Rare Essence
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Rare Essence

Washington, D.C., Washington, D.C., United States | Established. Jan 01, 1976 | INDIE

Washington, D.C., Washington, D.C., United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 1976
Band R&B Funk




"Fans Flock To Reunion Show of Go-Go Legends RE"

Fans flock to reunion show of go-go legends Rare Essence

Video: Rare Essence reunion show
Over 2,000 fans packed the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City on Saturday night to celebrate the reunion of legendary Washington go-go band Rare Essence.

By Chris Richards
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 13, 2010
Mere minutes into Rare Essence's reunion set and the dance floor is already at full churn -- not on a trip through time, but in a rapturous celebration of been-here-all-along.

Rare Essence leader still go-going strong after three decades
Last of the go-go legends
Fans flock to reunion show of go-go legends Rare Essence

It's late Saturday night, and the Washington teenagers who once swarmed the legendary go-go band's '80s and '90s gigs at the now-shuttered Maverick Room, Washington Coliseum and Black Hole are now middle-aged, but still ready to perspire through Polos and Kangols, halter tops and heels. Over 2,000 strong, they've crammed into the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City to celebrate three decades of go-go, Washington's own indestructible funk dialect.

In many ways, the story of Rare Essence is the story of go-go: marathon performances, zealous fans, flirtations with national fame, flares of violence at concerts and the media mischaracterizations that followed.

And while the band lost some of its members along the way -- some to violence, some to time -- Rare Essence never went away. Instead, this reunion gathers 28 surviving members from every era, every lineup, including founding bassist Michael "Funky Ned" Neal, trombonist John "Big Horn" Jones and guitarist and mainstay Andre "Whiteboy" Johnson.

They sound like they've never been apart. When percussionist Milton "Go-Go Mickey" Freeman erupts in conga spasm, the crowd exults. Johnson estimates that this band has performed more than 5,000 times. Like so many Rare Essence concerts, it's easy to believe you're seeing the best one.

Three hours earlier, the band has just finished its sound check with "R.E. Express," a vintage cut that transforms the frosty German engineering of Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express" into a go-go magma. Johnson and vocalist-saxophonist Donnell Floyd are in an adjacent hallway, sitting on a plush sofa and a secret. After defecting in 2001, Floyd isn't just back in the band for the night -- he's back in the band for good.

"One of the things I realized while I was out there, was that I needed 'em," Floyd says of his decade away. He'll be joining the band at Tradewinds in Temple Hills this Friday.

The musicians aren't the only ones reuniting. Outside the Hyatt, fans are lining up and catching up, trading hugs and trading phone numbers. Down two escalators and through a security check, they gather in the atrium, some sporting red and white -- the colors R.E. used to ask fans to wear to its shows in the '80s. Tony Sanders, who's been following the band since 1982, dons a red T-shirt and a white towel draped over his shoulder.

"This is inner-city music," he says. "We grew up here and we stayed here. Go-go is never gonna die."

Others wear sharp blazers, including Calvin Matthews, who sneaked into his first Rare Essence show in 1981. "Essence stayed true to hardcore go-go," Matthews says. "That's why you're gonna see so many people here tonight, from young to old."

Crystal Johnson is on the younger side. At 28, she hasn't seen the band in two years, but used to tote a fake ID to get into shows. She came to Saturday night's reunion for one reason: "The crowd."

Before they had a crowd, R.E.'s founding fathers were teenagers at St. Thomas More Catholic School in Southeast Washington, scrambling to finish their homework so they could get to band practice. After teething on the funk of Parliament-Funkadelic and Cameo, they eventually adopted Chuck Brown's freshly minted, rhythm-centric go-go sound.

By 1981, the band had graduated from high school and hit the club circuit, going head to head with go-go greats Trouble Funk and E.U. "Every holiday [weekend] we'd all be at the Washington Coliseum," says Johnson, who remembers performing alongside both acts for thousands of teens at a time. Many wore red and white: "It was at least half, every time," Johnson says. "We were always blessed."

As the go-go scene grew, so did the band's ambition. They put out major-label singles with Fantasy Records (1981) and Polygram (1985), but never released an album with either. So they hunkered down in Washington and became a powerhouse on local radio. Under the leadership of Johnson and Floyd, the group crafted some of its most powerful tunes in the 1990s, including "Lock It," "Body Snatchers" and "Overnight Scenario."

The last song was grabby enough to catch the ears of rap superstar Jay-Z, who altered some of its lyrics and put them to use in his 1998 single "Do It Again (Put Your Hands Up)." Johnson says the band members were angry, but suing would have been prohibitively expensive.

Other rappers were friendlier. It was old-school rap hero Doug E. Fresh who christened Rare Essence with its enduring nickname, "The Wickedest Band Alive." In 2001, Ludacris crossed paths with Rare Essence at the D.C. Tunnel and later invited the group to back him on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards.

The band never broke nationally, but that didn't matter to them or the fans: "They are fanatical about this music," Johnson says. "To them, we're the big national stars."

The 2 o'clock hour is slipping into 3, and Rare Essence is deep into its second set at the Hyatt. Snapshots of Quentin "Footz" Davidson are projected onto two large screens flanking the stage, while the band eulogizes its former drummer, who was slain in 1994. ("Put ya' hands up for Footz, y'all!")

The crowd summons a similar roar at the mention of Anthony "Little Benny" Harley, the veteran trumpet player who died in his sleep in May.

But it still feels like a party. Women clutch their stilettos and tiptoe barefoot around the shrapnel of broken champagne flutes. Men pump their fists to the earth-quaking rumble of "Lock It." The beat somehow gets louder. The air somehow gets thicker.

Suddenly, all 28 musicians are squeezing onstage to take a bow. The lights go up. The fire marshal is upstairs and it's time to go home.

Another sweaty Saturday night in a lifetime of sweaty Saturday nights has come to a close. - Washington Post

"Rare Essence leader still go-going strong after three decades"

By Timothy Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 30, 2010; 12:28 PM
Andre Johnson eased into a small studio and made a beeline for a spot in the middle of a dozen current and former Rare Essence members preparing to rehearse.

Johnson removed his black-and-white Stratocaster from its case and plugged it into an amplifier. After a few strums, he was ready. He counted off a measure, dropped his raised hand toward the floor, closed his eyes and surrendered to the music.

