September 24, 2013

Big GHarold Stallworth is washing money at the Laundromat.

Numbers may not outright fib, but more often than not they only tell half the story. Soundscan can’t explain why Meek Mill is far more likely to be heard blaring in god-awful D.C. traffic than most of his RIAA-certified contemporaries. The closest thing we have to a ‘hood Billboard chart is the four-decade trail of go-go performances archived on PA tapes. Go-go bands generally repurpose records proven to be wildly popular among black youth in and around the nation’s capital, regardless of commercial viability.

Take, for instance, Backyard Band’s cover of The Firm’s Mafioso-tinged coming out party, “Affirmative Action.” The show was recorded at Northeast D.C.’s now-defunct Deno’s nightclub circa 1997. It’s difficult to quantify the extent to which this posse cut resonated with the streets in spite of never being co-opted as an official single for Nas’ sophomore album, but the fact it was even implemented into the band’s stage show speaks volumes. Backyard’s longtime frontmen, Big G (better known beyond the Beltway as Slim Charles) and Los (no relation to the dead-in-the-water Bad Boy recording artist hailing from West Baltimore), close the show with several slapdash freestyles over tinny Spanish guitars. This isn’t the glorified karaoke keeping the lights on at Jimmy Fallon’s late night gig; it’s raw and unhinged, defying open container laws amid screeching microphone feedback.

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