New DC is weird.
I kept telling this to myself as I walked around the city this past week. From my Airbnb in the Shaw neighborhood to the 9:30 club venue, I kept having to remind myself that I was in the same city that I lived in for 9 years. But those reminders were few and far between. Case in point, I was standing at the corner of 9th and U, home to a Warby Parker, and I spent almost 5 minutes trying to recall what was at this location when I moved from DC in 2011. I couldn’t.
New DC is everywhere, and it’s downright amazing how this city has changed in the past 10 years. However, even though they try to erase us, we’re still here. There is no more evidence of that than the WPGC 30th Anniversary party that went down at the city’s legendary 9:30 club this past week.
Old DC was definitely in the building.
As with any radio show event, the sets were short and the filler long, but the entire evening was a statement of DC as an African-American culture powerhouse. I stepped into the venue with Kid ‘N Play on stage. Bucket list crossed off. Sure, in 2018 they come off as corny, but in the eighties, this group was the premiere go-to “party rap” duo. Not only did they set the performance off right, but they were a key billing, as their hit “Rollin’ With Kid ‘N Play” tapped into the national DC go-go surge at the time. (The track contains a sample of DC legend Chuck Brown and another staple artist Trouble Funk).
Next was Biz Markie. As a resident of the DC area, this venue was a hop, skip, and a jump for him, but he brought energy nonetheless. Of course, everyone remembers him from the signature track “Just A Friend,” but he came to remind the crowd that he had other hits up his sleeve, including “Nobody Beats The Biz”, and “Vapors.”
After another time-filling interlude (a.k.a. the most awkward, weirdest, and blackest dance contest in the world), we were blessed with Big Daddy Kane. Truth be told, I’m not much of a BDK fan, not because I don’t appreciate the artistry, but because of lack of exposure (shrug). Also, I think this point my lack of food plus hangover were kicking in.
All was right with the world once E.U. hit the stage however. Experience Unlimited is one of DC’s premiere go-go institutions and one of the few to break out nationally.
If you haven’t seen a go-go show. Just go. Now. You will never see this amount of talent onstage from any other artist in 2018. If you don’t know, go-go is characterized by the pulsating African percussion in the background. In fact, there is no sweeter sound than hearing the percussion section of a go-go band fall “in the pocket.” Naturally, like hip-hop, go-go started off as party music, blending in different sounds across R&B and popular music. And this night was no different, as E.U. went into their own hits (“Buck Wild”) in addition to covers—most notably, Miguel’s “Skywalker” and an extraordinary cover of Prince.
E.U. ended with their signature song (at least nationally), “Da Butt”. Now, 30 years ago I remember getting in trouble for singing this song on the school yard, but most people outside of the DMV will note that it was one of the first exposures of the genre outside of the D.C. area.
They try to say that DC is a city without a soul, a city of transplants. But even with coffee shops and wine bars on every block, the real of the soul of the city is still here, loud and clear.