Last month, more than 2,000 people showed up to celebrate the band's 31st anniversary concert at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City. A sizable crowd, given that the concert was promoted without any ads on radio stations, telephone poles or in newspapers.

Tonica Williams, 27, attended the concert and said she found out about it through Facebook. The band, she said, has been a part of her life since childhood.

"My mom used to party with them all the time," Williams said. "I've been listening to them forever. Partying with Essence is like partying with family."

And the leader of that family these days is Johnson, 48, the group's only original member. Others who started with the band in the 1970s have either quit playing or left for solo careers. One member was killed in an apparent robbery. Johnson, meanwhile, has survived almost exclusively on the band's gigs, playing music familiar to Rare Essence fans regardless of who he's playing with.

"I'm the last one here," Johnson said. "I wouldn't expect anybody else coming from the outside to care about it as much as I care about it. . . . Rare Essence is a brand now."

Living for the weekend

Johnson got his first guitar when he was 9 and was soon playing along with the records he heard. He was hooked. As a teenager at Archbishop Carroll High School in Northeast Washington, his popularity rose along with the band's.

"It's Tuesday, and I'm already thinking about the place that we're playing on Friday," he recalled.

After school, he and a few friends gathered in each other's basements to play Top 40 hits from bands including Parliament-Funkadelic and Cameo. But like many other local bands, they settled on go-go to lure locals. Rare Essence's original cast included drummer Quentin "Footz" Davidson, percussionist David Green, bassist Michael "Funky Ned" Neal and trumpeters Anthony "Lil Benny" Harley and John "Big Horn" Jones.

During the early days, daydreaming about the weekend caused Johnson's grades to slip, and his mother snatched him out of the band.

"I was born in Mississippi," Mary Johnson said in an interview. "And being from the South, and knowing how important it was to get a good education, he was not focusing the way I knew he could. I didn't want to do it. I had to get his attention, and that was the best way."

Her plan paid off.

Johnson worked his way back into her good graces and rejoined the band after graduating high school. From then on, he vowed to "take care of business."

His job was simple: Play the guitar.

Back then, "the mothers" handled the band's business affairs. Annie Mack Thomas, Footz's mother, was the band's manager. Margarine Neal, Funky Ned's mom, served as the secretary. Mattie Lee Mack, Thomas's mother, served as treasurer. The band incorporated, trademarked their name and logo and formed a music publishing company.

"They protected us," Johnson said. "As the business started to evolve more, I became interested in that as well."

'Should we be doing this?'

Business, they learned, had its pitfalls.

The band independently released their debut 12-inch single, "Body Moves," which became a regional hit and got picked up for national distribution by Fantasy Records. It cracked the Top 100 of Billboard's R&B Singles Chart in 1982 but failed to catch momentum. After a dispute, Johnson said, the label stopped promoting the record.

Another record deal fell through two years later, causing some of the original members to leave. Big Horn was the first, joining the military in 1985. Little Benny, the charismatic vocalist and choreographer, left to form Little Benny and the Masters. Little Benny went on to enjoy a long career. He died in May.

In February 1989, James "Funk" Thomas, the band's former frontman, checked into a drug treatment facility to deal with years of substance abuse.

The losses took their toll on Johnson.

"When things weren't going exactly like we needed them to go," Johnson said, "I started to think, 'Should we be doing this?' "

By the early 1990s, Johnson settled into his leadership role, and it was his job to pull the band through one of its most difficult moments.

On Sept. 17, 1994, the band had a Saturday night show on a cruise ship on the Potomac River. Footz hadn't showed up, so Johnson frantically used his cellphone.

"C'mon! Hurry up! The boat is about to leave," he recalled.

The boat, and the band, sailed without Footz. Later that night, Footz's body was found lying on the shoulder of Route 50 near Corporate Drive in Landover. He had been shot, and his wallet was missing. By that Monday, he would be identified by a Maryland medical examiner. Johnson and Footz had known each other since grade school, walking to Catholic school together.

"That had to be the most difficult thing I had to go through," he said.

'An R.E. party don't stop'

Away from the stage, Johnson mostly goes unnoticed. Sometimes, however, he is approached by people who say, "I know you from some where."

"People come out every night for years," Johnson said. "You get to know people. Not intimately, but you do know them."

He doesn't know what the future holds. The music industry continues a steady decline. Revenue from U.S. music sales and licensing has dropped more than 56 percent since 1999. Concerts are drawing fewer ticket buyers this year, causing some major label acts to curtail or cancel tours.

"The business has gotten harder and harder," said John Simson, executive director of SoundExchange, a trade association that collects and distributes digital performance royalties. But Simson said go-go bands have an advantage over national acts.

"It's always been about the live show," Simson said. "That's sort of the magic of go-go. . . . It's never been about having a hit single."

Aside from Chuck Brown's "Bustin' Loose," which reached the top of Billboard's R&B charts in 1978, and E.U.'s "Da Butt," which was played in Spike Lee's 1988 movie "School Daze," go-go bands have rarely caught the attention of a national audience.

And because of several incidents of violence at events, local officials have imposed strict security measures for venues where go-gos acts perform.

Johnson said he understands the need for safety.

"We want to find a way to work with the police, because we want our patrons to be safe," he said. "If it's a group of troublemakers that we know, we'll say, 'Don't let this group in.' Because they'll ruin it for everybody."

When the band performs, supporters shout this slogan: There ain't no party like an R.E. party, cause an R.E. party don't stop.

And Johnson hopes fans can do so for years to come.

"We're just not ready to quit yet," he said. - Washington Post

"Behind the Beat: Where You Wanna Go? Take Me Out to the Go Go with RE"

Behind the Beat: Where You Wanna Go? Take Me Out to the Go Go with RE

Jill Greenleigh

At the time that one of Rare Essence’s all time greatest hits, “Take Me Out to the Go-Go” was written and recorded, Rare Essence was a much different band than it is today. In light of the fact that Rare Essence has had a variety of incarnations over the years, one could be understandably confused as to who was actually on the recording of this song. When “Take Me Out to the Go Go” was recorded, the band actually consisted of Quentin “Footz” Davidson on drums, David Green on roto toms and timbales, Tyrone “Jungle Boogie” Williams on congas, Michael “Funky Ned” Neal on bass, Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson on guitar, Benny “Little Benny” Harley on trumpet, Rory “DC” Felton on saxophone and cow bell, John “Big Horn” Jones on trombone, Marky Owens and Mark “Godfather” Lawson on keyboards. The vocals were covered by Williams, Harley and Green.

