president of This Could Go Boom, member of The OSYX, FuzzQueen, Sanctuary D.C. and Girls Rock! D.C.
Kojo's Summer Jams
KOJO NNAMDINow on to the business of the day. We're rocking out.
KOJO NNAMDIThat's "Zulu Screams" by GoldLink. The Washington region has a rich musical history and nostalgia for the golden age of Go-Go and punk runs deep. Today though we're exploring what's happening in D.C. music right now including the music you just heard at the top of the show Zulu Screams by GoldLink. And we'll check in on the region's Hip Hop, R&B, Indie, and yes Go-Go and Punk scenes. Joining me to discuss all of this is Natalie Hopkinson. She is the Author of "Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City." Natalie, good to see you again.
NATALIE HOPKINSONGood to see you.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Tone P. He is an Artist and producer. Tone P, thank you for joining us.
TONE PI appreciate you for having me. Thank you.
NNAMDIErin Frisby is a Musician, Board president of This Could Go Boom, member of OSYX, FuzzQueen, Sanctuary D.C. and Girls Rock! D.C. Erin Frisby, thank you for joining us.
ERIN FRISBYThank you for having me.
NNAMDIAnd Kayla Randall is the Arts Editor at Washington City Paper. Kayla Randall, thank you for joining us.
KAYLA RANDALLThank you. Happy to be here.
NNAMDITone P, you're from D.C. You've made music, which crosses genres merging hip hop with Go-Go and Rock, for example. Where do you draw inspiration and why those genres?
PWell, I always say music in general is a reflection of, you know, what you've been through and what you've experienced, right? And for me being a kid, who was living in southwest D.C. amongst the, you know, project setting -- people would call it "the hood," you know, and going to school in Georgetown at the same time -- I'm not going to explain how that happened. But I was going to school in Georgetown up until the seventh grade. And then I, you know, went to school from seventh to 12th grade at Jefferson was, you know, primarily just African American students in Wilson, Hyde and Friendship, Edison -- I went to a lot of schools. Yes, I know.
NNAMDII noticed. Yeah.
PAnd so for me I got a lot of rock --
NNAMDIEasier question for you. Is there a school in the District of Columbia that you have not attended?
PYes, by the way. You know, for me I got the rock influence, you know, I was in Georgetown. And it was only, you know, probably four or five black kids and like four black Spanish kids and then majority Caucasian kids in school. So I got the rock influence first. But still living amongst my family and in the people that I lived around when I came home, which were -- you know, the Go-Go community was prevalent. That's all there was there. And so for me I got both of those doses, you know, with Go-Go, you know, Go-Go music and rock, you know, as my primary influences, because even back then hip hop wasn't as prevalent, you know, as it is now, because it really was just Go-Go to the fact that when Hip Hop artists had to come here you had to perform with a Go-Go band or you weren't performing.
NNAMDIIs there anything you think that makes music from this region unique?
PYeah, I mean, the fact that Go-Go has had because it's so dominant here in D.C., you know, it's had two to three records "Doin' the Butt" EU, Chuck Brown, "Bustin' Loose." You've had Rare Essence "Overnight Scenario" and those became national hips. But that's just a reflection of what's going on in D.C. But somewhere along the lines we still need to focus, because those songs were originals, right? And I think, you know, we need to focus more on that.
NNAMDIOn creating original music.
PCreating original music so we can maximize on, you know, the potential here in D.C. collectively, with the, you know, the genre.
NNAMDIErin Frisby, same question to you. As someone who has played at a lot of local bands, started a record label, organized shows, done music education in D.C., but has also lived elsewhere and toured extensively, what do you think makes the community of musicians in Washington different?
FRISBYI think that just to add to that there is this deep history of community music. Music that's for us for the people around us predominantly and foremost and about us and our histories and who we are in that because we have a lot of diverse input and because people in some ways don't necessarily think of D.C. as a music town first. They think of us as a political town first. That we've been able to develop really brave music that doesn't suffer from any of the timidity that I've seen in other scenes of people who are really concerned about making a national product rather than something that is part folk music in a way. That's really and truly ours. And so I think that that's the thing. It's bold. We tend to say what we mean and because of that we've got this just incredibly powerful music.
