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Ta-Nehisi Coates and Natalie Hopkinson discuss “Dropping the Bomb: An Oral History of Go-Go”

Ta-Nehisi Coates may now be known as a MacArthur “genius grant” winner who wrote about politics, race, white supremacy, and culture in the books Between the World and Me and We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, but in 2000 he was a Washington City Paper writer who talked to a who’s who of D.C. go-go pioneers for a cover story titled “Dropping the Bomb: An Oral History of Go-Go.” Twenty years later, Coates will look back at the article in a Facebook Live conversation with Howard University professor, Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City author, and Don’t Mute DC activist Natalie Hopkinson as part of the virtual grand opening of The Go-Go Museum and Café in Anacostia. After a short introduction to the meaning of the term go-go, the article just lets the likes of legendary singer Chuck Brown, author and go-go manager Charles Stephenson, Trouble Funk’s Robert “Syke Dyke” Reed, Rare Essence’s Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson, promoter Darryll Brooks, professor and author Kip Lornell, and others relate stories about the origin of go-go’s distinctive beat, early gigs at places like Club LeBaron, and being affected by, then unfairly blamed for, drug-related violence. The participants also touch on go-go’s brushes with national fame and hip-hop’s usage of go-go samples. Expect the conversation to go beyond just the article: The Globe Poster for the event says it will be “a conversation about cultural politics, erasure, black music, and decolonizing the archives.” While the original article didn’t quote any women, they’re making up for that now—this Black Music Month event will also include live music from The First Ladies of Go-Go, which includes the likes of Michelle Blackwell and Ms. Kim. The conversation will take place at noon on June 3 on Facebook. It will be archived through a partnership with the DC Public Library’s Go-Go Archive. Free. —Steve Kiviat