EARLY MORNING SCENARIO, Honduras 10oz
Producer: Multi Producer Lot processed at Beneficio San Vicente
Altitude: 1200 meters
Varietal: Lempira, Catuai, IHCAFE90, Pacas
For our head roaster, JR, this coffee is a love letter to his other hometown, Chocolate City, and to go-go music - the one thing that goes on and on in the face of the changing demographics of the District. Go ahead and cop a bag, rock the Spotify playlist, and grind me up, Chuck!
This is a special release from our head roaster, JR, for Black History Month. $1 of every bag purchased will be donated to Teach the Beat, an organization working on "Bringing the distinctive D.C. sound of go-go into the classroom". Learn more on that organization here.
The inspiration and story behind the release from JR:
I moved to DC in 1997 after spending most of my childhood in Baltimore County, MD. I had some stops in the middle, but coming back to the Mid-Atlantic, I thought DC and Baltimore would be roughly the same. How different could they be?! I mean, two cities about 45 minutes apart? Has to be similar!
I was wrong. Dead wrong. The first friend I made in my new high school called me “bamma” constantly. I was confused, because I didn’t come from Alabama, nor did I root for the Crimson Tide. Why was I a bamma?!
“Because you’re from Baltimore, young! Yall some bammas! You probably don’t even listen to go-go!”
“Wait, what’s go-go?!”
That one question caused all the kids in the vicinity to carry (or insult, diss) the hell out of me. My Baltimore bamma self didn’t even know what go-go was. How could I? I’d only been in the District for two months at that point, but that didn’t matter. It was an insult to my new friends and new town. My new friend gave me a tape to listen to, and I took it home and gave it a spin.
I. HATED. IT. I had no idea why they were so into this! The nonstop percussion and stupid cowbell, the call-and-response and shoutouts of streets and hoods that I didn’t know yet; it was all so foreign and nonsensical! Why would they listen to these bands remaking rap and r&b songs in this weird way instead of just listening to the actual songs?! I gave him back his tape the next day and told him that this “go-go mess” wasn’t for me. He refused to accept that and gave me another tape, Northeast Groovers live set straight from PA Palace. Now I had no idea what a PA Palace was nor what a Northeast Groovers was but I lived in Northeast DC, so well I’d give it an earnest chance.
I listened to that tape everyday for a week before I had to give it back. Side A of the cassette was poorly dubbed, but side B CRANKED (or was very good and energetic). Something about NEG covering then-current radio hit “All About the Benjamins” got stuck in my brain and I’d rewind that song over and over again, and by the end of the month, I had him grab me three PA Palace tapes of my own. I had become a fan of go-go and finally started to feel somewhat from DC. By the next year, we were sneaking into shows at the Icebox and Black Hole, and that’s when go-go really made sense.
Go-Go is black music. DC is, well, was, a black city. The percussion-heavy instrumentation just draws from our drum circle roots. The call-and-response goes back to the original days and house parties of hip-hop and dancehall, reminiscent of DJs toasting over loops and breakbeats. Sure, we loved the remixes of rap songs, but it was the original songs, like “Overnight Scenario” by Rare Essence or “Da Rocket!” by NEG, that really moved the crowd. In my opinion, though, go-go was all about the pockets, the part of the set that was almost entirely percussion only and kept the groove going in between songs. Partying at a Northeast Groovers show at the Icebox in 1999, yeah, I wanted to hear “Grab a Girl” and “Van Damme 99”, but I was there for the pockets because NEG pockets could go on for 10-15 minutes and no one complained!
Go-Go has had times where it tried to go mainstream. Junkyard Band had a record deal with Def Jam at one point; the Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown, had a hit single with “Bustin’ Loose”; Spike Lee featured E.U.. performing their hit song, “Da Butt!”, in his movie “School Daze”, but outside of the beltway, the music just never took hold.
It’s our music, it’s our culture. Go-Go music is for everyone, sure, but it’s FOR the District. It’s as much part of the fabric of DC as wings fried hard, New Balances, Foamposites, and a snack bag of sunflower seeds, pickled eggs, and pickled hot sausage. In the face of gentrification since Mayor Williams’ administration took over, go-go is the one thing that cannot be killed. And, yal, they tried! When the city tried to have the Metro PCS store at 7th St and Florida Ave NW stop playing go-go music outside, the District protested until the speakers came back out. From the ashes of that movement, we’ve now even got “Moechella”, a public celebration of go-go music on U Street.
These special releases are always personal to me and my chance to share part of myself, my history, my interests with the greater public. As much as I am from Baltimore, I am also from DC. As much as I love Bmore club music, I love go-go music. This release is for the District, for Chocolate City, for the Icebox, the Ibex, Taj Mahal, the Black Hole, Republic Gardens, Metro, Deno’s, and all the clubs over the years that welcomed go-go. This coffee is for Chuck Brown, Little Benny, Go-Go Mickey, Northeast Groovers, Rare Essence, Backyard Band, Junkyard Band, XIB, TCB, UCB, Suttle Thoughs, Huck-a-Bucks, and all the bands that came up from banging on buckets to slapping congas.
I hope you enjoy this Honduran honey processed coffee, and I hope you enjoy the Spotify playlist I created to accompany it. I’d also recommend two great books on go-go music and its history: “The Beat: Go-Go Music from Washington DC” by Kip Lornell, Charles Stephenson, and Charles Stephenson, Jr., and “Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City” by Natalie Hopkinson.