NNAMDIKayla Randall, you cover arts and music for Washington City Paper where you recently shared some of your favorite D.C. songs of the summer. What is your impression of the state of music in Washington today?
RANDALLThere is an amazing crop of young people making just really excellent Hip Hop and R&B music specifically. And like two members of that community just got named to the XXL freshman class, Rico Nasty and YBN Cordae. And they are two amazing artists. And there's such a community feel to it. They'll hop on each other's songs. You know, they'll support each other. They'll have these like bashes, you know, at 9:30 Club and at Fillmore Silver Spring, where a bunch of DMV artists get together and perform together. And so I feel like there's a lot of community happening. There's a lot of collaboration happening and there's also just this really powerful energy from like the local music community. And I wanted to document that so that's why I put together my little "Songs of the Summer" article.
NNAMDINatalie Hopkinson, you've researched and written about the history of Go-Go as well as the economic and cultural changes happening in D.C. So same question to you, what do you think of where music is right now in the District and how does that compare to where it's been in the not too distant past that you've written about?
HOPKINSONSo one of the reasons why I've gotten to know Tone P in the last few months is that we've been involved with Don't Mute D.C. and I'm really hoping that that is the beginning of another era of music. So with Go-Go each generation sort of has its voice. I was talking to Michelle Blackwell about this recently, and, you know, she talked about Chuck Brown, you know, who was born at a certain time. And then you had the next generation of bands that came under him like Rare Essence and Trouble Funk. And they had a certain voice and a certain sound. Backyard Band was another wave.
HOPKINSONAnd then more recently you had a bounce beat wave that's really struggled, you know, in gentrification over the last, you know, a couple of decades. Like there's been -- they've really struggled to have a place. The same place like that Tone was talking about like growing up. And so really what I'm seeing now is just like there's so much more interest and excitement about their music, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what the next generation of musicians, what it sounds like.
NNAMDIKayla, the artist that we played at the top of the show GoldLink made your list for one of the top local artists of the summer. He has a new record out called Diaspora. Who is GoldLink and why do you like that album so much?
RANDALLGoldLink is a local rapper. I think he kind of grew up all over the area like a lot of people do, you know, traversing from Virginia to Maryland to D.C. And I think -- so he'd been rapping for a few years. And like a lot of local artists had a really intensely, you know, feverish local fan base. But then in late 2016 he released a single called "Crew" and that single just kind of became an anthem for this entire area. And it blew up and it also featured two other regional artists, Brent Faiyaz and Shy Glizzy. And that song got nominated for a Grammy, like, you know, it was everywhere. And it still to this day is a great song. I always listen to that at least once a day.
RANDALLAnd he really stepped his game up this year with "Diaspora." I think "Diaspora" is probably some of his best work to date. It's this sort of cross genre, you know, blend of like Afro beats and -- but also reginal stuff like local stuff. And kind of old fashioned Hip Hop and like it's just a mix of everything. And it came together so well. And I just think "Diaspora" is something that everyone should be bumping to this summer.
NNAMDIErin Frisby, GoldLink's album features world music, Afro beat, hip hop, and R&B. How much a factor is genre crossing in local D.C. music?
FRISBYIt's a huge factor I think. I think that some of the most unique music in the country is being made here, because of that exact thing. Some of the bands that I can think of off the top of my head who I just absolutely love would be Black Folks Don't Swim, also Lightmare. These are bands that are combining Rock and Punk in a very Punk and Indie esthetic with Funk and R&B and Soul, and it just grabs people.
FRISBYI think sometimes people can do that in a way that's not very genuine. And can sort of just, like muddy your pallet. You're just mixing all your paint colors together sonically. But we've got some bands here in D.C. that are grasping onto that in a really knowledgeable and really genuinely connected way. And they're making intense great music that everybody can really dance to and like let loose to.
NNAMDITone P, up until recently the Washington region was not necessarily seen by many people nationally as the place with a strong Hip Hop scene, but that seems to be changing as more local rappers are getting wider exposure. Do you think that there is more great hip hop in the region now or that there always was and the rest of the world is just catching up to you and Wale?
