Go-go, the percussion-driven sound that fuses funk, R&B and hip-hop, was born and bred in the District and was signed into law last year as the official music of the city. Now, Garris and Anderson are elevating go-go on a national stage with their new “Crank Radio” show, airing on Howard University’s H.U.R. Voices, Sirius XM Satellite channel 141, on Saturdays from 9 to 10 p.m. (the show re-airs on Sundays at the same time).
“Go-go is a part of American music history, and it’s behind so many of the giant hip-hop records that have topped the charts in African American music — the story just has to be told,” says Garris, who’s a Rare Essence alum. “Not just the fans of music, but music creators will also get an education lesson on things that they were unaware of that is go-go.”
Garris and Anderson, who has produced music for R&B and hip-hop heavyweights such as Michael Bivins (Bell Biv DeVoe, New Edition) and Boyz II Men, have documented D.C.’s go-go scene through film and other ventures for years under their “Crank” brand. The idea to start a radio show materialized while Garris was running a public radio broadcasting program at Deanwood Recreation Center, where he met Sean Plater, general manager of 96.3 WHUR-FM and the Howard University Radio Network. Garris had invited Plater to speak to his students in 2019, and the two stayed in touch and ramped up plans late last year to bring “Crank Radio” to the airwaves.
“Anybody can play go-go songs from back-to-back, but to really take time to teach people about it, I think that’s exciting for the entire go-go community,” says Plater.
“Crank Radio” is a go-go primer for the uninitiated, or, as Anderson puts it, a “go-go buffet” where the one-hour show pays homage to the sound’s past, present and future with music, interviews and segments on go-go history. “Crank Radio’s” inaugural episode on Jan. 16 featured such seminal hits as “We Came Here to Rock This Party,” Trouble Funk’s “Let’s Get Small” and Backyard Band’s “Hello” (a cover of Adele’s 2015 single).
Peppered into the mix was the segment “Crank OGs,” where Daniel “Hollywood Breeze” Clayton, former owner of the now-defunct Northeast D.C. music venue Metro Club, explained how he championed go-go bands when city politicians were beginning to crack down on clubs in the ’80s.
“The places that they were going in to perform, a lot of the politicians put their thumbs down on it because they said that the music created a lot of violence, but that wasn’t what it was. The drugs brought in the violence,” Clayton said in a prerecorded interview. The musicians “that I was working with … it gave me a lot of pleasure because I gave them an opportunity to work.”
Rapid gentrification also has threatened the existence of dedicated go-go spaces in the District. Frustration among go-go activists and supporters came to a fever pitch in April 2019 after Central Communications, a MetroPCS vendor on the corner of Seventh Street and Florida Avenue NW, was forced to turn off the go-go music playing on its outdoor speakers following a complaint from a resident of the Shay, a luxury apartment building located across the street. The store, which was eventually able to turn the music back on, is known in the go-go community for its vast selection of PA tapes, live recordings of concerts that are a collector’s item among die-hard fans. The history of these tapes will be covered extensively on “Crank Radio” episodes.
“PA tapes were at one time a big revenue-driven business here in the go-go market, even before the mix-tape market,” says Garris. “You would have stores specifically for go-go PA tapes of all the bands.”
Garris and Anderson, both D.C. natives, have had a front-row seat to many of these key moments in go-go history. Garris recorded 20 live albums during his tenure with Rare Essence, and has an exhaustive list of independent projects under his belt that includes producing a go-go musical at Georgetown University in 2016. Anderson also spent much of his upbringing around the music and says his personal connection to the bands allows him to dive deeper into the culture.
“We’ve got a lot of inside stories of what made certain bands as popular as they were, or why certain songs turned out the way that they turned out,” says Anderson. “By having that background, it is a lot easier for us to then turn around and introduce it back to someone else who is just catching [go-go] at this phase.”
The pair hopes to expand their show beyond its one-hour time slot and introduce live elements such as in-studio performances (they prerecord “Crank Radio” episodes at Anderson’s home studio). They also want to turn on listeners to go-go groups outside of the District and have already received music submissions from out-of-town bands.
“That’s what go-go has been kind of missing,” Anderson says. “You need to connect with other music makers that can be influenced by go-go and take that influence and stretch the music and the culture further than the DMV.”
Where to listen
Airs on Howard University’s H.U.R. Voices, Sirius XM Satellite channel 141, on Saturdays and Sundays from 9-10 p.m.