According to Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson, the only original member remaining of the Rare Essence machine that cranked out original hits consistently, “although some of the early Rare Essence hits were recorded at Sigma Studios in Philadelphia, ‘Take Me Out to the Go-Go’ was recorded at Bias Studios in Springfield, Virginia. It was recorded in the studio, and mixed, but it was never mastered and therefore is not on any of the Rare Essence Cds. It can only be found on PA tapes. Mike Hughes produced the studio version of the song and it has been one of the classic Rare Essence hits.”

Johnson continues, “We just never released it. That song has been a mainstay on the Rare Essence play list and the catalog for thirty years. When we play it at a club, regardless of the era that the crowd came up in, they know the song. Some may not have even been born yet, but they do know the song.”

Mark “Godfather” Lawson emphatically states, “I came up with the music. Then, Benny, Jungle Boogie, David Green and I all sat down and started seeing what rhymed with what and we came up with the words. The melodies came from songs from our childhood- nursery rhymes, TV commercials and snippets. The part ‘What do you do when you’re home doin’ nothing’, came from a Cracker Jack commercial. We didn’t really get radio play on “Take Me Out to the Go-Go”, but it was one of our favorite songs to play. This song had the percussion breakdowns in the middle of the song that the RE percussionists added themselves and put their signature on. The song shows how you can use snippets, incorporate them into a song and have fun with it. This song was basically a medley of melodies, most coming from the playground. There was the 1950’s rhyme ‘There’s a soldier in the grass with a bullet in his ass’, a child’s taunt, ‘Cry baby, Cry baby’, nursery rhymes ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ and ‘London Bridge’ and then the Christmas song, ‘Do you hear what I hear?’ the music from the circus and of course, ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ to name a few.”

“The part of the song that asks ‘Where you wanna go? Where you wanna go?’ was started by some guys from Uptown, 9th and Westminster- Gene Bean, Nevellon and Harvey Cooper. They used to come up to the Maverick Room, anywhere uptown. They just started the call and response ‘where you wanna go? Take me out to the Go Go’”, Lawson adds.

“Mark (Lawson) started off every song that Rare Essence did back then, really”, saxophonist Rory “DC” Felton confirms. “He wrote his own part. He never got credit for it. I don’t know why. People don’t know this, but Mark plays horns too. Mark used to give us our parts- me, Benny and Big Horn. We would go over to Ms. Lawson’s house and we would practice all night. The horns were tight! Mark was very creative. We made most of our songs right at the shows. Mark would start something and then maybe Funky Ned would come in with his part and then someone else. We would just ride with the crowd. The next day we would go down in the basement and make it into a song. The people gave us our songs. We were really connected to the crowd.”

Johnson agrees, “We have always been lucky with that. If it’s something the crowd responds to, then we keep going, but if not, we just move on to something else. We need to see what works.”

Felton explains at the time of the release of “Take Me Out to the Go Go” his life was going against everything he had been taught as a country boy. “At that time, my interests were girls and the music. I’m from the country so everything I was taught against was being thrown in my face- and I liked it! I came up here from rural Virginia when I was 16 and I went to Ballou. The first day that Footz invited me to practice, it took me four hours to get there. I was so lost! Practice was on Xenia Street SE and I lived four blocks away on Horner Place SE. I just didn’t know DC. By the time I got there, practice was over. But, I’ll tell you, looking out there and seeing people smiling and laughing- that was my happiness.”

Over the years, “Take Me Out to the Go Go” has spawned many different versions depending on who was in Rare Essence at the time. But, regardless of who was on vocals, the song still had the whimsical childlike essence to it.

The song also precipitated the very popular online magazine, TMOTTGoGo, which is dedicated to urban music and culture in the DC Metropolitan area. Kevin “Kato” Hammond, owner and creator of TMOTTGoGo explains, “When I first heard the song, I thought it was really catchy. Of course I immediately recognized ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ but to hear it in the format that RE put it in, to me, was clever. It was such an excellent demonstration of the call and response activity that played such a prevalent part in Go-Go during that time. Benny would yell out to the crowd ‘Where you wanna go? Where you wanna go?’, and the crowd would sing back ‘Take me out to the Go-Goooooo’.”

He continues, “As time went on, the song just grew and grew. Different parts and sections were added to it until, in my opinion, the song was eventually complete. It had become such an ingenious creation, like a wonderfully written novel. I mean, it had an intro that went straight into the rising action. By the time it got to the lyrics, ‘Take me out to the Go-Go’, the song has reached its climax straight into the Tip-Top. But, it wasn’t over then. From there, it swiftly glided into its falling action and ending with the ‘Take the time out’ part. By the time it reached the end of the song, heck 20 minutes had gone by, yet not one boring or dead element in it!! Without a doubt, it had become my favorite Go-Go song ever, actually, to the point that when I created TMOTTGoGo back in 1996, I named it after that song, with the frame of mind to gracefully build on it the same way that the song was built- one piece at a time.” - The Examiner

"Killa Cal Da Animal on Capital Punishment and the state of Rare Essence"

It's been almost a year since Calvin "Killa Cal" Henry made the announcement that he was leaving the What? Band, his home for quite some time, to move on to one of the top bands in the City. But the question was, "Which band would that be?" Twitter, Facebook and even internet radio were all buzzing with speculation in an unprecedented frenzy.

Citing "creative differences and communication issues" as the factors that contributed to Henry making the decision to part ways with What? Band, still one of his favorite bands that he has played with to date, he relays, "I thought that was best for both parties at the time. It’s a feeling you get when you feel it’s time to do something else."

Henry, a 30 year old native of Bowie, Maryland, who works at the D.C. Superior Court by day and enjoys success as the rapper 'Killa Cal' by night, describes, "My journey hasn’t really been a cake walk. I narrowed it down to my top three- JunkYard Band, BackYard Band and Rare Essence and the three that I felt were worth me even continuing my journey in this GoGo thing. It felt great to feel appreciated. [There have been] a lot of naysayers (haters), a lot of hard work, a lot of time put into my brand and a lot of time put into perfecting my craft. Doing so much in such a short period of time, less than ten years, it felt great. It was a hard decision but great. People say they have never seen anything like that before in terms of buzz. I can respect that."