POkay. I know this isn't -- can I piggyback off that last question real quick?
PBefore I jump into this one. All right. I just wanted to say that for GoldLink -- just going back to the reflections, right? You know, as a person who is an artist and as producer living that life everyday like I understand that GoldLink's music is a reflection of his life. He's lived like you said, from Maryland to Virginia to D.C. And that's why his palette of music is different. That's why he understands what to incorporate -- not even just what to incorporate. That's just who he is. It's what made him.
PSo therefore when he first came out before he had "Crew" before he all of these records, he had mainly pop records. He was rapping over pop stuff, like fast paced pop dance records. And that's what cultivated his following. That's why when "Crew" dropped it went gold and then platinum so fast, because people didn't even know that he created his fan base in a sub pop genre world, you know, which is an entirely different world. And then he crossed over to "Crew." And so I just wanted to piggyback on that, because it speaks to the understanding why he incorporates so many genres. It's because of the life he's lived just like the Go-Go community.
PWe mainly only do hip hop covers, because hip hop is the only thing that's been covered in their lives, you know. And so that's why Soldiers -- Hip Hop and Go-Go they don't do a lot of covers of 21 Palettes or other bands. You know, that's in different genres. But back to my question.
PSo hip hop. Hip hop I believe you had Hip Hop here with Kokay, and Priests and Nomad and people before me. Nonchalant, who did "Five O'Clock in the Morning," "Where you going to be? Outside on the corner." Yeah, I love that record. But and with all the respect, but she didn't really have a movement behind that as well, but it was so successful. It was a very successful record. I think the difference between what me and Wale did was we got together involved Go-Go and Hip Hop in a way that people outside the area can digest it.
PAnd then when that happened it was like, whoa, wait a minute, people in New Orleans really like this new wave of Go-Go. People in L.A. are saying that they like Go-Go. People in Milwaukee are saying they like Go-Go, because of how we on the creative side speaking about me and Craig, you know, my cousin Craig B that was my partner, my best kept secret at the time. We merged the music. And we merged the music to a way -- because we was like, man, we want Go-Go to spread.
PAnd so because of all of that, you know, now that we have the music business, you know, with the success of me and Wale and Craig B with that music. Now the music business is looking towards D.C., because now we've made some money. That's what it comes down to. Oh, they're making money. All right. Let's go see what's happening in D.C. And that was the beginning of everything.
NNAMDIThat's a lot of the time what it comes down to. We're going to have to take a short break. On the our way to this break we'll be hearing Band Wagon Jumping Machine by D.C. band Pyramid Scheme. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIThat's "America" by one of our guests today, Tone P. That was Tone P and Natalie's pick actually before the show. Kayla, one Hip Hop artist who's been blowing up over the past few years is Largo, Maryland's Rico Nasty. Here's a bit of what Rico Nasty sounds like.
NNAMDIYou've called Rico Nasty's rhymes cathartic. Who is she and what kind of energy is she bringing to the Hip Hop scene right now?
RANDALLRico is everything. So she's, you know, a local artist, rapper, and she brings this kind of just fire, like pure flames, on her records that, you know, you listen to them and you're like, wow, okay, now, I want to punch someone in the face, like that's what she wants you to feel. And it is cathartic if you've had like a long day, if you're stressed. If you throw on some Rico, she'll make you feel better, because she is also angry, but in the best way. And she conveys that in her music in a way where we can all just vibe with it. And she's talked about that before, where, you know, kind of rage is what is fueling everything, and that rage can be heard in her music. And it's a good rage. I like it.
NNAMDIOn to the phones. Here's Barbara in Burtonsville, Maryland. Barbara, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BARBARAHi, Kojo. I go by Bobby most of the time. Anyway, back in -- I owned Hollywood Ballroom. I sold it in 2011. But anyway, this (unintelligible) came and he wanted to renovate the ballroom. He had a bunch of -- I call them garage bands, Go-Go kids that were playing and he wanted to have a venue where they could play. You know, he was just renting it out for one Saturday. And I think they had about 300 kids. They had a lot of kids there. But each time -- and they had proper security inside and out. Those kids were so good. He'd get on the mic and he'd say, "Mrs. Bobby is letting us use her beautiful ballroom and you need to be respectful of it." And the kids were. There wasn't trash on the floor. Even the ladies and men's room didn't have trash and that's unusual.
