Tune In to Local Music

By Alex Baldinger
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 13, 2009

Maybe you know all the words to Wale's "Nike Boots," or maybe you haven't been plugged in to local music since your last Fugazi show. Well, it's time to step it up. The Washington music scene doesn't start and end with those two big names. Sure, the District might not have the cachet of the New York or Los Angeles scene, but there's plenty of room for musicians to thrive.

And thrive they have.

"D.C. has a scene where it tends to be more tightknit than a lot of other cities, big cities anyway, which is nice," said Stephen Kilroy, lead singer for the Northern Virginia band Middle Distance Runner.

Washington has been abuzz with talk of change lately, but it hasn't been limited to inside the White House and Capitol Hill; the city's arts community is feeling that change, making 2009 the perfect time to acquaint yourself with some talented local acts.

"There's a new energy in this city. I think it's being brought forth by the new administration," said Cassidy Karakorn, who performs as DJ Ca$$idy. "And I think it's going to attract a new wave of creative energy to the city, and it'll probably inspire and bring more focus to the musicians that are already here."

If you're looking for a good place to dive back in to local music, from hip-hop to pop to experimental rock, here are six names -- some signed, some unsigned, some just starting out, some vets -- to keep your eyes (and ears) on.


Location: Langdon Park, Northeast Washington

Sounds Like: Common, André 3000, Q-Tipall

A college degree isn't necessarily a prerequisite for a career in hip-hop, but don't tell that to Tabi Bonney: He has two, a biology/pre-med bachelor's from Florida A&M University and a master's in biology in secondary education from George Washington University. "Getting two degrees is not easy at all. I figured I'd take that and apply it to my dreams," Bonney said of his decision to forgo a career -- first in medicine, then as a science teacher at the District's Roosevelt High School -- to pursue music.

Best known for his catchy 2006 single, "The Pocket," the would-be Dr. Bonney, who is in his early 30s, released "Dope" in January as the first installment of an ambitious sophomore trilogy, with parts two and three ("Fresh" and "Superstar") slated for release later this year. The trilogy showcases Bonney's sedatedly articulate flow. "Not everyone can turn their dreams into tangible things like it ain't no thang," the Banneker High School alum rhymes on "Go Hard," a rebuke to life's naysayers. "I told 'em that we got Luther King, and we got Obama, so what is you saying?"

If there are increased expectations on the city's hip-hop scene thanks to the hype surrounding rapper Wale, Bonney seems unfazed. "I think that everybody feels like it's just time," Bonney said of the city's nascent hip-hop renaissance. "It's not just Wale, or it's not just Raheem [DeVaughn]. At the forefront right now, it's at least three of us. I think people see it, and they see how it's going on."

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