Archive for the ‘Documixes’ Category

The Godfather of Go-go (In Memory of Chuck Brown)

The Godfather of Go-goI’m sure you’ve noticed by now that here at I believe in paying homage to music legends.  And while the death of an artist who has influenced me often takes the wind out of me for a while, I always try to find the strength to explain why they were important.

Translating the significance of Chuck Brown may be the hardest yet.

I was 11 years old the first time I understood the importance of Chuck Brown and what part his music had and would play in my life. I say “had” because I heard Chuck throughout my childhood.  Bustin Loose and We Need Some Money were in heavy rotation in the early 80’s.  I’m sure those songs were played more on DC radio than anywhere but I never imagined that the man singing those tunes was actually from DC.  It sounded so much like the funk of the day, I figured it was Parliament or one of the other funky soul bands.

But in the mid 80’s, when Brown released Run Joe, everything changed for me.  From the opening of the song, “The policeman is on the premises ya’ll, what his he doing in here?” I knew I was hearing something special.  Unlike the other songs Brown had released before, targeting hopeful radio crossover success, Run Joe was raw, unapologetic Go-go; a sound created and nurtured by Brown.

The melodic fusion of percussion, horns, bass and his classic electric guitar strum had long since moved beyond him and his live band by then.  By the mid 80’s there were a number of Go-go bands, in fact some had already come and gone by then.  There were Trouble Funk, Experience Unlimited (EU), Rare Essence and a new group at the time called Junk Yard.

But Chuck’s sound was different.  It was refined and blended more musical influences than the bands that emulated him.  The blues, Latin, R&B, jazz and at times big band sounds were more obvious.  Brown’s experience as a seasoned musician blended with his teenage heart to create music that spoke to multiple generations.

In fact, I was feeling a mix of shock and aw when I realized that I wasn’t discovering something new when I heard “Run Joe.”  My parents, uncles and older cousins had been listening and partying to Chuck some 20 years earlier.

From the height of Go-go to its lowest point during the late 80’s, Chuck played.  When Go-go clubs became synonymous with violence during the crack years – Chuck’s events were always a safe haven.  No one would dare “wile out” while chuck was on stage.   And when the death toll on the streets of Washington hit an all time high, Chuck reminded the youth through song that DC “don’t” stand for Dodge City.

Until just a few months before his death, Brown played live all over the Washington area to sold out crowds.  The older he got, the more diverse his following became.  In the mid 90’s Chuck did a Jazz/Blues album with another DC music legend, folk singer Eva Cassidy.  This timeless collaboration gave fans from both sides of this City a chance to hear what happens when real musicians cross genres and make music together.  Surely their album, The Other Side,  contributed to the growing diversity of Chuck’s following.


The last time I saw Chuck play live it was at the 9:30 Club here in DC.  He was celebrating his 75th and what would be his last birthday.  He was under the weather that night and apologized to the audience for his naturally gravelly voice being a little coarser than usual.  Then he played for hours nonstop.  This is what Chuck did, played without intermission.  If the band took a break it was with a musical interlude.  Soon that music would be filled with chants of “wind me up Chuck,” meaning the crowd wanted Brown to keep going; thus the name Go-go.  That night his now thin and bony fingers strummed that electric guitar giving off his signature echoed riff.  The horn section boomed and leapt across the stage to the Go-go rhythm.  The congo player banged out our miseries as the keyboard player and drummer kept time.  Even members of other Go-go bands joined Brown onstage playing some old Go-go favorites.  And we danced, from Northeast, to Southeast, to Southwest, to Northwest… we danced.  We sweated out our clothes, hair, troubles, cares and we danced.

As Chuck said his goodnights and we all began our slow walk to our cars, there was laughter in the air and a feeling of euphoria.  When we chanted, “wind me up Chuck” he did, just like he always had and always will.

If you ask why Go-go has never gone pop beyond EU’s Da Butt, I don’t know what to tell you.  While artists from Beyonce to Salt and Pepa and Grace Jones have used or sampled the sound, very few of our bands get recognition.  The musicians who have dedicated their lives to this music sacrifice.  They play in church on Sunday to earn the money to jam with a band on Friday.  They studied their craft with the high school band and dreamed of playing for the Backyard Band.  Then there are the countless kids who set their buckets up on downtown street corners earning change while cranking out the “bangingest” beat they can.  These musicians may say, it’s not fair, Go-go deserves a national audience.

But for Washingtonians who have traveled this Country and the world, we love it.  We love that Go-go is all ours.  Only we know how to dance to it, only we understand the call and response and know that “wa-wa-wa where we’re from” matters.  And when I’m homesick and away from DC, I blast my Go-go and wear it like a tattoo.

This is why Grammy nominated, Chuck Brown is the Godfather.  While most musicians struggle to make a hit, Chuck created a musical genre that is the soundtrack of my life and the lives of countless other music lovers and musicians.  It’s the last non-commercial music format.

Thank you Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go-go, for leaving Chocolate City and this world a funkier place!

Download the 192kbps/HQ version (81.5 MB) here!