BARBARABut we were harassed so bad by Montgomery County Police. They didn't want anything to do with Hip Hop in Montgomery County. And I'm just wondering some of those garage bands if any of them are the famous ones now.
NNAMDIWell, you bring me to the next issue I wanted to raise. And that is what happened here in the District of Columbia where there used to be a lot of Go-Go bands based here in the city. They still play here in the city, but very few are still based here. Natalie Hopkinson earlier this year issues of local music gentrification, race, local culture all came to a head in the Don't Mute D.C. movement. It's something that you and Tone P have been working on an oral history about. Briefly for listeners, who may not know, what is Don't Mute D.C. and what do you see as its relevance to the future of music in the District? And by the way, it's relationship to what our caller just said.
HOPKINSONYeah, absolutely. So the thing about Go-Go just to address what the caller said that is a scene that has replayed all over this region. And unfortunately the music really got criminalized. It got stigmatized with all of the social ills of the 80s and 90s, you know, drug addiction, guns out of control. Somehow the congas got blamed for that. I don't know how that happened, but it happened. And so, yeah, so it's been really difficult for bands.
HOPKINSONSo that's why when I talked about the bounce beat bands really struggling to have a place, I mean, literally they struggle to have a place, you know, when you have police that are against it, when you have curfew laws that are targeted against Go-Go. For instance, they had target -- some of the curfew laws applied to Go-Gos, but they did not apply it to ballets or other types of art. You know, to just give you an example of how stigmatized the music has been. And so, you know, you have Donald Campbell, who also is one of these. He owned one of these venues like the Hollywood Ballroom that she's talking about.
HOPKINSONHe had owned multiple clubs around U Street, lost all of those. They were targeted, lost his liquor license. And so he started -- he had a Go-Go store and also sold cell phones on the side. And so part of the reason why he would be playing music outside was that he thought Go-Go was dying. And so he started playing from 1995 up until this April until, you know, they got some complaints over the last couple of years as U Street has gentrified to turn off his music. And eventually these complaints went all the way to T-Mobile who he had a contract with to sell cell phones out of store.
HOPKINSONThey ordered the silencing of his music and his supporters really rose up. They were very angry because they were like, "Where is our music?" Like it doesn't feel like 7th and Florida unless Go-Go is blasting on that corner. And so that gave birth to Don't Mute D.C. movement. There was a student at Howard. Created this #dontmutedc. Ronald Moten and I created a petition that built on the #dontmutedc music and culture, got 80,000 signatures.
HOPKINSONThere were musical demonstrations all over the city and the music is back on thankfully, but the battle has not ended, because again they still struggle to get a place for the music. We still struggle to have music education in the schools. We're still struggling with gentrification, which has displaced a lot of Go-Go bands. So it's a movement that's ongoing.
NNAMDITone P, Rare Essence recorded a song with you called Don't Mute D.C. Let's listen to a little bit of that.
NNAMDITalk about the underlying issues, Tone P, that culminated in Don't Mute D.C., because you travel around the country and you realize that this is not unique.
PNo, it's not, actually. It's funny, because -- well, no, it's not -- nothing's funny about it, actually. I travel in and out of New York, in and out of New Orleans, in and out of L.A., Atlanta.
PYeah. And the thing is, gentrification is happening, you know, everywhere. I mean, and what makes it -- the thing about it is, like I told Donald Campbell, like, it's not the fact that things change, right. Things always change. You have to get -- that's just a part of life. Things would -- nothing stays the same forever. But what makes it, you know, difficult and harder to process is when things are changing, and because of your demographic as a company or as a store, you decide not to include that business owner in the discussion of change.
PAnd so when change happens, he looks around, he's like, well, what's going on? And he wasn't a part of the U Street restoration change, gentrification project and he gets left out. And then he ends up getting pressured out. You know, that's my point, and that same thing is happening all over the country. And that needs to be addressed.