Ultimately, as fans know, Henry, who did not take the decision lightly, chose to join pioneering band, Rare Essence, who has recently released "Rock This Party". The band, having an illustrious career spanning over 30 years, is known as one of the premiere GoGo bands in the Washington Metropolitan area.

"It was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make musically. I performed with all three bands to get a feel from the crowd and the bands to help me make my decision. All three shows went great. So then it initially came down to needs. Which band could I join and immediately help out and display my talents with. JunkYard already had a rapper. BackYard already had a rapper. Rare Essence had a open position for a rapper. That’s how I made my decision. I knew it would be hard filling the spot after both previous rappers where so successful. I also knew it would be hard to win over the loyal RE fans, but I think they respect my talent and they appreciate me."

"Me going over [to BackYard Band] would have messed up the chemistry they have had for 20 plus years. They wanted me, but didn't need me. So I think I made the right choice. I want work for everything I get. When you win it makes it feel so much better," Henry continues.

Rare Essence has always been known for their distinctive vocals with legendary icons "Little Benny" Harley, James Funk and Lawrence "Maniac" West. Most recently, the departure of Donnell "D. Floyd" Floyd created the front line opening when he once again left Rare Essence to resurrect rival band Familiar Faces. Familiar Faces partially consists of former members of Rare Essence including the most recent defector, Milton "GoGo Mickey" Freeman, one of Rare Essence's most senior members and a true fan favorite.

"Mickey was a major factor of me joining Rare Essence. How does it feel to see him go? It's 50/50. You don’t want to lose a face of the band, a great personality and arguably the best at his position ever, but if you got love for Mickey, like I do, you want to see him happy. And If he is happy then its cool with me. We stay in touch and we both are professionals, so we know where we stand. It's business, never personal," reveals Henry.

Henry adds, "If you look at the history of Rare Essence, they have been thru this before. Footz passing. Funk leaving. Ned leaving. Lil Benny passing. D. Floyd leaving and so on. So they know more than anybody how much work its going to take to keep this going. I think pieces are in place. We just have to execute. As far as me, I'm pretty consistent with my work ethic and what I bring to the table in any situation I'm in. I'm up for the challenge."

According to Henry, the current lineup of Rare Essence is founding member Andre "Whiteboy" Johnson on lead guitar, Ke Ke, Shorty Corleone and Henry on the frontline with an occasional appearance by the legendary James Funk, Byron "BJ" Jackson on keyboards and Roy Battle on keys and trombone, Mike Baker on bass, Archie Knuckles on Trumpet, "Blue Eyed Darryl" Arrington on drums, Quentin "Shorty Dud" Ivey on roto toms and Alphonso "Petey" Murray on congas.

A product of the Washington Metropolitan area school system, Bowie High School, Henry was sought after for his basketball skills before his rapping skills. Henry's mother lived uptown in Northwest D.C. along the U Street corridor which had a profound effect on him and between this environment and being raised by his grandmother and aunt in the suburb of Prince George's county, he had a great balance. Attending Hampton University in Hampton, VA was when Henry started to focus on music, especially GoGo because, he explains, "there was a lane down there to have a band and actually travel and get paid. That’s when I saw how much of a business this thing really was. I put myself through college with that and I credit two people for that- Rio Thompson, who was the manager of my band, The Underground Band, in college and Moe Shorter, former manager of JunkYard Band."

After graduating from Hampton University in 2002/2003, Henry "came home ready to jump in the major scheme of things."

With a rap influenced background and an upcoming mix tape 'The Rhymesolvers Unit Presents Capital Punishment', to be released around Christmas, Henry suggests that some of his influences include both the late Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. as well as Ice Cube. On the local Washington, D.C. scene, Henry specifies that he is a fan of all the rappers in bands because they all had a sound of their own. Specifically, however, the biggest influence on his career was "Fat Rodney" Martin, a notorious D.C. rapper in his own right, who was tragically gunned down at the age of 21 in 1989. Henry, a youngster then, never got to meet Fat Rodney, but studied him and his craft.

"On the rap side of things I would say my mix tape, 'Reality Check', has been the most important product that I have released to date. It drew national attention from publications up and down the coast, in the south and the west coast. When I appeared in HipHop Weekly in 2009, that was a great feeling. No other rapper from the GoGo Community had been featured in a HipHop publication. I was in three that year."

As far as Rare Essence is concerned, Henry "would like to see us move abruptly, but smart. In my opinion more music in the street, more of a presence on the net and good old fashioned hard work. To be honest, creatively we are in a great spot right now so don’t be surprised if you hear new material sooner than later."

Henry, looking forward, concludes, "In 10 years, I would like to be happy enjoying life with my family. Of course I’ll still be involved in music, some sort of way. It’s been a part of my life everyday for so long that I can’t deny the fact that this is one of the things I was put here to do. If or when I am done with GoGo or recording, I want the people give me my respect and look at my journey as one of a kind. Hopefully I’ll have a place amongst the greats."

Henry speaks on his five "most influential people" in Go-Go based on contributions to the genre, not based on friendship.

On Chuck Brown: He IS the Godfather of Go-Go. He started all of this.

On Fat Rodney: Fat Rodney's style and ability was a heavy influence on what I do today. Even though he wasn’t in a band, he was respected enough to get on any stage and rock the microphone and he did it night in and night out consistently.

On Reo Edwards: He IS the sound behind the music.

On PA Pat (owner of PA Palace, a music store specializing in GoGo cds, magazines and videos): People don’t realize how important this entity is to our music as a whole. Having a place like this at the world's disposal is major in keeping our music alive locally and nationally, at least in my opinion.

On Nico The GoGo-oligist (co-founder of GoGoRadio.com) This is a website totally catering to everything involving GoGo. They have numerous live broadcasted shows, outlets for music, party schedules and it's one of the only places you can hear GoGo Music around the clock.

