By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 27, 2009
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- He used to be known as the son of the Godfather of Go-Go. Now Nekos Brown is better known as Virginia Tech's starting defensive end.
His father, Chuck Brown, is a legend in Washington, the progenitor of the homegrown music movement known as go-go. On Saturday he turned 73, and to honor him, the city designated the portion of Seventh Street NW from T Street to Florida Avenue as Chuck Brown Way.
"I'm proud of it," Nekos Brown said. "It's a big thing to other people, but to me that's Dad."
Although he has musical talents like his father, Brown has started to gain some attention of his own on the football field. He was named all-state at Thomas Stone High in Waldorf before committing to the Hokies. This fall, Brown, a senior, is stepping into a starting role for Virginia Tech.
"It's a big opportunity for me," Brown said. "I feel like I'm really going to show what I can do this season."
Brown has been a part of the defensive end rotation the past two seasons, but he has a lot to live up to this year. Last season's starter, Orion Martin, was a second-team all-ACC selection. Brown is probably more athletic than Martin, coaches said, but Martin was more experienced and football savvy. But after making 22 tackles last season and having a breakout spring, the Hokies hope that Brown will help continue Virginia Tech's history of strong defensive line play.
"He's going to be the man," Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. "I really like how he's in the best shape he's ever been in. He was a guy that's struggled in the past with some of these running tests and things of that nature, and he's come out and really done a great, great job, had great preparation. Always played hard, and had been a playmaker for us. But now he's going to be a guy that's called on to play more snaps, and we need him to perform at a consistent level."
Growing up, pursuing music might have seemed a more natural fit for Brown. He fell asleep most nights to the sound of his father practicing the guitar, and would travel the country with him to attend performances.
Chuck Brown developed go-go -- a propulsive blend of soul, funk, blues and jazz, with a Caribbean-influenced beat and African drums -- in the early 1970s. Although go-go is considered native to and popular mostly in Washington, Brown has performed everywhere from England to New York, Japan to New Orleans.
"I'd get Nekos on the stage, but he didn't want to get on that mic," Chuck Brown said in a telephone interview. "Now he'll get on that mic now, but he's got to be in the right mood to get up there. He's got to have his own little rap. It comes right off the top of his head sometimes."
Asked about his musical ability, Nekos Brown said, "I could do music myself, but I get stage fright."
So at an early age, Brown opted for locker rooms instead of recording studios. At age 2, his father said, Brown scampered around trying to play football with the older boys in the neighborhood. He would sometimes attend Washington Redskins games with his father, who said he was also a big football fan. By the time Brown reached high school, he was starting to fill out his 6-foot-2 frame.
"When you see Nekos, he's just an impressive-size kid," said Kevin Heider, the former athletic director at Thomas Stone. "On the field, he's just flying around in all areas."
Music is still a part of Brown's life, although he is modest about his talent. He and his brother Wiley, a defensive back who will join Virginia Tech in the fall after transferring from Duquesne, sometimes play together, with Nekos on vocals and Wiley on the keyboard or the guitar.
"I love it," Chuck Brown said. "They're going to be good, I'm telling you. Right now, they're focused on football and the music is secondary, but the music is there. It's in them."
In fact, Nekos Brown has introduced Virginia Tech to go-go. He has brought some of his teammates to his father's concerts. Charley Wiles, the Hokies' defensive line coach, said he has a Chuck Brown CD and that some of the other coaches have downloaded his music.
"Neat guy," Wiles said. "Lot of energy. Just a cool cat. He's from that era, you know what I mean?"
Like any other parents, Chuck and Jocelyn Brown visited Blacksburg when Virginia Tech recruited their son. But with his flashy outfits and charismatic demeanor, the father attracted plenty of attention on his own. Now when he comes to Virginia Tech, he said, more fans ask his son Nekos for autographs after football games.
The Godfather of Go-Go let out a laugh and said, "Chip off the old block."