RANDALLIt just happened in New Orleans, too.
NNAMDII was about to say, Kayla Randall, you are from New Orleans, which has, of course, its own unique musical traditions, from jazz, second line, bounce. And Don't Mute NOLA was recently trending in response to a street musician being arrested on Frenchman Street where musicians traditionally play. How important is it to you that Washington works towards preserving its unique musical exports, such as go-go?
RANDALLIt's incredibly important. I find regional music to be the heartbeat of a city, always. So, in New Orleans, like, the heart of New Orleans is the brass band. You know, you can't go anywhere without hearing brass band music, (laugh) and I wouldn't have it any other way. And here, I feel the same about go-go. I feel like it's the city's job to preserve regional music. It really is. And, you know, there should be dedicated arts funding for regional music to make museums, to do lectures and concerts and things like that to educate the people who may move in and out of the region on what that regional music is, why it should be protected and why it should be respected.
NNAMDIErin Frisby, you are also from New Orleans. Was it a surprise to you that a street musician in a place where street musicians (laugh) have been popular for generations gets arrested for playing music on the street?
FRISBYIt's unfortunately not a surprise, but it's a painful reality. I think that growing up somewhere where live music and people dancing in the street and people just stopping and participating in music everywhere is a way of life is just an absolute joy, and I would wish that for everyone. I think that, unfortunately, you always have to, like, see, okay, where is the power, where is the money coming from? And there's always this undercurrent of consumerism when people are trying to shut down people's music like that.
FRISBYAnd I just want to encourage people to love and support their local and regional music, even if it's not like your exact thing that you love, just because it's our right and we should hold onto it. It's our right to get together and make and enjoy and share art together. And it's part of our power, so let's not give it away.
NNAMDIHere's Nina, in D.C. Nina, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NINAHi, Kojo. I'm a huge fan of your show. Love it so much. You're such a big part of D.C., and I really appreciate this astute panel of guests you have on. To Erin -- hi, Erin.
NINAI think, in D.C., there's this immense opportunity for non-full-time professional musicians to also be a part of the scene, and to grow with it and support the incredible amount of talent and passion and creativity coming out of the city. I work full-time, not in music, but I'm also able to be in three different bands. And every single night of the week, I could go out in D.C. and the greater DMV and see just amazing, diverse, smart, heartfelt music coming out of this city.
NINAAnd to be a part of it, not only just being in bands and having so many opportunities to meet up with other musicians, there's so many jams and open mics happening here, again, cross the DMV, that are very open-armed and encouraging and thought-provoking and welcoming. And I don't know if that happens in every city, but that is one of the reasons I've been here over 20 years. And I've seen it grow, and I'm so grateful to be in a city that encourages that. And just so many talented artists like the ones you're mentioning today coming out of the city. So...
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Nina. Natalie Hopkinson, you've written extensively about the history of go-go, which, between the Don’t Mute DC protests and the recent performers at the BET Awards featuring D.C. natives Regina Hall and members of Rare Essence and EU, Experience Unlimited, is now presumably somewhat in the local and national spotlight. But just how vibrant is the current go-go scene in Washington?
HOPKINSONI mean, I think it's always -- it's very vibrant. You know, oftentimes, it's sort of like pushed over the D.C. line, back over the Maryland line, and sort of like constantly being displaced. But that's also sort of part of the culture. But your listeners are always the smartest and the best, because that's actually, like, an important point that she made about being part-time musicians.
HOPKINSONRight after the BET Awards, I was at practice for this performance called the Royal Pocket that we did during the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival. And Mighty Mohegans was there, legendary conga player. He had just performed at the BET Awards, where they flashed the Don’t Mute DC sign. And he talked about coming to perform on The Mall the next week, and he was, like, oh no. I just got off my -- he's a postman. He said, they just let me off to go to L.A. for the BET Awards. I don't know that I'm going to get off on Saturday again.
HOPKINSONAnd so I joked to him, I said, well, you know, you're on BET, you're national. I was like, you know, maybe you could let go of that job. He was like, oh, no. No, no, no. I'm never doing that, you know. And so that's sort of, like, you know, to what Erin's point about being part of the community, you know. So, they're a part of the community. So, the end result is not -- like success is not always, you know, multiple platinum, you know.
