One day late last week, while sitting in the dining room with my cornball sister (@inthemixwithtre / www.inthemixwithtre.net), she asked me to write something on the music scene here in D.C. for DMV BLOG and dmvradio.net Uh, what music scene, love? What have I ever done to you for you to task me with something so daunting?
For the record, I'm a true Washingtonian, friends. Not one of those chumps that you see on the train, that went to American University or George Washington, got an education, and decided to stay. I bleed Burgundy and Gold (Redskins) and remember Redskins Games at RFK that my pops would take me to on a Sunday. I know about "Cool Disco Dan" and that A REAL WASHINGTONIAN calls RAYFUL EDMUND "RAYFUS". So, it's safe for me to say that I've seen just about everything that D.C. has had to offer musically. We've had some outstanding cats come out of this town; awesome cats like Chuck Brown (Rock and Roll Hall of Famer), Marvin Gaye (The TRUE FATHER of Neo-Soul), and Roberta Flack. And then you have your second tier cats like Kenny Lattimore, Mya, Tony Terry, E.U., who've had some moderate success. Bringing up the rear are your cats like Questionmark Asylum, NonChalant, and Junkyard Band. All of these are very talented individuals and bands, but other than the "top tier" no one has gone on to super-stardom. Okay, shut up, I haven't forgotten about Wale and Raheem Devaughn. But I would go out on a limb to say that they aren't superstars -- but we will get back around to those guys later on down the line.
We are gonna break this discussion into three separate genres for a more concise discussion: Soul (R&B), Hip-Hop, and Go-Go.
There's no question that we've had some amazing talent come out of D.C. like Ce-Ce Peniston, Marvin Gaye and, most recent, Raheem Devaughn (who emerged from the neo-soul/go-go band Urban Avenue Ref: Urban Avenue - "Heaven Help Us"). But these are singer-songwriters and vocalists, and if you follow music, most soul singers/vocalists have cut their teeth in the church, which makes them a much more polished product when they present themselves to the public. I have a pair of friends, a couple, Kevin and Canda Darryl-Clark. K-Nix is an outstanding MC/Producer and overall cool guy. Canda is a singer-songwriter and producer also. You would think they're rolling in the dough, drinking Moet Rose', and lending-out cash, but they are not. Why is this? Simple ... Respect ... or, rather, lack of respect.
|CECE is STILL amazing!|
In the music industry, especially soul music, when you say soul most people think of Detroit (Motown), Philadelphia (Philly Soul), and Atlanta (LA Reid, Trackmasters, and Babyface). For some unknown reason Chocolate City doesn't get the respect that other cities do as far our place on the soul music map. As great as Marvin Gaye was he still had to migrate to Barry Gordy's hometown to get his shine. It's not that we don't have talent oozing out of this great city, it's that folk tend to think that our town doesn't measure up to the talent coming out of other cities. In addition, there's not a community/movement with a wide-spread voice, in larger music circles, to push our product and agenda into the ears and faces of the music world.
|Rakim The God|
Hip-Hop is a different monster that deals with identity, or D.C.'s lack of identity. New York is known for it's great lyricists and their melodic flow. e.g. Nas, Rakim, Biggie, Ghostface, MC Lyte, and Mos Def. That area is also known for great battle MC's like KRS-ONE, Redman, 50 Cent, LL Cool J, and Joe Budden. You head down south and out west, heavy bass lines and club banging beats have thrown them into the hip-hop elite. In addition, the south and the west also have great lyricists. I'm talking Snoop Dog, Andre 3000, Souls of Mischief, Lil Wayne, Silk the Shocker, Mia X, and The Game. I get sick to my stomach to know that the Mid-West has gotten on the map before D.C. Please don't get me wrong, Common Sense and Bone, Thugs, and Harmony are BOTH in my Top 20 of all-time. But we're only 255 miles from NYC, friends ... how the hell did Nelly's wack ass go on to be in an international star but we can't even get a seat on Hip-Hop's front lawn. The answer is easy. Bone Thugs and Nelly (as WACK as he is) had their own original sounds that were new and exciting. Simple. Most cats from the DMV area don't have their own sound -- nothing original at all. Lets take Wale for instance, shall we? He can rap but he's certainly not a lyricist. Just go back to that BET Cypher he was on (you can Youtube it) some time back. He had the worst flow in the entire cypher! Wale's style of MCing (like most D.C. MC's) sounds like he is just rhyming words over a quasi-down south beat -- You never at any point feel that he is flowing. Now Fatso Skinny, Tabi Bonney, and K-Nix they give you well thought-out, witty verses ... they're are the exception.
|MY MAN FATSO|
Last year I went to a venue with my sister, Tre, called Weyone; it's supposed to be D.C.'s "House of Hip-Hop". I can truly say that I felt that I was in a "dive-club" in Durham, North Carolina (Joe Traxx is gonna kill me when he comes over to the house), as there were very few lyricist and a lot of shouting and bouncing. What I'm saying is that, to the rest of the hip-hop world, D.C. comes off as unoriginal and lacking depth and quality.
My girl (one of my very best friends), Faiza, has teased me from the very beginning of our very long friendship, "Yo, KP, when is D.C. gonna get their turn at bat? The south is running shit now, Dre and Snoop got paid ... even the Clipse, Mad Skillz, and wack Magoo have made some noise. What's good with y'all in D.C." ...I can only drop my head in silence. See, Shadz (Faiza) is from Crown Heights Brooklyn NYC. So she thinks she's the oracle of hip-hop as compared to me and she never lets me forget that the best has to offer is Wale. Look, I am happy for Wale's success and that he reps D.C. to the fullest ... I JUST don't like his brand of hip-hop. Let's be real, there some cats in Harlem that probably can't stand Jim Jones and Dipset, right? Questionmark Asylum were good but they never got their shine and I think Mistafiss was too busy wondering if I was breaking his sweetie's back while he was working on beats.
Now I'm not saying ALL of the MC's and Producers are unoriginal, that would simply be a lie. I AM saying is we need an original sound that's all our own. Our original sound is Go-Go and God Bless it. Thanks to Chuck, Essence, Junk, E.U., Redds and the Boys, and Benny I have some very fond memories as a young teen. Other than Chuck and E.U. though, nobody has taken us global. I'm bummed at this fact but not mad. I sincerely think Go-Go was ahead of it's time compounded with the fact that Hip-Hop had a much more powerful movement in the 80's and 90's, so we didn't get our shine. This is not to say that we won't ever make a Nelly-type splash on the music scene but it will take some time. Questionmark Asylum had a song featuring Chuck Brown on their album which was, I would say, the second best track on the whole CD. But due to awful marketing and other factors that song never got pushed as the second single off of the album. Youtube the song and you will find that it's the perfect blend of Rap and Go-Go, on par with or surpassing everything comparable except The Roots "Rising Up" (Where Wale actually SHINED).
Your boy, The Eclectic a.k.a The Hedonist, has an undying love for D.C. and everything in it. I totally respect all of the great artist I've come to know through my sister Tre and other promoters. But the DMV music scene can NOT remain "underground" if it wants to thrive and thrust itself onto the national music scene. In addition, you Negroes can't be acting like fucking fools down there in VA , tearing up hotels, and making us look worst on the national scene. How the hell y'all gonna act like damn fools at one of the only chances we get to shine nationally? *smdh* ...but that's a another blog for another day. Be Peace and God Bless.
The Eclectic a.k.a The Hedonist
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