Rare Essence, aka The Wickedest Band Alive or The Inner City Groovers, is a DC institution that has built a devoted fan base that spans multiple generations, drawn to the indigenous funk sired in the mid -70s by the late Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck… (read more)
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Rare Essence, aka The Wickedest Band Alive or The Inner City Groovers, is a DC institution that has built a devoted fan base that spans multiple generations, drawn to the indigenous funk sired in the mid -70s by the late Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown.
Rare Essence first came together in 1976 when a group of elementary students at St. Thomas Moore Catholic School in Southeast Washington gathered after school and started playing the then new, as yet unnamed, music (Go-Go’s breakthrough chart topper, Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose,” was still three years away). Drummer Quentin “Footz” Davidson along with guitarist/vocalist Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson, bassist Michael “Funky Ned” Neal and trombonist John “Big Horn” Jones and, calling themselves the Young Dynamos, jammed on Top 40 hits by that era’s funk and soul masters, earning their initial show stripes on the city’s recreation center circuit created by Mayor Marion Barry. The band was kept on track by several no-nonsense moms.
Changing its name to Rare Essence, the band expanded its lineup and, as teens, started playing on a thriving Metro Go-Go circuit that included Maryland and Virginia. They built a huge following, and a reputation as one of the city’s top Go-Go bands, through spirited battles with the likes of Chuck Brown, Trouble Funk, Junk Yard and EU (Experience Unlimited), putting on marathon shows that might run until 5 a.m., stacked sets seamless and unending. Rare Essence quickly developed into the city’s most powerful GO-GO band, performing six or seven nights a week for a huge local and regional following.
Rare Essence would be one of Brown’s earliest, and have remained his most enduring, progeny, with a consistently combustible live show honed through countless performances in the Washington region. Go-Go thrives live and that’s where reputations, and legacies, are cemented. As the Washington Post noted in a review, “....this band has performed more than 5,000 times. Like so many Rare Essence concerts, it’s easy to believe you’re seeing the best one.”
Little wonder they were dubbed “The Wickedest Band Alive” by rap pioneer Doug E. Fresh, who has collaborated with Rare Essence, and is one of many artists to incorporate Go-Go’s percolating percussion, and some of its key players, into their own recordings.
They have performed with Run DMC, LL Cool J, Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, Ice Cube, Heavy D and the Boyz, Wu Tang Clan, Redman and Method Man, French Montana, Scarface, TLC, Eric B and Rakim, YoYo, Shabba Ranks, The Roots, Erykah Badu, Wale, Thievery Corporation, Clutch, KRS-1 not to mention Chuck Brown, Trouble Funk, The Junk Yard Band, & EU.
The Rare Essence catalog, on their own Rare One Records label, includes over 30 releases and the band continues to release music on a regular basis. Fans have bought and traded thousands of live P.A. recordings of their shows over the years. Rare Essence continues to feature such fan-favorite radio staples as “Lock It,” “Body Snatchers,” “Back up Against the Wall” and “Overnight Scenario” in their live performances. Like any long-lived style of music, Go-Go has undergone changes over the decades but Rare Essence maintains and sustains its original sound and spirit.