Sixty five years ago, a little boy named Chuck Brown stood proud beside his mother and sang the Lord’s praises to an eager congregation. Little did those faithful listeners know that same little boy would grow to become the “Godfather of Go-Go”. Fusing Gospel, Jazz and Blues, Brown created a blissful marriage that birthed Go-Go–live instruments with hard hitting beats and killer rhythms that physically pull you from your chair to the dance floor. The creation of Go-Go made him a staple in the entertainment industry and a living legend. At 74 years old, Chuck has released over 20 albums and his latest live album–We Got This (released Sept. 21st) features the boastful talents of Jill Scott, Ledisi and Marcus Miller. It’s clear that this innovative legend—and Washington, D.C native— isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. To let Chuck tell it, “I still have the desire. I’ve still got some fire. I’m still getting hired, so I don’t feel I’m supposed to be retired.”
Over the years, it’s become clear that his music transcends genre and time. Artists like Amerie, Nelly, Wale and Eve have used elements of Go-Go music—even samples of Brown’s music— to funk up their records. Still basking in the glow of the release of We Got This, Chuck sat down to chat with Centric about humility, Miles Davis stealing his drummer and his new project.
There’s a lot of artists from my generation that like to incorporate Go-Go into their music. How does that make you feel?
I am super excited about it. I try to encourage them as much as I can. When they ask my advice, I give them the most positive advice that I can think of. Whatever [they] do, [they can’t] let the music disappear because every step is a dance and every note is a song when it comes to Go-Go. If you’re not singing, stepping and dancing, then you must be doing something wrong. That’s one thing–just don’t take the music away. Go-Go requires a lot of funky rhythm.
The longevity of your career is inspiring. How do you feel about your new album?
I’m so excited because I have Jill Scott and Ledisi on that record. They are both superstars. Also, I have my man [Marcus Miller who] is the best player in the world.
Jill Scott has always fused elements of Go-Go into her music, how was it working with her for your album?
I tell you, when I heard Jill’s song, “It’s Love” with that go-go groove. I knew I had to meet this young lady. When I got a chance to meet her–we played a gig. I did a couple of songs with her. That was the thrill of a lifetime.
It’s good that you can still be honored by something like working with someone younger than you…
She’s a superstar. Ledisi is another superstar that I wanted to do a song with. I’ve got good musicians on the album and a great producer–Mr. Chucky Thompson. This is a young man I took to New York with me when he was 17 years old. He told me he was 21. [laughs]. He’s so multitalented [and] can play all kinds of instruments. We came back from Europe and Puff Daddy, Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans, Biggie Smalls–they all wanted to work with [him]. He did a lot of work for them. He told me one day when he came back from New York, ‘Pops, when I come back, I’m going to settle in DC, call you and we’re going in the studio to do something.’ I appreciate that so very much.
That’s amazing that you were able to put him on the map like that…
Exposure means an awful lot.
Now you have the new album We Got This as well as the DVD–tell me about that project.
I’m excited about the guest artists I have on there. I am truly excited about the producers [and] the writers. I’m excited that people like the album. I hope more people will like it.
Well, I love it! The new CD comes with a Live DVD. You integrate a lot of Hip-Hop and Jazz. It’s crazy that you’re able to merge those things and still make it Go-Go.
I’m so impressed by that. I love Jazz and Blues. I go all the way back to the old timers–Johnny Hooker, Guitar Slim, Little Wolf, B.B. King. My favorite Blues artist is Bobby Parker. I’ve seen him play when he was 16 years old. I said, “One day, when I make up my mind to settle down, I’m going to play my guitar like that.” [laughs] He’s always been a deep inspiration to me. I played with him time and time again over the years. My energy was in Go-Go. We were doing Top 40, Jazz and all of that, so I decided to incorporate the beat and see if it worked and it did.