The D.C. funk-rock bands have a fast, funky beat That makes their fans freaky deaky deak; But what their youthful devotees truly need Is a message they should really heed.
Anyone who understands this city's young people realizes that the best way to reach them is through the music of the D.C. funk-rock bands. Better than our ambitious political leaders; better than our dear, dedicated teachers; better than our rhaspsodic, hooping, zooming preachers, the D.C. bands can hold the attention of your people. They can make them listen. They can make them teeter, they can make them totter. Those funky, funk-rock bands are this city's true youth leaders.
From about 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. every Friday Saturday, thousands of youths from about 15 to 20 years of ages crowd into the Washington metropolitan area's go-go arenas to freaky deak to the funky, funky beats: Black high school students and recent graduates wave their hands in the air and party like they just don't care. They shake, shake, shake, shake, shake their bodies till they almost break into little pieces. They boogie in the aisles; or rock, rock, rock on the arms of chairs.
The bands know they've got them right where they want them -- and the rappers have the crowd repeating those "hip" phrases they've concocted.
One of the bands' rappers says:
"Awww, what's the fuss?"
The crowd answers: "I ain't got no dust (angel dust)."
The rapper replies:
"Awww, what's gonna set you back?"
The crowd yells: "I ain't got no wack attack (wacky weed)."
But, hold it, hold it. Freeze on this. And tell me, truthfully, is this really hip? The bands know, and I hope most of us know, that neither angel dust (the chemical PCP) nor wacky weed (marijuana mixed with PCP) is what the young people of this city need.
The D.C. bands pride themselves on creating their own, original funk instead of copying the nationally known groups, One of the leading national groups is the Sugar Hill Gang, which currently has a popular "rap" record out that includes this verse:
"I met this girl and I said to her, 'Honey, if you want to be my baby, you got to give me money'. . . . I started jiving around, started messing with her head, the next thing you know she wanted to go to. . . ."
Now, that's talking trash, right? Right. If the D.C. bands really wanted to be different, they wouldn't be talking trash. Right? But, they do. So, thought the D.C. Sounds funky beat may be original, much of its rap is the same old trash.
At a jampacked go-go in Northeast recently, I interviewed Rio Edwards, manager of Trouble Funk, a D.C. band. "Today's music is full of slick sayings," he says. "It's music to enjoy. It really ain't saying nothing. It's not trying to get a message across. Just a lot of stupid sayings. The stupid stuff is selling, I don't know why, but, it sells."
Then Edwards says, winking his eye and joking: "I ain't going to knock it. I'm just trying to come up with more stupid stuff and sell that." Back into a serious groove, he notes, "It's happening all over the country. Somebody ought to analyze it.
"The stupid stuff is easier to put together. It costs less studio time. We tried a little more serious music last year, but it didn't go over."
Was he saying that meaningful lyrics turn off young people?
"If you could find a slick way of saying it, they'd probably accept it," Edwards says. "But, that's the trick. They want things simple and funky."
James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield are all known for making their music funky, simple and deep. I grew up listening to their inspiring messages, especially: "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud!" Back then, I was just a teeny-bopper from the streets of D.C., but those songs helped me develop a sense of pride.
If I had grown into manhood listening to the D.C. banks and the nonsense of the nationally known groups, maybe I would have developed an angel dust habit.
But hear me right. I dig that D.C. funk-rock beat. As a native Washingtonian, I want to see local bands make it big. Maybe a more meaningful message -- slickly put to some freaky-deaky funk -- would wake up young people and make them put down the drugs that are clouding their minds. Maybe then the radio stations would pick up the D.C. beat and give it the play it deserves. Maybe then the D.C. Sound would go national and make the dreams of the local bands realities.
Because they cater to inner-city black youths who often lack education, jobs and strong role models, the D.C. bands need to be as positive and informative as they can. They don't need to preach, but they do need to teach.