THE GO-GO RAPPERS FROM DC
Chapter 6 from the book Diamonds In The Raw
The go-go industry was so dominant in the DC area that the hip-hop
sub-culture had a difficult time becoming established. So by necessity the most
talented rappers in DC gravitated towards the go-go scene. Many rappers during the
80's and 90's got their chance to shine by jumping on stage with the go-go bands.
Tony Blunt, P.O.P. (Prince of Poetry), Hechinger Mall Zhigge and Fat Rodney were
some of the names that dominated the go-go rap game.
On the national level hip-hop was growing by leaps
and bounds. And the more records that were sold, the more hip-hop
culture became interlaced with pop culture. As hip-hop increased in popularity nationally
and eventually internationally, it slowly became more popular in DC. Go-go bands
began to perform more cover versions of rap songs. The problem was most go-go bands
didn't have an actual rapper, they instead had what was called a talker. In fact, the most important member
of the band (other than the percussion section, of course) is the lead talker.
When a go-go band attempted to perform a hip-hop song,
the talker would rap the lyrics over the go-go beat. Some
talkers were better than others at this task. Depending on
the verbal ability of the talker the performance could range from good,
to bad, to downright awful. Some bands wouldn't even let the talker try to rap, they would bring in another member of the group who had some degree of lyrical
skills and let that person take a crack at
But unless the rapping was pitiful, the crowd
couldn't care less - they were there for the go-go and if the band was cranking they were satisfied. One night at the Chapter
III nightclub something happened that would change that attitude forever. DC Scorpio proved that a kid from the neighborhood
could write a song about DC and it would be heard all around the world.
On April 15, 1987, the Chapter III held a rap contest that was judged by
rap superstar Doug E. Fresh. The winner of the contest would
have the opportunity to perform at a big concert being held
the following weekend at the Capital Centre. A young lyricist
who went by the name of DC Scorpio won the contest by rapping poignantly
about the drug trade and violence that was then wreaking havoc all over the DC metropolitan region.
DC Scorpio: "I went to a go-go, Experience Unlimited was playing
at the Chapter III nightclub. They were having a rap contest and Doug E. Fresh was the guest judge. The winner of the contest
would appear that weekend at the Capital Centre. I blew everybody (in the contest) out in terms of freestyling and lyrical
content. And Doug E. Fresh gave me a shot - I went to the Capital Center and performed the same song, which was called
'Stone Cold Hustler."
'Stone Cold Hustler' was
then released as a single and quickly topped the local charts.
DC Scorpio was a natural entertainer, and he possessed a powerful
command of the stage. As DC's first rap star he instantly became a local celebrity. His fame grew even brighter from his dynamic performance of 'Stone Cold Hustler' on the Go-Go Live VHS concert video. Another video of the song even began playing
DC Scorpio: "I was hearing about Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Salt & Pepa
and Public Enemy. One night I went to a go-go at the Panorama room to see Chuck Brown. And this particular night Chuck let me get on the mic. After he heard me rap he said, 'Don't stop doing what you're doing'. After I performed at the Capital Center, I
met up with Donnell Floyd and Quentin from Rare Essence and they said that they wanted to help me put my stuff out. But Chuck Brown really got me started in this music thing."
Stinky Dink: "Scorpio was a pioneer in this DC rap game. Scorpio is probably the purest rapper to
ever come out of DC. He was a real
rapper. He was like the DC LL Cool J. But back in those days his style didn't go
over well in DC because the city wasn't ready for that style. This is still when
rap was seen as bamma. He had the rapper persona instead of the DC street persona."
Gothos (G.O.V.): "If you listen to 'Stone Cold Hustler' by DC Scorpio, he tells you about all the drugs and the drug dealers lifestyle that was going
on in the streets. In fact, Scorpio gave you the blueprint in 1987 of what other rappers like Jay-Z started talking about
DC Scorpio: "I was doing a lot of ghost-writing
for bands. Writing hooks for Rare Essence, writing songs for Chuck Brown. One time I wrote this hook, '3 in the morning - the pancake house', and White
Boy from Rare Essence called me and I laid it down for them. And the next thing you know Jay-Z used the hook in
one of his songs. Everybody was asking me why I was beefing with Jigga. But they
were talking about Rare Essence had a problem with him using it, I didn't have a
problem with it. I also had a part in writing '55 Dollar Motel'. I didn't write the whole thing. Me and Vinnie D. sat up in his mother's house
and came up with the concept. I begged him not to sign with Donnell Floyd. I don't
have any beef or hold no grudges against Donnell or anything. Vinnie had some good success with that song, '55 Dollar
The record "55 Dollar Motel" was a huge hit in DC during
the mid-late 80's. The song, which Vinnie raps in a cadence
clearly influenced by MCs like Slick Rick and Dana Dane, describes the hilarious adventures that he and a young lady share in a motel room.
