Rare Essence

The wickedest Band Alive

            Tier IV PelonkCeleb

            Tier IV PelonkCeleb

Rare Essence, Washington’s premier Go‑ Go band for more than three decades has built a devoted fan base that spans multiple generations.

Originated in the mid ‘70s by the late Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown, Go-Go links songs together over percussion breakdowns—a raw, non-stop party groove fueled by congas, cowbells and timbales, with call and response interactions that obliterated divisions between a band that doesn't stop playing and audience that won't stop dancing.

They have performed with Run DMC, LL Cool J, Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, Ice Cube, Heavy D and the Boyz, Wu Tang Clan, Redman and Method Man, French Montana, Scarface, TLC, Eric B and Rakim, YoYo, Shabba Ranks, KRS-1, The Roots, Raheem DeVaughn not to mention Chuck Brown, Trouble Funk, The Junk Yard Band, & EU. 

Little wonder they were dubbed “The Wickedest Band Alive” by rap pioneer Doug E. Fresh, who has collaborated with Rare Essence- one of many artists to incorporate Go‑ Go's percolating percussion and some of its key players into their own recordings. Another recent testament to these collaborations, the ever popular, “Overnight Scenario,” is covered by Fantasia all over the country today. 

Rare Essence first came together in 1976 when a group of elementary students at St. Thomas Moore Catholic School in Southeast Washington gathered after school and started playing the, then, new- as yet unnamed- music. Like any long-lived style of music, go-go has undergone changes over the decades but Rare Essence maintains and sustains its original sound and spirit. One of their album titles puts it best: “We Go On and On.”

Of Rare Essence's most recent accolades: 2016 has brought the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture which includes Rare Essence featuring Go-Go music created by the late great Chuck Brown; and 2017 kicked off with globalFEST 2017 at the historic Webster Hall in New York.

Today, Rare Essence band consists of original member Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson (Lead Guitar); James "Jas.Funk" Thomas(Vocals); Calvin "Killa Cal" Henry(Vocals); Samuel "Smoke" Dews(Congas); Charles “Shorty” Garris (Vocals); Roy Battle (Keyboards); Michael Baker (Bass Guitar); Kenneth "Kwick"Gross(Drums); Quentin "Shorty Dud" (Percussion); and Leroy"Scooter"Taylor(Keyboards).


Rare Essence keeps D.C.’s hometown beat alive, 40 years in.
— Alona Wartofsky- Washington City Paper
…this band has performed more than 5000 times. Like so many Rare Essence concerts, it’s easy to believe you’re seeing the best one.
— Chris Richards, Pop Critic- The Washington Post
                                                                                               Photograph by Kevin Yaratola

                                                                                               Photograph by Kevin Yaratola

Go-go is intertwined with D.C. culture, and it goes deeper than just the music. Community connection has a lot to do with it.
— Kato Hammond- Go-Go Historian