HOPKINSONSo, there's that sort of like vibrancy that music and live music in particular brings to a community that we've been so rich, you know, like other cities like New Orleans have been rich in. And I think people know less about the D.C. tradition, but it's here and it's been here for a long time.
NNAMDIThank you for your call, Nina. Here's Eric in Prince Georges County. Eric, your turn.
ERICHello. Hi, Kojo. I really appreciate the program. I just wanted to mention a few artists that, you know, I've met throughout the DMV area. This one guy, he's been blowing up a lot lately. His name is Beau Young Prince, spelled B-E-A-U Young Prince. He was actually featured on the animated Spider-Man “Spiderverse” movie. He has a track on there called "Let Go." Also, I want to shout out Jenna Camille. She's a local artist. You could pretty much see her everywhere throughout D.C., U Street, Adams Morgan. One of my favorite spots is probably the Songbird. And, actually, a lot of amazing artists coming up from D.C.
NNAMDIEric, thank you very much for your call. Before we go to break, Erin Frisby, there's a lot of nostalgia in D.C. for the glory days of both go-go and hardcore punk. What do you think about the ways that people talk about old school punk and go-go? Do you think that kind of nostalgia is a problem?
FRISBYWell, that's such a multifaceted thing. I think going back to what we were talking about earlier in mentioning gentrification, in some ways, especially when you're approaching issues of gentrification, you have to look at the art that has come before you as sacred ground, and you needed to treat it as such. And I think that, in some ways, the embracing of go-go citywide as a point of pride is long overdue, and is a correction and is something that we should be blasting out to the rest of the world and being really proud of.
FRISBYAnd the same for the punk movement. I think that we inherited a lot of really great ethics from that movement. I think that our ability to do things ourselves, to just get shows together, to make them accessible for people, that a lot of that comes from that punk scene. And it's definitely worth keeping alive and celebrating. The only thing I would say is to be careful, when you're looking back and becoming nostalgic, to see whose voices weren't represented to say, hey, I know that there were probably other people either making music or who wanted to make music who potentially didn't have access at the time.
FRISBYThat's one thing that This Could Go Boom is doing a lot, is we're focusing on women and non-binary people in music here in D.C. And there are some extremely great bands in the region who fall into that demographic, who are just dying to be heard and deserve to be heard.
NNAMDINatalie, has culture and nostalgia played any kind of role in gentrification in Washington?
HOPKINSONSo, I appreciate that answer, too, because I agree. You know, I think you forget your history in like what are we, you know, without -- we're recreating things that we've already created and trying to understand things that we already understand. But I also think that, you now, we had conversations with DCPS, right. So, we're talking about ways to incorporate music, go-go in education in the school system because, really, DCPS is one of the patrons of go-go. They started the first marching band. They were really part of -- like, it wouldn't exist without music programs.
HOPKINSONAnd so, you know, when you're talking about doing, you know, bringing those back, I don't think it's to the point of saying, okay, we need to do that same beat that Chuck did, or that Rare Essence did. And so that's why it's really been exciting for me to talk to Tone P about a lot of these things, because there are ways to sort of embrace the past while moving forward. Like, I can't wait to hear what the next generation -- but give them some instruments, give me some instructions. I can't wait to hear what they come up with next. Maybe it sounds like go-go, maybe it sounds like -- I don't know what it'll sound like.
FRISBYTrap Bounce. Speak on that. Yeah.
P“Trap Bounce” is an album that I'm creating that involves exactly what you just said, honoring the past, but moving forward with something new that the kids -- because my son is 11. And what he's intrigued by and what he listens to is different from what I was listening to, which is different from what Andre White Boy from Rare Essence was listening to, which is different what Chuck was listening to. So, right now, with the energy that's surrounding go-go right now, I've got a tape coming called “Trap Bounce,” which embodies trap music and bounce beat from go-go. And you know, I got all the new upcoming artists that's in the rap world merging them with the go-go world as well over sound. So, it's a Side A, Side B tape. Original's on side A, go-go version's on side B, with the artists in the go-go band.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break, and on our way to this break, you're going to be hearing "Falling Water," by Eastern Maryland native, Maggie Rogers. That was Kayla's pick, by the way.