DJ BeTray’s 1 Year Anniversary Mix


DJ BeTray Anniversary Mix (Vol. 1) Anniversary Mix

DJ Betray Anniversary Mix (Vol. 1) with Commentary Anniversary Mix With BeTray’s Commentary

October 17, 2011 marks 1 year of!  When deciding how best to celebrate this momentous occasion, I decided a walk down memory lane was the way to go.  Then my next decision was what genre and what songs?  For this anniversary mix, I’m taking a break from R&B and Hip-hop and mixing some of my favorite pop and rock songs from the past 5 decades.  There’s also a little soul, jazz, folk and gospel squeezed in.  This is definitely a mix without genre boundaries.

I think this departure from the site’s norm is the perfect way to say thank you to all of you music fans who have made my first year so special.  I’ve included two versions of the anniversary mix… one is just the music and the other is the music with my commentary; think DVD commentary a la mix tape.  I had a lot of fun doing the commentary, since I love talking over music anyway.  It gave me a chance to share some of my insights while also telling you a little more about my musical experiences.  Hopefully you’ll learn something new and appreciate this trip into a music mix free constrictions.  The number 1 above features a picture of every artist included in this mix… see if you recognize them.

I want to hear from you, so please tell me what you think of this mega mix and of course, I’m accepting all anniversary wishes 🙂

Thank you all for your support of and please be sure to tell a friend about this site!  Accept, Share, Give, Live, Feel Speak and Hear Love!

* Commentary Correction: David Grohl is from Springfield, VA, not Silver Spring, MD.

Download the 192kbps/HQ version (165 MB) here!

Download the 192kbps/HQ version (176 MB) with commentary here!

Wonder to Michael Jackson’s Ear

Wonder to Michael Jackson\’s Ear

If you are not aware of the sincere adoration and brotherhood that existed between Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, you have missed out on one of the most fascinating bonds in modern music history.  Jackson often spoke about Wonder, specifically how watching his fellow Motown label mate inspired him to produce and write his own music.

As a member of the Jackson 5 Michael covered Wonder’s hits, and as a solo artist he collaborated with him.  Their friendship helped to empower Jackson as he propelled into the biggest star the world has ever seen.

Radio and TV personality Donnie Simpson, who was a friend of Jackson’s, told me that what made Jackson great was his natural talent; but what made him extraordinary was that he was a natural talent who intensely practiced and studied his craft as if he had no gift.  It was this strive for perfection that led him to study the musicianship of Stevie Wonder.

Witnessing Wonder take the lead of his musical direction while at Motown showed Michael that he could do it too.  Jackson had known Wonder for some time and was introduced to him shortly after being signed to Motown.  Their  kinship would grow into a kind of exclusive fraternity of musical genius.

The impact of Jackson’s death on Wonder was clearly seen when he performed just a few months after Michael’s memorial at the 25th Anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  During a tribute to Jackson, Wonder broke down while singing The Way You Make Me Feel. He was barely able to regain his composure and continue singing the song.

It was a moment so emotional that it almost seemed as if the band should have stopped playing and given Wonder a moment to collect himself.  Surely to some in the audience it must have been a little off putting to see this man cry in the midst of a celebration.  To me, it was clear… I believe that as he sang those words, Wonder reflected on how Michael made him feel, from the moment he first entered Stevie’s recording session as a curious child until his death.  Wonder watched and helped Jackson develop from a lead singer in a teen group to the King of Pop.

These two icons found one another and understood each other in a real way.  There are some things that are rare in life, musical child proteges is one of them so it is understandable that these two legends leaned one another.  Both performed their entire lives and lived under extreme public scrutiny.  Both were labeled geniuses at an early age.  But what Michael achieved was greater than anything before him and for Wonder to know that he played a major part in inspiring this megastar must have made him feel a kind of pride and humility that only a very few of us will ever have the chance to experience.  How many of us have participated in the creation of genius?

That explains why Wonder sang I Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer at Jackson’s memorial service; these pictures tell the story. It seems the sun was always shining on these two men when they were side by side.

Their bond is the inspiration behind my first documix, Wonder to Michael Jackson’s Ear. It’s a quote taken from Jackson as he described why music should be without boundaries and labels. He said, “It’s music, it’s wonder to the ear and that’s what counts.”

When I began working on this piece several months ago I had 6 hours of music and about an hour of interviews from both Jackson and Wonder; somehow I got it down to less than an hour and 20 minutes.  This piece features Michael Jackson covering some Wonder hits and also the song Buttercup, written by Wonder for the Jackson 5; it was released after Michael’s death.  You will also hear Wonder’s heartbreaking dedication to MJ sang at his memorial service.

This documix takes you on a journey that begins with two young artists who love to sing and entertain and ends with two men who found a deep love and respect for one another.

I would like to thank one of my sister-girl’s, Lula, for requesting a Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson mix.  What had begun as a simple mixtape for a friend became a fantastic musical journey for me that I hope you too will enjoy.  May it be wonder to your ear.  Love!

Download the 192 kbps version (98.4 MB) here!