Sunday, May 20, 2012


The place, Gaston, North Carolina.  The year, 1936. A star was born.  This star shined brightly for seventy-five years, and it won't be dimmed any time soon.  That star was the Godfather of Go-Go.  Chuck Brown touched so many lives during his unprecedented reign, leaving an indelible mark on a city, a music, a people, and a culture.  Sample Sunday, where I commonly share the links between old and new, can't do justice to the influence of the great Mr. Brown.  It will take MUCH more than a simple sample-based posting to touch on just how deep this musical icon is entrenched in the fabric of DC and surrounding areas. 

Let me start off by saying that I owe much of my introduction to Chuck Brown (and The Soul Searchers) to my long-time friend, musical colleague, and DJ partner Awethentic.  When he moved from Northeast Washington to East Baltimore in the mid-1980s, he brought with him a vast musical knowledge and deep crates of vinyl.  He single-handedly fueled my fascination with diggin' in the crates for beats and breaks.  We would forge a life-long friendship that had its roots in a shared love of hip hop, and music in general.  We would spend hours, day and night, searching for that break that we could sample in the Casio SK-1.  Archaic by today's standards, but VERY effective during those heady high school hip hop years.  Finding beat after beat, break after break could be a daunting task, and we searched high and low for music from many genres.  Of course, with Awethentic coming from that DC aesthetic, he would always hip me to something go-go related.  The name Chuck Brown ALWAYS came up, along with Trouble Funk, E.U., and Rare Essence.  DC Scorpio, The Junkyard Band, and others permeated the DC scene, and seeped into my B-more state of mind.  Of course, it still led back to Chuck Brown.  When we would venture to various local record stores in the area, like Music Liberated, Charm City Records, Jet Set Records, and countless others, we found some gems.  Like it or not purists, Ultimate Breaks and Beats was a great teaching tool for budding hip hop heads.

If you don't know by now, this multi-volume collection of obscure, and not-so-obscure, records was somewhat of a catalyst for myself and Awethentic, because we would now have another weapon in the arsenal to create what we felt was ahead of the curve hip hop.  Now how does this all relate to Chuck Brown, you may ask?

Ultimate Breaks and Beats, Volume 12 included The Soul Searchers classic entitled "Ashley's Roachclip".  The Soul Searchers was the funk-influenced, go-go infused outfit that Chuck Brown led as lead vocalist and guitarist.  "Ashley's Roachclip" appeared on the second album release from The Soul Searchers, Salt Of The Earth (1974).  Salt Of The Earth was an album on the Sussex Records imprint, refining the sound that The Soul Searchers brought to the masses with their '72 release We The People. 

"Ashley's Roachclip" is so dope.  I realized that when I was a little East Baltimore tyke.  I realized that when sifting through dusty vinyl with Awethentic.  I realize that now even more with the unexpected passing of the go-go icon on May 16th of 2012.  The intro flute, courtesy of Soul Searchers member Lloyd Pinchback, made way for close to six minutes of funk and acid jazz fusion.  The instrumental was classy and classic, and it served as the basis for SO MANY hip hop-based productions.  "Jackin' For Beats" by Ice Cube.  "Down The Line" by Nice & Smooth.  "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss" by the oft-maligned P.M. Dawn.  I can go on and on, but there are a couple of creations that warrant attention.  Exhibit A is a very familiar joint to hip hop heads:  "Jack The Ripper" by LL Cool J (included as a bonus track on the album Walking With A Panther).  This 1987 diss record, aimed at old school pioneer and lyrical wordsmith Kool Moe Dee, upped the ante on the seemingly neverending battle between the two emcees.  Rick Rubin, along with Dwayne Simon, Brian Latture, Steve Ett, and LL, contributed to the production of this song that could be found on the 12" version of "Going Back To Cali".  It served as a response to the Kool Moe Dee diss "How You Like Me Now", and is another cog in the machinery that has been LL Cool J.

I can go on and on (and on and on) about the sonic beauty of "Jack The Ripper", but there is yet another joint that also carries the DNA of "Ashley's Roachclip".  Take a look at Exhibit B.  "Paid In Full", from the 1987 4th & Broadway album of the same name, was a perfect marriage of beats and rhymes for Eric B & Rakim.  "Thinking of a master plan" was the dope lyrical intro by Rakim Allah, and it set the tempo for the one verse manifesto of arguably the dopest lyricist the hip hop world has ever seen.  Credited production for the song was Eric B & Rakim (I'm not quite sure if Large Professor or Paul C was part of the production equation at the time).  Nevertheless, the song has indeed served as the template for merging lyrical and sonic entities.

Exhibit C, from the same Golden Era of hip hop, comes from the Kings from Queens, Run-DMC.  "Run's House" is another gem that owes its sonic life to Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers, liberally sampling a portion of "Ashley's Roachclip"  Hearing the booming voices of Joseph Simmons and Darryl McDaniel over one of the dopest hip hop joints ever never gets old.  This song has also managed to sound fresh into the 21st Century, even serving as the backdrop for the MTV-based show of the same name, "Run's House".  Tougher Than Leather, the 1988 follow-up to Raising Hell, was deemed as another feather in the fedora hats of the Queens-bred trio (R.I.P. Jam Master Jay).

Much respect due to all the mentioned entities in this Sample Sunday edition.  Rest in beats to Chuck Brown.  You have left a legacy that is undenied and unmatched.  From nothing, you created (along with a few others) a musical sub-genre that is most definitely DC in nature and sound:  dark, gritty, energetic, rhythmic.  I will never forget your contributions to go-go and funk music.  You are an icon.  You are The Godfather of Go-Go.


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