Vinnie D: "$55
Dollar Motel' was a true story. The hotel was the Stage Coach Inn next door to Triples night club. I made a demo and went to the label owned
by the late, great Foots from Rare Essence. Funky Ned engineered the song which was recorded in a studio over top of Discount
Mart in the Eastover shopping center. Byron, from Rare Essence, is actually responsible for the hook. He sampled my voice
and triggered it like he did. If you listen to the Essence tapes around that time you will always hear the same pattern used
on the hook, but a whistle was used."
Vinnie D: "I
did a few shows at the Capital Center. I remember this one show in particular. I was opening for Run DMC and Public Enemy
in front of about 18,000 people. I had three dancers: Sean Puffy Combs (P. Diddy), Obatye, and Ron DeBerry, who's known
for throwing parties around the area. After the show, Puffy was the only one complaining about how much money I paid him,
the other two were satisfied, ain't that funny?"
DCSuperSid: LOL, Diddy was your back up dancer!
Vinnie D: "Yeah, LOL! Another time I was at a DC radio station
doing an interview. Snoop Dogg was also there for an interview and I slid him a CD. By the time I got home I had a voice mail
from Snoop. From there we stayed in touch and I signed to his label Doggystyle. I released 'Trouble' and 'Just get carried
away' which were both on the Doggystyle Allstars Welcome to the House album."
Fat Rodney never had the commercial success of DC Scorpio, but he had something equally if not more important: universal respect
in the streets.
Rodney performed frequently with the go-go band Rare Essence. CDs of those recordings are considered classics and many are still circulating around
inner city DC. Because Scorpio was a radio favorite and Fat Rodney was a street legend - it was inevitable that they would eventually clash. They engaged in several high-profile
with most people believing that Fat Rodney came out the winner.
Stinky Dink: "Scorpio and Fat Rodney were battling at the Chapter III. Fat Rodney started getting out on Scorpio. Scorpio came back at Rodney
and the things he was saying didn't go over well with the crowd. He was talking
about how he had a record deal and Rodney didn't. He was talking about how he rides
around in limos. He was talking about how many records he sold, because at this time 'Stone
Cold Hustler' was selling a lot of records and Rodney didn't have anything out. The famous line Rodney came back with was, 'You're in your limousine, the party is over, I drive by in my Range Rover' - and that killed it! The tape from that show went all over DC in about 2 days."
DC Scorpio: "Let me break it down: Me, Fat Rodney and King Kain were
talking. And Rodney said, 'Why don't
we put something together, since you the hottest rapper and I'm trying to come up,
that me and you are beefing. I'm from Uptown
and you from Southeast. You come on stage with Chuck Brown and I'm gonna come on
stage with Rare Essence'. We would meet at the go-go and we would battle (on the mic), but it was a fun
battle. It was battling for his people and my people to meet at the next go-go.
One show I would let him get out on me, so we would meet at the next show. The next show he would let me get out on him so
we could meet at the next show. It wasn't really no actual beef."
Tony Blunt: "Fat Rodney was the best. I knew him from the streets
but unfortunately I never got the chance to get down with him as far as the music thing."
Hevewae: "My first rap CDs
were Rakim, Scarface, and Redman. But what really got me into it was Fat Rodney, that's why you always hear a little go-go flow when I rap."
Dink: "Fat Rodney made it cool to rap. I want a lot of
the young artists to know this. Because one thing about the DC hip-hop scene that's different from the New York hip-hop scene is that Jay-Z and Nas can tell you about the rappers
that came before them. A lot of artists from DC think they just grew up out of the ground; or that their influence came from
elsewhere. But I'm going to tell you that at one time rap was seen as some bamma
stuff in DC. And the dude that made it cool for all of us to rap was Fat Rodney."
Chucky Thompson: "Rodney represented the truth about hip-hop; if he
rapped about having a Mercedes or a Range Rover he was actually driving one. With him being from DC, he was like B.I.G. before
B.I.G. was B.I.G. - that was the persona he had. He would have people lined up and waiting for him to hit the stage."
(Note: Chucky Thompson would later work with P. Diddy at Bad Boy Records. Listed among Chucky's production credits
is "Big Poppa" by The Notorious B.I.G.)
Stinky Dink: "Fat Rodney was like Biggie
before Biggie. Heavy dude, everybody knew he was in the street getting money, he was up in the go-go with his diamonds on. He was an entertainer. I first met him down at
Norfolk State, where I was going to school. Rodney would come
down to Norfolk and he would be battling New York dudes on the yard - straight crushing them. I was already rapping down Norfolk. One time me and Rodney rode down to Aggiefest together at N.C. A&T. After the show, we stayed up all night rapping,
going and back and forth until the sun came up."
Tragically, Rodney's potential
was never fulfilled. He was fatally shot at the Crystal
Skate roller skating rink in Temple Hills, MD.
DC Scorpio: "We were going to do this thing called “King of the
Go-Go”. Unfortunately about a week before we were supposed to go to the studio, Fat Rodney was killed trying to break
up a fight. It was a real tragic loss because Fat Rodney was a real good dude. If he would have lived - he would have been a superstar."