Henry also wanted to make certain that two other people's efforts did not go unnoticed and they are Kevin "Kato" Hammond and Bobbie Westmoreland from TMOTTgogo as "their contributions to GoGo are also very extensive." - The Examiner

"Review: At Globalfest, a World of Cultural Keepsakes With a Dance Beat"

Three bands had been around long enough to be traditions of their own. Rare Essence was part of the original wave of go-go bands that emerged in Washington in the 1970s, stringing together songs, chants and percussion workouts around the unhurried but steadily propulsive go-go beat. Forty years on, it was a flashback to a funky alternate path for the early days of hip-hop, one that depends on human players rather than programming. - New York Times

"Playlist: Rare Essence's go-go favorites"

Look past Washington, D.C.'s bland, khaki-suited reputation, and you'll find one of America's funkiest homegrown genres. Born in the '70s and pioneered by Chuck Brown, go-go borrows funk's fundamentals and adds lively, syncopated percussion and call-and-response chants, creating a distinctive sound made for performing live.

One of go-go's most essential names, Rare Essence has kept their city's pulse humming for over 40 years. To celebrate the release of Turn It Up, their first studio album in 15 years (out Friday), the band shares a go-go primer with USA TODAY.

Follow along with our playlist: - USA Today

"Rarin To Go Go"

Rarin' to Go-Go
Rare Essence keeps D.C.'s hometown beat alive, 40 years in.
Rare Essence2

It's nearly 2 a.m. at the Touché Supper Club, and Rare Essence lead talker James "Funk" Thomas is deep in roll call. Over fusillades of percussion, he's greeting familiar faces in the crowd: folks from his neighborhood, longtime fans, young women in the front, and the guys who come every week.

And then Funk shifts from people to places. He's giving shout outs to venues Rare Essence played in the '70s and '80s: the old Panorama Room in Anacostia, the East Side in Southwest, and the Masonic Temple on U Street NW. "If you've been to Club U, if you've been to Triples nightclub, if you've been to the Metro Club, we gonna do all that tonight, y'all," he promises. "Let's go all the way back, y'all."

The audience roars back affirmation, outstretched hands slapping the air to the intoxicating beat.

Touché Supper Club is located in Northeast's gentrified H Street district, but inside the club, tonight belongs to a different D.C.: the predominantly African-American city where go-go began and has thrived for generations. All 11 members of Rare Essence are crammed onto the stage along with two club photographers documenting the show. Conga player Samuel "Smoke" Dews is wearing a T-shirt that reads "Wind Me Up, Chuck," a tribute to the late "godfather" Chuck Brown, creator of go-go's distinctive sound.

Go-go's continual celebration of its own history is just one aspect of the music's self-contained culture. Tonight, like so many nights before, Funk is celebrating go-go on several levels: He's recognizing the music's fans, its past, and the music itself. By name-checking the long-shuttered venues, Funk is revisiting go-go's precious history as the heart and soul of a huge swath of D.C.'s African-American community.

Rare Essence is now in its fourth decade as one of D.C.'s top go-go bands. The group has prevailed despite dozens of lineup changes, several deaths, drug violence that threatened the music's very existence, and the gentrification that has displaced a dismayingly large percentage of the city's black community. In many ways, the story of Rare Essence reflects the story of black D.C. It's the story of a group of young boys from Southeast's Washington Highlands neighborhood who dreamed of becoming music stars. Their story encompasses the pride and optimism of Mayor Marion Barry's early years in office, as well as the heartbreak of the late '80s crack epidemic.

The story of Rare Essence is also the story of a homegrown funk music that refuses to fade away.

On May 6, Rare Essence is releasing Turn It Up, the band's first studio album in 15 years. Not counting the hundreds of PA recordings the band has churned out, Turn It Up is Rare Essence's 15th official album, and it's aimed squarely at the music's core DMV audience and, just maybe, the world beyond.

No other go-go act, aside from Chuck Brown, has been as influential within the go-go community as Rare Essence. In 2010, when the band was celebrating its 31st anniversary, go-go historian Kato Hammond designed a graphic for his TMOTTGoGo website. Using a "Welcome to D.C." sign, he replaced the D.C. with R.E.

"Rare Essence has never lost that top tier position in almost five decades," says Hammond. "That's a big thing. That's a Grateful Dead type of standing."

Others in the local music community point to the band's branding, professionalism and consistent release of new original music. "Rare Essence is in the elite group of bands that have stood the test of time," says Tom Goldfogle, former manager of Chuck Brown. "They've had some changes in personnel, but they remain as relevant today as when they first started."

Tonight's Touché Supper Club show is evidence of that. The club is jam-packed, with more folks filing through the door. One of them, Darryl Blackwell, born and raised in Washington Highlands, has been a fan since the late '70s, when he used to hit the go-go shows at Highlands Recreation Center. Now 50, Blackwell doesn't get out as much as he used to.

"I love Rare Essence," says Blackwell. "Whether by listening to CDs or going to the shows, I'm gonna stay a fan for life."

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The origins of go-go have been well documented. The music dates back to the mid-'70s, when local bandleader Chuck Brown, a former boxer and ex-con, wanted to best his competitors in D.C.'s live music scene. Brown believed that pauses between songs slowed down the party, and so he worked with drummer Ricky Wellman to devise a percussion breakdown that could link songs together. Soon, his band was playing those breakdowns during the songs as well.

The first go-go hit, Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers' 1979 "Bustin' Loose," was also a national hit. It predates the classic go-go sound, but the elements were already in place: percolating percussion patterns, call-and-response chants, a rump-shaking party mood, and the bandleader's charismatic personality. "That's how the sound you hear now got started," Brown told City Paper in 1990. "You take those percussion breakdowns, mix a little music, and the other bands had something they could adapt to."

One of those other pioneering go-go bands belonged—in a way—to Annie Mack Thomas. A mother of four who was keenly interested in music, Thomas' house on Xenia Street SE was filled with records, and she regularly took her family to hear the soul and R&B greats who performed at the Howard Theatre.

Eager to encourage her sons' interest in music, Miss Mack—as she was known to all—bought James his own turntable when he was eight. Her youngest, Quentin Davidson, got a drum set at age six, and after that, all he wanted in this world was to start a band. The boys' uncle, D.C. Sam, had his own drum and bugle corps and gave Quentin his first lessons. "The drum set was in the dining room," notes James Funk, "so the rest of us had to sit through the beginnings."

By the time he was 13, Quentin had enlisted several of his schoolmates at Saint Thomas More Catholic School for his band: Andre "Whiteboy" Johnson, Michael "Funky Ned" Neal, John "Bighorn" Jones, and Quentin's cousin, David Green.