NNAMDIThat's "Warfare Queen," by local rock band Santa Labrada. And that was Erin Frisby's pick. Before we go to Erin, though, Tone P, has the rise of streaming and digital and the phasing out of CDs changed how go-go recordings are distributed now?
PThat conversation goes higher than go-go. I would just say music, in general. Yeah, because, you know, albums have become shorter, because the pace of music is so rapid, that the pace of music being available is a lot faster because of the digital streaming platforms. So, you know, back then you had to process and put a CD into production, and that took time. And now you can make a CD, and it goes literally into distribution to the world within a day, you know. So, yeah, I think even for go-go, you know, the process -- I think, honestly, the PA system, you know, speaking specifically on go-go, I think PA recordings change the dynamic of the go-go culture, in general. Because, you know, instead of -- it's the pace. It's faster. You know, it's more rapid.
PLike we did on the Palisades Parade, we had, you know, go-go band members...
UNKNOWNThe 4th of July.
PYeah, we had Backyard COB -- the frontrunners for Backyard COB and TCB, Black Bow (sounds like). And we recorded the entire performance on a PA system, and it was done right there.
UNKNOWNAnd we played it.
PAnd we played it going back, so that's how fast that was, versus going into a studio, spending money on a studio to record your song for, you know, X amount of dollars, versus a PA system, and you could put it out right there and then. So, that really changed the dynamic of go-go recording for sure.
NNAMDIErin, you've taken a different approach to music distribution, starting a nonprofit record label. Tell us about your label. It's called This Could Go Boom.
FRISBYYeah. So, This Could Go Boom is only a year old. We came out of deeply heartfelt discussions around my kitchen table between myself and my band members and the O6. We're an all-woman rock band. And we wanted to put out a record. We were getting a lot of requests from fans to put out a record. We considered doing a crowd funder, but we didn't want the project to just end there. We wanted to leave something lasting and something that was going to really connect with community, something that would be bigger than us and move beyond us.
FRISBYAnd so we started a 501C3 called This Could Go Boom. We're putting out our first record, which is that crowd funder record the O6 debut on October 4th. And then shortly after that, we'll be announcing some other local and regional artists that we're going to be putting out for the year.
NNAMDIHere is Nicky, or Nikil, in Washington. Nikil, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NIKILHello, Kojo. Thank you for having me on. Actually, I'm 16 years old. I'm from the Washington, D.C. area. And, for my whole life, I've been a big fan of hip-hop music from this area. And one thing that I wanted to stress about the importance of go-go in this area is how much it impacts the upcoming generation of hip hop artists, such as Light Show, Walley, (unintelligible).
NIKILAll these artists are using go-go -- using the music they listened to as they grew up, using all those influences (unintelligible) and in the beats of music that's now being signed to major record labels and going completely international, going, you know, nationwide, selling millions of copies It's putting go-go on the national scene through hip-hop music, through that influence. And I think that's another reason why that kind of influence should be preserved.
NIKILAnd if you don't mind me saying this, I actually hang out at the hip-hop museum and a go-go kind of museum coming in D.C. to Union Market September 28th of this year. One of its main goals is preserve go-go and distribute music in the D.C. area.
NNAMDIOkay. We're running out of time, very quickly. How old are you Nikil?
NIKILI'm 16 years old.
NNAMDISixteen years old, (laugh) and on top of it.
NNAMDILet's talk about the business aspect of it, Tone P. You spend time in Atlanta, one of the centers of the music industry. A lot of artists move there or to places like New York or L.A. to try to break into the industry, but you came back. How important do you think industry infrastructure like labels, management and PR are for artists who want to make a living from their music. And how much of that exists in Washington today?
PWell, it's funny, man, because that is everything, like, for an artist. Like, the difference between an artist going national and being local is the business end. Like Rico Nasty, you know, she's dope and I love her talent, but she also has a great manager, which is her boyfriend, by the way. And I think his Instagram is, I think, “don't do say,” underscore. And he's amazing, you know, and he makes -- and you know he's allowed -- with any creative, you need a person that handles the business just as much as you work on being a creative.
