Go - go music has been known worldwide as the unofficial music of the Washington D.C. metro area for more than four decades. In 2020, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a bill designating the genre as the official sound of the Nation’s Capital. While go - go thrives on the element of live music, there are several studio albums that have had a lasting impact on the culture well beyond their release. Here are five of the most-impactful go - go studio albums that you can currently find on streaming platforms.
Northeast Groovers - Straight From The Basement (1994)
You can’t tell the history of go - go without mentioning Northeast Groovers, who shot onto the scene in the late 1980’s. Often referred to as N.E.G, The Groovers were a steady force on the go - go scene by the time 1994 came around. Lead mic Christian “Rah Rah” Black is a charismatic frontman backed by a powerhouse music section “The Symphony” aa dynamic percussion section “The Posse” and a legendary front line of vocalists rounded out by rapper David “32” Ellis and singer Leonard “Hugg” Huggins. The group’s seminal album, “Straight From The Basement” was produced by legendary go - go figure Reo Edwards for his Future Records label. The band recorded studio versions of some of their hit songs like “Van Damme” and “The Water” at Edwards’ Landover studio. The thirteen-track album was released on New Years Day 1994, hitting the D.C. metropolitan area by storm. Several tracks would receive immediate and lasting radio play from local powerhouse stations WPGC 95.5 and 93.9 WKYS. With a great number of local students traveling to black colleges across the eastern shoreline and the south, the Straight From The Basement album made its way to dj’s and into homes across the country. Songs like “The Twenty Minute Workout” and “Booty Call” became the soundtrack for pool parties, high school pep rallies and more. Whether you’re partying solo, cruising through the night or headed to the go - go, there’s something for everybody here. A grand introduction for those not familiar to go - go in not only the variety of styles but the creativity in creating original go - go music.
Junkyard Band - Creepin’ Thru Da Hoodz (1994)
As their name suggests, Junkyard Band got their start as kids with makeshift instruments they found around their Barry Farms neighborhood in Anacostia. From humble beginnings playing on literal pots, pans and trash cans the band emerged as frontrunners for go - go. The band became local staples before being discovered playing on a street corner as teenagers, by Rick Rubin and signing to Def Jam in 1986. That year, the band would release “Sardines” through the label helmed by Russel Simmons and Lyor Cohen., Produced by Rubin, the track (along with it’s B- Side “The Word”) became two of go - go’s biggest commercial hits. The band would appear on several tv shows and films over the course of the decade, breaking down doors for go - go. By 1994, the JYB was grown, and long-separated from their dealings with Def Jam. Creepin’ Thru Da Hoodz was the bands second release on Street Records. The cover of the album lists cities all over the nation, as well as quadrants and sections of D.C., symbolizing the plan to captivate the streets piece-by-piece. The nine-track project saw the entire project receive heavy radio play in the D.C. area and down the coast regionally, led by singles “John Wayne” and the infectious “Loose Booty”. The album closes with a tribute to late drummer Willie Irving “Heavy One” Gaston” who was murdered in 1992 in Barry Farms. To this day, you can hear this album on your local radio go - go hour or just blasting from cars on a nice day. Definitely a starting point for anyone looking to get a feel and great entrance point to what go - go is and the evolution of the sound over time. This album is raw and straight for the streets. The mixing is done well and kept simple, giving you that feeling of being in the legendary go - go clubs The Ibex or Sugar Kane Palace again; or for the first time.
Backyard Band - Skillet (1999)
For over 30 years, the Backyard Band has remained a mainstay and top contender for band of the year in go - go. On New Year's Day 1999, the band from Northwest (Uptown for the uninitiated) released their fourth studio project Skillet. The album features many of the signature drives, conga grooves and breakdowns of the Backyard sound. The title track “Skillet” was a groundbreaking groove at the time, helping increase the tempo of go - go and later leading the way for many bounce beat tracks of similar fashion. Despite coming in at just seven tracks, the party lasts for just over an hour. Skillet has become a pillar for the community in terms of go - go studio albums, with the majority of the project remaining in radio and dj rotations for over 20 years. Tracks like “Skillet, “I Heard It’s The Bomb and the bands go - go rendition of the late rapper Tupac Shakur’s “Thug Passion” create the upbeat crank that lead you through a flawless studio recording. Definitely a great starting point for anyone looking to get into the sound. Many bands and local rappers have drawn influence from this album or sampled it in the 20-plus years since it’s release.
Critical Condition Band - Critical Condition (2007)
In the early 2000’s, the Critical Condition Band hit the go - go scene by storm with an array of catchy original songs and covers. Powered by an equally-talented frontline and backline, the band showed a range of diversity, remaking hit songs from rock bands like Green Day and r&b artists like Beyonce. After several years of headlining some of the biggest go - go venues in the area, CCB released their self-titled debut studio album in 2007. But not only did they distribute with renowned local havens like P.A. Palace, but the album found its way in stores like Best Buy and Target. This allowed the band to expand and be heard by a wider market. The 13-track project featured more than five songs that regularly received radio rotation before the album even released. Singles like “Classy” and “Whip Whop” took off regionally and beyond, becoming favorites for college dj’s in the black college regions to play when paying homage to the D.C. sound. The album was a major breaking point for the new generation of go - go, showcasing creativity and originality. The album was and still is a major example of the uniqueness and variety of go - go. CCB would influence other bands to follow their route to achieving success on a broader platform.
Mambo Sauce - The Recipe (2009)
Named after the official sauce of D.C. (Mumbo), the band Mambo Sauce was formed in 2003 by William Malachai Johns. Johns’ goal was to create a go - go band that played all original music and would finally break the go - go sound onto the national scene, consistently. The band made major waves in 2007 with the release of the single “Miracles” which was not only played in power rotation in the region, but featured on the syndicated Russ Parr Morning Show reaching over three million listeners. 2008’s” Welcome to D.C'' would enter power rotation at the same time as “Miracles” giving the band the unprecedented accolade of having two go - go songs in power rotation on multiple stations concurrently. With such strong radio play and download sales, both songs hit the Billboard hip - hop and r&b chart and “Welcome to DC” would go on to be and remain the intro song for virtually all of the professional sports teams in the Nation’s Capital, from the Washington Wizards to the Nationals. The subsequent video would be played on major television music networks like MTV, BET and VH1. Following the blueprint of the aforementioned albums, The Recipe (produced by Johns and released in 2009) features a balance of songs covering a variety of topics that many could relate to. Mostly avoiding the usual party and street culture tropes of their contemporaries, you get the hardcore sound and elements of go - go mixed with more familiar elements of pop, rock and r&b. The album fits many spaces or settings, with a little something for everyone no matter where you are from.
All albums also available on Spotify.