One afternoon, while the boys were practicing at Johnson's house, a small kid holding a trumpet knocked on the door. He played Kool & The Gang's "Hollywood Swinging" for them, and immediately "Little" Benny Harley became the newest member of the band. The boys went through various names—Connections Unlimited, Thesis, and the Young Dynamos—before settling on Rare Essence, after a brand of perfume.

James had already started working as DJ Jas. Funk at Chuck Brown's shows, and he soon decided that Rare Essence should adopt Brown's new go-go sound. The first step would be taking the boys—all 13 or 14—to hear Brown perform. "That night was like the beginning of a new band," says Funk. "Their eyes just lit up, like a kid getting ready to go into Toys 'R' Us... You could even tell when they came to that next rehearsal, it was a total different band."

Brown helped Funk shape the band they jokingly called "the Baby Soul Searchers," and some of the grownup Soul Searchers coached the boys, helping them master their instruments. Because Quentin was always heavy on the bass drum, he became known as "Footz."

Whiteboy's godmother arranged the fledgling band's first gig at the nearby Linda Pollin recreation center. "We were extremely nervous," recalls Whiteboy, Rare Essence's guitarist and only original member. "We only knew two songs. We played both songs back and forth all night."

Miss Mack legally incorporated the band and served as manager with help from Funk. Her mother, Mattie Lee Mack—known as Miss Sis—became secretary. And Michael Neal's mother, Margarine Neal—"Miss Neal," of course—was appointed treasurer.

"They brought stability to what it was we were trying to do," says Whiteboy. "Along with Funk, they brought a sense of direction because we didn't know. All we knew is that we wanted to play."

The three women and Funk enforced a strict practice schedule, and anyone who was late or missed practice was fined. "If you can't make rehearsals, then we got a problem already," says Funk. "Even if we just sitting around in rehearsal, that's some kind of social thing, a spiritual thing that connects us and keeps us connected."

Funk continued his career as a DJ, but by 1978, he had joined Rare Essence as a lead talker. "Quentin got tired of me giving orders from backstage and told me to get out front," he says. Throughout the years, Funk has come and gone but has always remained connected to Rare Essence—since 2001, he has performed regularly with the band.

While the boys of Rare Essence honed their musical skills, Marion Barry's Summer Youth Employment Program played a huge role in raising the band's profile. During the summers of '78, '79, and '80, the boys were paid to perform at parks all over the city as part of the Showmobile performance series.

Funk says that Rare Essence played more often than other Showmobile acts because the other bands were more particular about where they played. "I guess they thought they was a cut above," he says. "But for us? Alright. Ivy City? We'll go there. Douglas Terrace? We'll go there, too. All them little holes—we'll go over there."

As the band's popularity grew, kids began following Rare Essence to venues all over the city. "It got to the point where wherever we performed there was this sea of boomboxes," says Michael Neal, who left the band in 1998 for tours with Maxwell and Meshell Ndegeocello. "People had their radios on their shoulders."

Bookings came faster and the band's three matriarchs became fixtures at Rare Essence shows. They often collected admission at the door dressed in red and white, the band's colors, with Miss Sis topping it off with her signature red tam over bleach-blonde hair.

"Those three ladies kept that organization together," promoter Darryl Brooks told the Washington Post just after Annie Mack's death in 2003. (Miss Sis died in 1998.) "Those ladies ran. When they couldn't get the clubs right, they would take over the clubs—they would do the security, the doors, everything."

"They gave so much to their community," he added. "They gave that band a foundation. They kept a lot of families together. They kept a whole lot of kids out of trouble. And they sold a lot of records."

During the '80s, competition between the top go-go bands—Rare Essence along with Trouble Funk, Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers, and Experience Unlimited—was intense, and Miss Mack believed that a good stage show required uniforms. Early on, those uniforms were usually red and white silk, and Miss Neal sewed them herself. Mandatory dress rehearsals were part of the drill, just to make sure everything fit right.

Far more challenging was monitoring the boys at the clubs. "We had to watch everywhere they went if we was playing any place where there was alcohol," Miss Neal recalls. "And you know how young kids are, they were trying us all kinds of ways. They kept Miss Mack and I busy watching them, and they trying to duck us."

Most of Rare Essence's early singles were party tunes, tracks like "Shoo-Be-Do-Wop" and "Body Moves," which was produced by Brown and Funk and distributed by Fantasy Records in 1982. But "Back Up Against the Wall," released in 1983, depicted the grim realities of poverty in the shadows of federal Washington, limning the desperation that comes when ends won't meet:

"Times are so very hard, sometimes I think I'm living in hell/ It's not easy to find a job, when will everything be well/ I can't get no money, gotta pay your bill/ Gotta get the dollar before I lose the will/ Try to find a hustle, but it's just too hard/ Gotta get it together before it goes too far/ Some people say they just can't cope/ So what do they do, I say they turn to dope/ Seems like there's just no hope at all/ Now how you gonna do it with your back up against the wall?"

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"Little" Benny Harley, the diminutive trumpeter with a big voice, soon became one of Rare Essence's most popular performers. He was also the first of a number of high-profile band members to leave. In 1984, he recorded his own single under Little Benny & the Masters, "Who Comes to Boogie," which became a chart-topping hit in England. For the boys of Rare Essence, his departure was an enormous blow. "That was a heartfelt thing," says Funk. "I begged him. I really cried when he left, like a big ol' baby."

Around the same time, Island Records chief Chris Blackwell became infatuated with go-go and announced he would bring the music to a worldwide audience, just as he'd done with reggae via Bob Marley.

Rare Essence was apprehensive about signing with any major label. Perhaps there was less incentive to sign because the band was doing so well. The mid-'80s were go-go's golden era: The bands were wildly popular, and it seemed like every black neighborhood in the D.C. area had at least one up-and-coming go-go band. Rare Essence was often playing six nights a week, and on some weekend nights, they could play two or even three separate shows in different quadrants of the city.

"We would start out doing 8 to 12 someplace at a high school or wherever," recalls Whiteboy. "Then we would end up at the Howard Theatre at 2:30 or 3 o'clock in the morning and go to 6 a.m."

Rare Essence ended up signing with Polygram in 1984. But "Flipside," the 1986 techno-funk styled single that was the only result, was an embarrassment. "They didn't want a go-go band. They thought they did," says Whiteboy. "We gave them 10 or 12 other songs before 'Flipside,' and the only reason we recorded that record was to get out of the deal."