PAnd that's the dynamic that, you know, as far as a collective music industry, that's what Atlanta offers, because it's been working on music for years, you know, in a national capacity. So is L.A., so is New York. In D.C., I think, you know, with the emergence of what me and Wale has accomplished, going back to what the girl just said, you know, keeping those influences in front of you. Because I get people coming back to me saying, man, y'all influenced us to do Internet James, the people she just named, Gold Link. They all have said stuff, you know, around like, you know, praising either Wale or me or both of us, you know, for that.
PAnd I think because of that we're -- I came back specifically, you know, because I wanted to represent the music industry for here and bring my resources and be that reflection for here, you know. Because I'm signed to Universal. You know, I deal with labels all the time, and so I wanted to make sure I extend my resources by coming back and not just keeping it to myself and running to Atlanta, you know.
NNAMDIWhile there are some musicians who are able to make a living exclusively off of their music, most cannot, and that's been going on for a long time. I'm thinking of the Great Buckhill, the saxophonist who -- the jazz saxophonist who spent his entire career working as a mailman while making jazz in D.C., because he couldn't afford to live here. But, Natalie Hopkinson, musicians in D.C. have the chance to fill out the District's first-ever music census. The deadline to fill it out, by the way, is today. What's the census? What kind of information are District officials trying to gather with it?
HOPKINSONSo, I don't know a whole lot about the D.C. music census, other than it came out of the conference that Georgetown organized last year around the local music scene. And this was an initiative of the mayor's office. And so they decided to do this, you know, D.C. music census. That will help them to give a -- you know, unfortunately, we have to quantify these issues. I mean, we could talk all day about, anecdotally, what the experiences of D.C. musicians are. But this will be the first time that we have like a really accurate picture of how big the scene is.
HOPKINSONHow many people are we talking about? How many people are employed part-time? And so, ultimately, I think that, you know, just like some of the other policy-related movements in and around DCPS, around -- you know, there's a movement to have go-go become the official music of Washington, D.C. There's legislation to do that.
HOPKINSONUltimately, it's an opportunity to provide some investment. So, New Orleans is known for what it is. Atlanta is known for what -- because there were investments made in it. And so, you know, I think it's great to count, and I think it's great to, like, create legislation to recognize...
NNAMDI(overlapping) But the investment's got to follow.
HOPKINSON...but it means absolutely nothing unless they put somebody behind it.
NNAMDI(unintelligible) I say that only because we only have about a minute left. Erin, did you fill out the music census?
FRISBYI did, and I agree. I think that the follow-through is going to be what we're looking for. And I would encourage everyone to fill that out today, and also to remember that if you're making music, you're a musician. You don't have to hold back just because you think, oh, I'm not performing full time, I'm not making all of my money from being a musician. You're making music. You're a musician.
NNAMDIAnd we're almost out of time, Kayla, but house shows are great for smaller shows. What are some of your favorite venues for larger crowds in this region?
RANDALLI love the Anthem. Going to the Anthem for the first time, you're, like, whoa, okay. (laugh) The Anthem is a great venue and they have been putting on some great shows. I do love Songbird, 930 Club, E Street Music Hall and Union Stage, too, which is newer, but is really great.
NNAMDII'm afraid that's about all the time we have. Kayla Randall, Erin Frisby, Natalie Hopkinson, Tone P, thank you all for joining us. Today's show was produced by Mark Gunnery. Coming up tomorrow, all jurisdictions in our region are set to ban the sale of tobacco to people under the age of 21, so we'll check in on the state of smoking and vaping in the region. Plus, we'll meet the playwright and actor behind "Twisted Melodies," the one-man show about legendary singer Donny Hathaway's final night alive. It all starts tomorrow at noon. Hope you tune in.
NNAMDIOn our way out, we're hearing "Bad Idea" by YBN Cordae, featuring Chance The Rapper and, of course, inspired by another musician who used to live around here, Gill Scott Herron. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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