The promotional image for Crank Radio.
The promotional image for Crank Radio. Credit: Courtesy of Charles "Shorty Corleone" Garris

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More than 40 years after go-go’s first national hit, Chuck Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose,” and more than 30 years after Experience Unlimited’s “Da Butt” topped Billboard’s R&B charts, go-go has finally found a national radio platform. The new hour-long Crank Radio program, which debuts Saturday, Jan. 16 at 9 p.m. on H.U.R. Voices, Sirius XM Satellite Radio Channel 141, is hosted by go-go artist, producer and Rare Essence alumni Charles “Shorty Corleone” Garris. His co-host is Rico Anderson, a DJ and producer who has worked with multiple R&B and hip-hop stars. The Howard University Radio Network (HURN) will air Crank Radio Saturday and Sunday nights at 9 p.m., and the show will appear on all Sirius XM platforms.

“Crank Radio is a platform for all go-go to be heard across the world, so this is huge for go-go,” says Shorty Corleone. “We’re going to showcase new artists, classic artists, go-go R&B, go-go hip-hop, bounce beat, gospel go-go. Basically, we’re talking about everything go-go.”

Ever since the spring of 2019, when a resident of a Shaw luxury highrise succeeded in briefly shutting down the go-go played outside the Central Communications store (better known as the Metro PCS) on the corner of 7th Street and Florida Avenue NW, go-go musicians and their advocates have redoubled efforts seeking support for D.C.’s homegrown funk genre. Still, in many ways, go-go remains a regional and somewhat underground culture despite its decades-long massive local popularity. Both Don’tMuteDC and the Long Live Go-Go movements have sought to elevate go-go’s profile while using the music to support causes including Black Lives Matter and D.C. statehood. Mayor Muriel Bowser signing a bill establishing go-go as the official music of Washington D.C. last year was a significant development. Since then, Stevie Wonder has released a go-go styled track, and Rare Essence put out a single with Snoop Dogg. Still to come are Backyard Band’s Snoop Dogg single and CeeLo Green’s recent collaborations with Rare Essence, Backyard Band, Junkyard, and Bel’a Dona

While there are plenty of go-go radio options available on the internet, including GoGoRadio LIVE and The Love Network, Crank Radio is the first satellite go-go radio show, and it may be the first taking an instructional approach. “WHUR is affiliated with Howard University, so the educational component fits right in,” says Shorty Corleone. “We’re speaking to the wider world, so we’re explaining a little bit about the culture for folks who’ve never heard go-go in their lives. We’re not gonna bore you, though. Crank Radio is definitely a party starter.” 

H.U.R. Voices is one of two WHUR HURN channels on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. Sean Plater, general manager of WHUR HURN, is thrilled to have Crank Radio on H.U.R. Voices. A D.C. native and longtime fan of the Northeast Groovers, the Huckabucks, Rare Essence and Backyard Band, he has a deep appreciation of the culture. “The real goal for me as we put this on a national platform is that we educate people that may be outside the DMV about what go-go is really all about … the different members of a go-go band, and why it sounds the way it does,” he says. “Shorty and Rico have done a great job in putting it all together.” 

Shorty Corleone and Anderson have been talking about launching a satellite go-go radio show for about a decade. Early on, they explored the option with Donald Campbell, owner of the Metro PCS store and a vast collection of go-go recordings. “I’ve been out there buying, recording, and trading since 1980, so I’ve got a whole basement full of music, probably about 100,000 recordings,” says Campbell. Now he is serving as a consulting music curator for Crank Radio.  

Both Shorty Corleone and Anderson grew up steeped in the culture. Shorty Corleone lived a block away from Rare Essence headquarters on Xenia Street SE, and as a kid regularly watched the band practice. Anderson also spent his early years in Southeast, directly across from the Potomac Gardens apartments, where Trouble Funk used to practice in the parking lot. He might have become a go-go producer, but a chance encounter with Michael Bivins from New Edition and Bell Biv DeVoe at the IHOP in District Heights changed his course. Anderson ended up working with Bell, Biv, Devoe, Another Bad Creation, and Will Smith, among others; he produced MC Brains’ “Oochie Coochie” and Boyz II Men’s “Sympin’ Ain’t EZ.” He has toured as an opening DJ for Kid Capri, and spins at local clubs, including Hominy Lounge on U Street NW.

But Anderson is a forever go-fan. “People don’t know there’s a club in Japan where DJs play go-go on a certain night. I would love to see the culture celebrated all over the world so the artists can go to any continent and tour successfully. As a musician, I have the same level of respect for Godfather as I have for Herbie Hancock,” he says, referring to Rare Essence alumni Mark “Godfather” Lawson. 

Akil Taffe, a record label executive who has supported the show, sees Crank Radio as benefitting from renewed interest in the music. “Artists like Shorty Corleone are taking this opportunity to leverage and make a move,” says Taffe. “Local radio stations will give go-go a feature segment, but by and large it still remains underground. This is a national launchpad for the genre, and it has tons of upsides and a huge potential to help expand the genre.”

Shorty Corleone’s last live performance with Rare Essence was in November of 2019, and he has stepped away from live shows to give his vocal chords a rest. “Interestly enough, I’m coming back, using my voice in a different platform and still supporting the culture,” he says.  

Record executives have theorized that go-go must be experienced live in order to be fully appreciated, which is why Crank Radio will include PA tapes recorded during live shows and later sold to fans, a longtime go-go practice. “We’re educating the world about our culture, so of course we’ve got segments on PA tapes,” says Shorty Corleone. “A PA tape means the world to us, just like a mixtape means the world to hip-hop.”

The first episode of Crank Radio incorporates other enduring go-go traditions. The roll call, a ritual at thousands of shows, takes place when a band’s lead talker greets members of the audience by name. On Crank Radio, it becomes a shout out to musicians, bands, roadies, and others known in the go-go community.

Tracks on the first episode include Rare Essence’s “We Came Here to Rock this Party,” Trouble Funk’s “Let’s Get Small,” Mambo Sauce’s “Welcome to D.C.” Northeast Groovers’ “Booty Call,” and Backyard Band’s “Hello.” Shorty Corleone talks about two lost icons, TCB’s Reggie “Polo” Burwell and Tony Redz, before playing the band’s “Wipe Me Down,” and Pure Elegance’s “Don’t Mute Us” offers up some political advocacy. 

“We’re covering the full span of go-go from where it originated to where it is now, so it’s like a full go-go buffet,” says Anderson. “The classic music from the pioneers, the middle generation, and the current bounce beat generation.” As a producer, Anderson knew he would start off with Trouble Funk—“even way outside the DMV community, that’s a famous breakbeat,” he says. 

Whether Crank Radio, currently contracted for a year, will expand in the future remains to be seen. For now, the go-go community must wait.  

“Is this a big deal? Yes, I think that it is, but we won’t realize how much of a big deal until later,” says go-go historian Kato Hammond. “It’s almost like when you’re building a house: You’re building it brick by brick. It doesn’t seem like much til you stand back and look at the house and see everything that played a part in its construction.

“It’s a start that can grow into something big if done right,” says Hammond. “The only thing we can do now is sit back and watch.”