A 1988 deal with Andre Harrell's Uptown Records also proved disappointing, although Rare Essence's local hit, "Lock It," appeared on the soundtrack for the film Strictly Business that was released by the label. But once again, a label seeking to sell records worldwide wasn't interested in pure go-go, they wanted a diluted radio-friendly sound that was anathema to the band.

Rare Essence learned a crucial lesson: "That we should probably do it ourselves because we know what it is we wanna do," says Whiteboy. "The labels they think they know what they want, but they don't really know the inside of what go-go is and what makes go-go work."

"What we're trying to do is just stay true to what it is we are," he adds. "Which is a go-go band, whether it be unpopular outside of here or not. That's how we've been able to outlast a whole lot of other artists, national and international artists."

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By 1987, the drug-related violence that had swept through America's urban areas hit D.C. hard. As the crack epidemic took hold, dealers' disputes were often settled quickly and with terrible finality. "Nobody was fighting with their fists any more," recalls Michael Neal. "I remember the days when a guy would get stomped. After a few minutes, that guy got up and went home to his momma. Those days changed."

Go-go shows attracted people from all over the city, so they offered a convenient setting for dealers looking to settle scores. "If I see you at the club, that's my opportunity to have whatever kind of words with you," says Neal. "If this is where those people who would do those kind of things see each other, it just happens to be. I mean, suppose they're vegans and they meet each other at the produce stand at the Giant?"

On April 11, 1987, gunmen sprayed bullets into a crowd leaving a Rare Essence show at U Street's Masonic Temple. Eleven people were shot. In the years that followed, the death toll around the city rose, but any time violence took place during or after a go-go show, the media blamed the music. And so did police and local politicians.

It was easier to point fingers at the go-go bands than to dig deeper and explore the inner city miseries behind the violence. "They never blamed the drug culture," says Margarine Neal. "They always just blamed whatever bands were there, especially when we were there."

Either due to ignorance about the go-go scene or plain old racism, go-go—a distinctly African-American form of music—was censured again and again. Go-go bands kept thousands of kids off the streets and out of trouble, but that was hardly ever acknowledged. "Sometimes we weren't even a part of what was going on, but our name would come up," says Margarine Neal. "At the time, most of the guys who were doing the writing were white, so what would you expect?"

While there seemed to be no direct connection between go-go bands and the city's drug culture, the two worlds did intersect. "I think the most painful night for me... was a young boy that was murdered right in the Black Hole, Celebrity Hall," says Michael Neal. "I remember the sound of the gun going off, people screaming, of course. And the young man crawling up on stage and lying behind Footz's drum set. And that's where he died. He had a big hole right through his heart."

In 1989, Fat Rodney, a popular local rapper who frequently joined Rare Essence on stage, was fatally shot outside Crystal Skate in Temple Hills. And five years later, on a warm September night in 1994, the violence took one of Rare Essence's own. A motorist discovered the body of Quentin "Footz" Davidson along Route 50 in Landover. According to police, he had been shot in the chest. His murder remains unsolved. "It still is devastating," says Funk. "He was my blood brother, but he was also the heart of the band."

Footz was 33 when he died, leaving behind six children and an enduring musical legacy.

"His beats were incredible—and clean. He played as if you were in the studio as far as keeping the straight 16," says Charles "Shorty Corleone" Garris, a rapper and singer who joined Rare Essence in 1993. "There might need to be a workshop about how Footz set new standards for go-go drummers. It all started with his breakbeats—he was the breakbeat king."

More than 20 years later, most Rare Essence sets include a tribute to Footz: "Put your hands in the air, and let's do it for Footz."

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A student of go-go might divide Rare Essence's lengthy run into four not-quite-distinct periods.

The first was the earliest days, when Little Benny was with the band and they were still developing their go-go style. The second might be its old school sound of the mid-'80s, characterized by intensified percussion and Funk's easy charisma. A good example of this is the Live at Breeze's Metro Club album, which included the Rare Essence classic "One on One" and was affectionately known as "the album that kept the whole neighborhood rockin'."

The third period is the Donnell Floyd era. Floyd was still a student at Duke Ellington School of the Arts when he joined Rare Essence in 1983. He started as the band's saxophone player, but over time, Floyd wielded a greater influence over the band, both as a rapper and co-writer of the band's biggest hits of the '90s: "Lock It," "Work the Walls," and "Overnight Scenario," all of which have a harder, more hip-hop influenced sound.

Floyd left in 2001 over a dispute about publishing rights, and now he leads Team Familiar, which includes a number of other Rare Essence alums, including popular conga player "Go-Go" Mickey Freeman.

Go-Go Mickey participates in the occasional Rare Essence "reunion" shows—featuring bandmembers who have left the group—but Floyd doesn't. Still, Floyd appreciates his tenure with the band. "Rare Essence is a great fraternity," he says. "And at the end of the day, no matter what our differences are, I am proud to have been part of that fraternity."

Whiteboy, who officially took over the band's management in the late '90s, has continually replaced departing band members with new blood. The band's fourth and current phase includes Samuel "Smoke" Dews, the prodigiously gifted conga player and winner of the 2013 "King of Congas" local competition (Go-Go Mickey was one of the judges). Whiteboy also recruited Calvin Henry, better known as rapper "Killa Cal," in 2012.

On the new album's first single and title track, Killa Cal and Shorty Corleone are joined by longtime D.C. favorite DJ Kool for an energetic party anthem that is sure to be pumping out of car windows this summer. The rest of the album is by no means filler and includes collaborations with Raheem DeVaughn and Black Alley's Kacey Williams. (For those who still buy CDs, this one's brilliant cover was designed by D.C.'s reigning muralist, Aniekan Udofia.)

If anyone associated with Rare Essence represents go-go's tenacity, it would be James Funk. During the late '80s, he overcame a crack addiction. And when he emerged clean from Montgomery General Hospital's First Things First program, hundreds of fans celebrated his return at a welcome home party at the Ibex Club. His openness about his struggle spoke volumes over the "Just Say No" sloganeering of the time. Since then, he's remained a true local hero, a role model deeply loved and respected by fans and colleagues alike.

During his occasional hiatuses from the band, Funk formed a side band, Proper Utensils. But his allegiance was—and will always be—with Rare Essence.

