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.

Subscribe to Washingtonian
Follow Washingtonian on Twitter

More>> Capital Comment Blog | News & Politics | Party Photos


Don’t Miss Another Big Story—Get Our Weekend Newsletter

Our most popular stories of the week, sent every Saturday.

Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.