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Six Big Moments for Go-Go in 2019

It's been an eventful year for DC's homegrown musical genre.

Black Passion Band performs after the go-go hearing in October. Photograph by Nathan Diller.

From the MetroPCS controversy earlier this year to the grassroots musical preservation movement it inspired, it’s been a big year for go-go. DC’s homegrown genre, which has become increasingly marginalized as DC has gentrified, has made local and national headlines in 2019, culminating in a hearing on a bill that could designate the unique mix of funk, hip hop, and R&B the District’s official musical genre. We’ve rounded up some of the year’s most memorable go-go moments below.

The MetroPCS Controversy

In April, DCist reported that a MetroPCS store in Shaw was forced to turn off its go-go music after a nearby resident complained about the noise. The store’s owner, Donald Campbell, had blared go-go through speakers outside the shop and sold records there for decades, but he said MetroPCS parent company, T-Mobile, told him to stop.

The news went viral, and shortly thereafter, protesters gathered on the corner of 7th Street and Florida Ave., NW to protest the decision, playing their own music and using the hashtag #DontMuteDC online. T-Mobile reversed its decision days later.

Moechella

The #DontMuteDC hashtag continued to gain traction online, and prompted articles in both local and national publications examining the way gentrification had forced go-go to the sidelines of DC life. In May, local organizers staged a protest concert called Moechella at the intersection of 14th and U Streets that drew thousands of people.

The show’s name was a combination of the word “Moe,” DC slang meaning “homeboy/girl,” and the California music festival Coachella, and featured performances by groups like the beloved Backyard Band ensemble. The show was produced by local artist, Justin “Yaddya” Johnson, who was also behind the social media campaign Long Live GoGo. That movement started before the MetroPCS scandal, but Moechella stopped DC traffic–no small thing–and demanded a new level of attention.

A Go-Go Bill Was Introduced

In June, Ward 5 DC council member Kenyan McDuffie introduced legislation that would make go-go the official music of the District. The bill would serve to protect the music and its legacy as a cultural touchstone in DC. “It’s important for people to not have to wonder or guess about how important go-go is to the District of Columbia,” McDuffie told the Washington Post at the time.

Go-Go On On the BET Awards

Later that month, actress and DC native, Regina Hall, led a rousing go-go tribute at the BET Awards. The performance featured a full marching band and an appearance from Sugar Bear of local go-go band, E.U., who performed the group’s 1988 hit, “Da Butt.” After it was over, the phrase “GO-GO MADNESS” and #DontMuteDC appeared on a screen behind the stage.

The “Million Moe March”

Long Live GoGo joined forces with 51 for 51, a coalition advocating for DC statehood, to organize September’s Million Moe March. The groups aimed to both bring attention to victims of gun violence, and celebrate DC culture. Attendees marched on the National Mall and the evening featured a speech from at-large council member, Robert White Jr., a supporter of #DontMuteDC, and a performance from Backyard Band, with appearances by rappers Wale and Pinky KillaCorn.

The DC Council Hearing

In late October, the DC Council held a hearing on the bill McDuffie introduced in June, and which was co-sponsored by all 13 members of the council. The hearing featured a long list of witnesses, from musicians and fans to community advocates, who came out to the John A. Wilson building to testify about the music’s significance.

Chuck Brown’s daughter, Cherita “Cookie” Whiting,” talked to lawmakers about her father’s legacy, and Black Passion Band performed on the ground floor of the building after the hearing concluded. A vote is expected early next year, and go-go will not go quietly into 2020.

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Nathan Diller
Editorial Fellow

Nathan is an editorial fellow at Washingtonian. Originally from Nashville, he graduated from Columbia Journalism School with a master’s degree in 2019. His work has also appeared in SPIN, NYLON, and Nashville Lifestyles.