News & Politics

The Godfather Goes to the Grammys

Chuck Brown finally gets a nomination, but only by collaborating with Jill Scott

Chuck Brown’s first Grammy nomination, announced yesterday, for his collaboration with Jill Scott on “Love,” was a long time coming. Brown, a jazz guitarist and singer who has been performing since the 1960s, is one of the most important figures in Washington’s go-go scene, a variation of funk that’s indigenous to DC. “Love” is a good song, a conversation between Brown and Scott with a bright throwback horn section:

But if Brown is going to get an it’s-about-damn-time golden gramophone, I wish the voters could go back and honor him for the 1978 track “Bustin’ Loose (Part 1),” a song that’s made its way both into hip-hop’s vocabulary and Washington culture. The song itself isn’t terribly high-concept: It’s really just a party track, a call to “gimme the beat, y’all.” By that measure, though, it excels: The chanted choruses are in perfect syncopation for foot-stomping, the horns for hip-swinging:“Bustin’ Loose” has had surprising resonance. In 1990, Eric B. and Rakim sampled the song for “Eric B. Made My Day,” scratching records over the horn section:Four years later, Public Enemy sampled the track for “I Ain’t Mad at All” and turned “Bustin’ Loose” from a party reference into a wish to break out of police custody:

In 2002, Nelly borrowed from “Bustin’ Loose” for “Hot in Herre,” turning the song back to its party roots, declaring, “I feel like bustin’ loose / And I feel like touching you,” a sweet line in a debauched, silly track:

And when the Nationals came back to Washington, they put songs for key game moments up to a vote. More than 11,000 people weighed in and picked “Bustin’ Loose” as the home team’s home-run music.

Maybe with that legacy, members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences will consider “Bustin’ Loose” for a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, a special prize for recordings of lasting significance that are at least 25 years old. If not, Washington will do what the city has always done: recognize the value of go-go even when no one else does.

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