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Many people have attempted to describe go-go numerous times and in different ways, but all seem to fall just short of encapsulating the genre’s expansive and infectious feel. With her debut studio album Body of Work, industry veteran Michelle Blackwell, who has been performing on the scene for nearly 20 years, puts forth her wide-reaching—and completely original—vision of all the genre is and can be.
The album opens with a Matrix-referencing intro inviting the listener to experience go-go for themselves, then jumps into the reggaeton-tinged tutorial “This Be Gogo,” which features Reaction’s Choppa Black and eschews traditional go-go structure to illustrate a point echoed throughout the album: that the components that comprise go-go cannot be confined. “Crank Shaming” is another track that serves as both an entry point for—and middle finger to—those who may thumb their noses up at go-go music, but also departs from the expected via spoken word performed over a spare congo rhythm.
The subject matter isn’t all instructive, however, with songs of encouragement and empowerment also interspersed between more dance-ready songs. Lead single “Enjoy Myself” pays direct homage to go-go by flipping the familiar, using Patrice Rushen’s “Remind Me” as a breezy soundbed for a song all about taking some me-time, interpolating The Jackson 5 “Enjoy Yourself” hook previously used by Junk Yard Band. More uplift can be found in “Ride It Out”, which references Rare Essence’s “Camay All Over,” and gospel bonus track “God Works”.
Blackwell doesn’t leave her party stars behind, however: included here is a new ladies’ anthem, “Bounce” featuring old-school icon DJ Kool, as well as bounce beat hit “Get Me Remix” and a jazz lounge-style remix (“In E Minor”) of her well-known song “Partymode.” Another remix comes courtesy of fan-favorite “Reminisce,” where Blackwell reunites with her former WHAT? Band-mate (and current RE rapper) Killa Cal to pay homage to lost friends and family.
The elements of go-go are prevalent throughout, from call-and-response and hood shout-outs to percussive breakdowns, dynamic resets, and gospel harmonies. But the album also raises a lot of questions about what really constitutes go-go as a genre, especially because the music’s vibe is so inextricably linked to the act of experiencing it as a live performance and none of the songs here were recorded in front of a crowd.
While Blackwell’s album certainly doesn’t answer those questions, it hits on them in a way that whets the listener’s appetite for seeing them reinterpreted live—that is, if you haven’t already hung your swag up on a hook.
You can buy “Body of Work” here.