According to a Washington Post article, the reason Rodney
was at Crystal Skate was to promote his new single. He had
signed a contract to record a song called 'Busting Out'. His sister, Jay Lynn Martin, was quoted, "He was just at the wrong place
at the wrong time. He didn't have any enemies.” Annie Mack Thomas (Ms. Mack), then co-manager of Rare Essence, said, "He was a part of us. A close
family member was taken away.” James Funk, a member of Rare
Essence, added, "I'll miss his brotherly love. His reward was making people happy.”
The person responsible for killing Fat Rodney was
never arrested, but another Washington Post article a couple of years later may have shed some light on what really happened. Jeffrey Thomas, who was linked to a gang called the Fifth and O Crew, was being tried in DC Superior Court for the killing of Anthony Stewart, the leader of a rival gang known as the Morton Street Boys.
Thomas told the jury that Stewart was stalking him and he felt he had to kill (Stewart) or be killed himself. Thomas
testified he believed Stewart was after him because he had
seen Stewart shoot Rodney "Fat Rodney" Martin, that June outside Crystal Skate in Temple Hills. Thomas
was eventually acquitted of murdering Stewart.
The album Rodney was working on was never completed. The title song,
'Busting Out', was
released posthumously as a single under the name of Rappin Rodney. Rodney had signed with TASS Recordings and
was working with local producer Chucky Thompson.
Fat Rodney took DC rap to another level, but a young rapper named Stinky
Dink was about to emerge and take the game even further. Stinky
Dink began rapping regularly on stage with Rare Essence and
quickly built a massive following.
Stinky Dink: "I started writing raps in 1983 or 1984, but hip-hop wasn't a real popular thing in DC. But I had an English teacher at HD Woodson Senior High School who
let me perform in class. In fact, I did a rap that I later performed with Rare Essence. After the class, a lot of my classmates
didn't believe I had wrote it myself. They were asking me what radio station I had
heard the song. That feedback encouraged me, so when
I stepped into the go-go I took it to a different level. I brought a more lyrical style of rapping. Also after I started rapping,
rappers came out of the woodwork. Every band seemed like they had a rapper. I was 18 years old performing 4 or 5 nights a
week with the hottest band in the city. I wasn't even old enough to get in the clubs
where we were playing. It got to the point where people would come to the R.E. shows
just to battle me. They had the advantage because they could sit at home and make up stuff about me. I had to battle
them purely freestyle - and I was still winning."
Stinky Dink then released a single called 'One Track Mind' that grew into one of the biggest records to ever come out of DC. The song seamlessly blends Michael Jackson's Human Nature sample with Stinky Dink's
incredible lyricism. ('One Track Mind' was released in 1991. Three years later, the rapper Nas released
his breakout track 'It
Ain't Hard To Tell' which used the same
Dink: "It's a true song. April 10th 1990 I only had $100 in my bank account, and I said I was
going to make it in the music business. After I wrote the song, I let my man
C Muzik hear it and he said right away, 'We have to record this one'. He had the money and we went to the studio the next day. A producer named DJD did the original
track, he brought in the 'Human Nature' sample. Then we took it out Horizon studios and Paul Walker, CJ, and Milton gave the
song a professional sound. We put the single in stores and it became a smash. If you go to any caberet this weekend you'll
still hear One Track Mind."
Stinky Dink: "When
I signed with Luke Records, I signed my publishing over to Luther Campbell for a $10,000 advance. At the time, it seemed like
a good move because Luke was really successful. He was moving a lot of units and doing a lot of touring. Luke eventually re-released
it and is probably still collecting royalties from it. I
was out before Biggie and Pac, I was out before Jay-Z. The turning point in my career was when I got locked up."
DCSuperSid: How did you get locked up?
"I was traveling up and down the East coast doing shows. But between shows I
was still in the streets, and I had caught a drug charge: possession with intent to distribute. It's my first charge, so I'm thinking I'm
going to get probation. I met with my lawyer and I brought all the awards I had won rapping, I brought copies of my contract
with Luke. November 30, 1991, I did the biggest show
of my life, it was at the Capital Centre with The Geto Boys, Busta Rhymes, EPMD - all of the big artists at that time. December
5th I had to go to court for the charge. I had just met a girl at the show and I was going to see her after
my hearing. They locked me up that day and I never heard from her again. They sent me to Lorton, and when I arrived down there everybody already knew I was coming.
It was like, 'Stinky Dink is on the yard'.
It was some hating on me because I had some fame but it was mostly love. I never had no problems down there."
The influence that rappers like Fat Rodney, DC Scorpio, Stinky Dink, Tony
Blunt and P.O.P. (Prince of Poetry) had on DC was enormous.
Go-go was still king but DC was beginning to develop a parallel
hip-hop community. Young musicians began to see hip-hop as
an viable alternative to go-go. The next generation realized that they could cut a rap album and get it played on the radio, they could make a rap video and get it played on BET. The success of the go-go rappers gave the next generation the gift of hope.
This chapter is from the book "Diamonds
In The Raw" for more information, or to purchase a copy please go to: