City Paper is not for tourists
Over the past two years, the media have aggressively covered rap’s parade to the top of popular music. Hiphop luminaries have blessed the cover of magazines—GQ and New York, to name a few—that once might have considered the genre anathema to their readers. The same cannot be said, however, for rap’s Southern cousin, go-go. While rap has gone on to conquer America (and lost some of itself in the process), go-go has remained the District’s own local music. When there’s a news story centered on go-go, it usually has the word “shooting” in there somewhere.
For years, Kevin “Kato” Hammond lamented the fact that most of the coverage go-go attracted labeled the music violence-prone. “Go-go wasn’t getting the right kind of coverage,” says Hammond. “I wanted to [show the music in] a different light….There was this dark shadow over [go-go].”
In that spirit, Hammond founded the online magazine TMOTTGoGo, or Take Me Out to the Go-Go (www.tmottgogo.com). The magazine, to Hammond’s knowledge, is the first and only publication dedicated strictly to go-go music. Hammond, 34, has been a fan of go-go for 20 years. He says he went to his first go-go event—a performance by Trouble Funk and EU—when he was 14. At 16, he formed a go-go band with a few of his friends. “Back then,” says Hammond, “you’d go into class and people would be beating on the desks…or you’d go into the parking lot and people would be beating on cars, just trying to capture that go-go beat.”
When Hammond joined the Army, he formed another band in Germany, where he was stationed. Hammond says that teaching musicians who weren’t from the District how to play go-go proved a bit of a challenge. “We would have to show them tapes [of go-go events] to get them to understand,” he says.
Hammond hasn’t played in a go-go band since ’94. He says that he’s not sure if he’ll play in one again, because the everyday pressures of adulthood have called him away from the music. But not too far away. Whenever he scrapes up enough funds, he puts out a print version.
The magazine isn’t exactly The Source or Vibe, but it is the one of the few institutions that’s documenting one of black America’s most underpromoted genres of music. “[TMOTTGoGo] offers information on go-go that isn’t out there,” says Hammond. “It gives people a clear understanding” of the D.C. phenomenon. —Ta-Nehisi Coates