"I remember Funk saying that as long as he lives, he would never see Rare Essence go down," Hammond says. "Every time the band has started to take a dip in ratings and popularity, Funk has stepped in? Funk is their savior."

In one of several go-go documentaries filmed during the '80s, Funk talked about his connection with Rare Essence fans. "I try to picture myself in the audience," he said. "I can concentrate on the crowd, from front to back, side to side. They need role models. Some of them be fatherless or motherless; they don't have that image. And it kind of does something to them mentally. Maybe not mentally, but they have low self-esteem."

Off stage, Funk seems lethargic, reticent, and a bit of a mumbler. But when he's onstage, his transformation is complete: He's friendly, engaging, and somehow manages to make playing air guitar look pretty cool.

"Every rapper has some kind of metronome—their hand or leg doing something to keep them in rhythm," Hammond says. "Funk looks like he actually has a pick in his hand, and he's picking strings, with the other hand holding strings on a fret. He's listening intently. If his eyes closed and his head is down, he's listening to every single instrument on that stage."

These days, Funk still works as a DJ, both at clubs and on Saturday mornings on D.C.'s "Jazz and Justice" station WPFW. He performs at about half of Rare Essence's shows, and when he does, the band plays more of an old-school set. "When he's not on there, we just keep pounding start to finish," says Whiteboy. "So it's more uptempo, and we're playing to a younger demographic."

Juggling the young- and old-school fans is part of what keeps Rare Essence going strong. "We have a loyal fan base," says Whiteboy. "They love Rare Essence. They love go-go music, and they're introducing their children to the music."

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In the years since Brown died, the Washington Post and other publications have mulled the possibility of go-go's imminent demise. If you haven't been around go-go since way back, you might not recognize the genre's unofficial blueprint for survival, which goes something like this: The harder things get, go-go will move that much deeper underground.

"Go-go has always been about 'where there's a will, there's a way,' and that's how it's been for Rare Essence, too," Hammond says. "Go-go is intertwined with D.C. culture, and it goes deeper than just the music. Community connection has a lot to do with it."

These days, finding venues can be challenging for go-go acts, including Rare Essence. But plenty of go-go bands continue to perform regularly: Backyard Band, Junkyard Band, Team Familiar, Experience Unlimited, and Be'la Dona, among others.

"All the go-go bands want to continue what they started. It's not only their livelihood, it's their culture, and it's their form of expression and way of life," says Goldfogle. "It's important for Whiteboy to continue Rare Essence and continue to have that conversation with D.C., which is what go-go in D.C. is—a conversation between the band and the audience."

And maybe a little more than that. Growing up in the District, Killa Cal says that the city had the NFL team, "we had Marion Barry, and we had Rare Essence."

"Some people may not see it on that level, but that's a part of our culture, and it is on that level. Rare Essence has love and the admiration of the fans, the people and the city. Rare Essence is D.C. Period." - Washington City Paper


You Can't Run From The Crank (2017)

PA#20 Live At Panorama Room (2017)

PA#19 Live at Fast Eddies (2017)

Turn It Up (2016)

PA#18 Live At Cafe Asia (2015)

PA#17- Live at The LMNT Event Center, Miami

PA #16-Live At The Tradewinds (2013)

Mixtape Volume 2 (2013)
Mixtape Volume 1 (2012)
PA #15-The Tradewinds Sessions 8-31-12 (2012)
PA# 14-Live At The Tradewinds 9-16-11 (2011)
PA# 12-Live At The D.C. Star 4-17-10 (2010)
PA#11-Live At The Zanzibar 3-18-09 (2009)
PA#9-Live At The Tradewinds 5-15-07 (2007)
PA# 8-Live At The Tradewinds 8-29-06 (2006)
PA #7-Live At The Tradewinds 10-25-05 (2005)
Live In 2004 w/ DVD (2004)
Live At Club "U" Volume 2 (2003)
Doin' It Old School Style-Live At Club "U" (2001)
RE-2000 (1999)
We Go On And On (1998)
Live At The Celebrity Hall And Metro Club (1998)
Body Snatchers (1996)
The Essence Of Rare Essence: Greatest Hits Vol. I (1995)
Get Your Freak On (1995)
So What You Want? (1994)
Work The Walls (1992)
Live At Breezes Metro Club (1986)



Rare Essence, Washington’s premier Go‑ Go band going on four decades has built a devoted fan base that spans multiple generations.  

Originated in the mid ‘70s by the late Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown, Go-Go links songs together over percussion breakdowns—a raw, non-stop party groove fueled by congas, cowbells and timbales, with call and response interactions that obliterated divisions between a band that doesn't stop playing and audience that won't stop dancing.

They have performed with Run DMC, LL Cool J, Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, Ice Cube, Heavy D and the Boyz, Wu Tang Clan, Redman and Method Man, French Montana, Scarface, TLC, Eric B and Rakim, YoYo, Shabba Ranks, KRS-1, The Roots, Raheem DeVaughn not to mention Chuck Brown, Trouble Funk, The Junk Yard Band, & EU. 

 The ever popular “Overnight Scenario,” is covered by Fantasia all over the country.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbWbKi4sqPk

 In a review of the band’s 30th Anniversary show, The Washington Post Pop Critic Writer Chris Richards wrote, “…this band has performed more than 5000 times. Like so many Rare Essence concerts, it’s easy to believe you’re seeing the best one.”

 In 2014, Go-Go was featured in the DC episode of Dave Grohl’s “Sonic Highways,” and TV One’s “Unsung” series aired a Chuck Brown episode in 2015 that features interviews with Rare Essence’s Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson and performances by the band. 2016 has brought the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture which includes Rare Essence featuring Go-Go music created by the late great Chuck Brown. 2017 kicked off with globalFEST 2017 at the historic Webster Hall in New York, SummerStage in Betsy Head Park, and LEAF Downtown in Asheville. 

 Dubbed “The Wickedest Band Alive” by rap pioneer Doug E. Fresh, who has collaborated with Rare Essence, one of many artists to incorporate Go‑ Go's percolating percussion, and some of its key players, into their own recordings.  

 Rare Essence remains the most consistently combustible live bands honed through countless performances in the Washington region, working the local and regional concert circuit full-throttle, performing nearly 150 shows annually. Go-Go thrives live and that’s where reputations, and legacies, are cemented. 

Band Members