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The Beat

Go-Go Music from Washington, D.C.

Kip Lornell

Publication Year: 2009

The Beat! was the first book to explore the musical, social, and cultural phenomenon of go-go music. In this new edition, updated by a substantial chapter on the current scene, authors Kip Lornell and Charles C. Stephenson, Jr., place go-go within black popular music made since the middle 1970s--a period during which hip-hop has predominated. This styling reflects the District's African American heritage. Its super-charged drumming and vocal combinations of hip-hop, funk, and soul evolved and still thrive on the streets of Washington, D.C., and in neighboring Prince George's County, making it the most geographically compact form of popular music. Go-go--the only musical form indigenous to Washington, D.C.--features a highly syncopated, nonstop beat and vocals that are spoken as well as sung. The book chronicles its development and ongoing popularity, focusing on many of its key figures and institutions, including established acts such as Chuck Brown (the Godfather of Go-Go), Experience Unlimited, Rare Essence, and Trouble Funk; well-known DJs, managers, and promoters; and filmmakers who have incorporated it into their work. Now updated and back in print, The Beat! provides longtime fans and those who study American musical forms a definitive look at the music and its makers.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. iii-iv

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pp. v-vi

Initially we wanted to (at least) speak with everyone involved with D.C.'s go-go scene, but this quickly proved to be an impossible task. Then we realized that the admirable goal of formally interviewing dozens of the go-go community's members was equally insurmountable. The community is simply too large and diverse to mention...

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pp. vii-xii

Attending a go-go in Washington, D.C., is much like going to an African American Pentecostal church service. The participants (musicians and patrons alike) know one another, they are passionate about the music, and they usually attend their "services" on a regular...

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Preface to 2009 Edition

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pp. xiii-xiv

Much has changed in Washington, D.C., since Billboard Books published The Beat! Go-Go's Fusion of Funk and Hip-Hop in the summer of 2001. Nationally, the reelection of President George Bush in 2004, the Iraq War, the tandem mortgage and credit crises, and...

Photographer's Preface

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pp. xv-xviii

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pp. 1-10

The horrific nature and senseless brutality of the crime leapt off the page of the Washington Post, riveting me to every word. My close attention to the newspaper almost caused me to miss the sight of actor Kevin Costner strolling down the sidewalk about 15 feet from where...

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1. The Roots and Emergence of Go-Go

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pp. 11-44

If you go back far enough, go-go's fundamental musical roots can ultimately be traced back to West Africa. First and most profoundly, it is the beat that characterizes and distinguishes go-go's utterly distinctive rhythmic drive, the essential element....

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2. Going to a Go-Go

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pp. 45-72

The uninformed often assume that go-go is synonymous with hip-hop culture, and to a degree this is true. Hip-hop has become ubiquitous, influencing the expressive culture of younger black—and increasing numbers of teenage white—Americans...

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3. Band Profiles [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 73-109

You cannot discuss go-go music without acknowledging the contributions of Chuck Brown. You cannot have an intelligent conversation about the origins of go-go without mentioning the contributions of Chuck Brown. And, finally you cannot even begin to...

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4. Communities

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pp. 110-148

Because Washington D.C. is in many ways a city divided, go-go helps to promote a sense of unity within the African American community. It helps to demarcate physical as well as psychological space. For example, upper Northwest (above the National Cathedral) is a...

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5. Entrepreneurs

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pp. 149-179

The people involved with documenting, disseminating, and promoting go-go are mostly local residents. The overwhelming majority of them are also African Americans. These are the people who earn a living by promoting go-go events, running clubs, providing...

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6. The Media [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 180-205

From its inception, go-go has enjoyed an uneasy relationship with the mass media. Locally, the Washington Post and the Washington City Paper have not only devoted space to the music, but Chuck Brown and the making of the film...

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7. Go-Go on Film

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pp. 206-227

Of all of the musical genres heard in the District of Columbia—including jazz and funk—go-go is the most widely documented. There have been three important documentary films, and go-go has endured several brushes with Hollywood. The first of these resulted...

Afterword: Go-Go 2001

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pp. 229-234

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Epilogue: "Welcome to D.C.," 2009

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pp. 235-262

In April, 2008, just as we began thinking seriously about writing a chapter to close this new edition of The Beat!, Jacob Ganz, the producer of Bryant Park Project (NPR's morning news magazine that originates from WNYC), invited Kip onto the show to discuss the recent passing of Robert Reed, keyboardist and a founding member of seminal...


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pp. 263


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pp. 263-265

D.C.'s Go-Go Bands

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pp. 266-267


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pp. 268-269


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pp. 271-276


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pp. 277-281


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pp. 282


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pp. 283-289

E-ISBN-13: 9781604733433
E-ISBN-10: 1604733438
Print-ISBN-13: 9781604732412
Print-ISBN-10: 1604732415

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2009

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