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We’re only halfway through 2019 and native Washingtonians have already witnessed the demolition of Barry Farm, newcomers walking their dogs on Howard University’s sacred lawn, and the rise of the #DontMuteDC movement. Local hip-hop legend Larry “Priest Da Nomad” Ware has captured the moment perfectly with his new single, an anti-gentrification anthem entitled “Can’t Lose The Soul.”
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The Shaw Metro PCS store conflict in April sparked the #DontMuteDC zeitgeist which evolved into a series of raucous but peaceful outdoor go-go concerts dubbed “Moechella.” But it was an incident that happened in Shaw in February that motivated Ware to lyrically express his appreciation for D.C. culture.
A new, white-owned restaurant named Roy Boys decorated its walls with murals of illustrious rappers like Tupac, Snoop Dogg, and Notorious B.I.G. portrayed as roosters and chickens. Many residents found the depiction of black men as livestock dehumanizing, disrespectful, and racist. Ware and others spoke out against the images, and eventually the murals were removed. “All of that could’ve been avoided if the owners would just be respectful and check in with the community they’re setting up shop in,” Ware says. “So after that situation, I was inspired to do a song dealing with the topic of gentrification in the city.”
Ware says so much was on his mind that it only took “about an hour or so” to write the verses. DJ Roddy Rod crafted the funky go-go-influenced track with guitar samples and drums, Leroy “Boogie” Greer added live percussion, Lorenzo “Zo” Ferguson played live bass, and singer Deborah Bond provided the vocals. Ware delivers the hard-hitting bars with conviction and, of course, soul, “Out-of-towners come here and bring all their baggage to Chocolate City—now they’re complaining there’s too much blackness?”
Most of the “Can’t Lose The Soul” video was shot on U Street NW in the alley with the famous “Black Broadway” mural that celebrated the rich history of African American music in the neighborhood. A few days after the video shoot, the owner of the building painted over the mural.