We're About the Business (Raw Venture)
Yes, this new album from soul/funk pioneer Chuck Brown flirts with hip-hop, electronic-sounding drums and is filled with slangy lyrics. And for the B.B. King fans in the house, he gives us the umpteenth version of “Every Day I Have the Blues.” The thought of any musician over the age of 50 trying vainly to Get with the Kids and Their Rad, Outta-Sight Beat seems like a potential disaster—yet Brown has that rare gift for making it work.
Brown and his band the Soul Searchers spearheaded the eventual percussion-heavy D.C. music scene that later became known as go-go music. In the ’80s, Brown, Trouble Funk and E.U. weren’t immune to progress (they incorporated hip-hop elements like everyone else), but kept the earthy early-’70s funk sound going when their peers surrendered to synths. This regional dance trend never made it as big as New York rap or Chicago house, but the cult is deep enough to give the singer-guitarist a rep as its godfather.
Still, like most forerunners, Brown is a lot more eclectic than he’s usually given credit for. He’s as equally influenced by jazz, blues and salsa as the funk that his fans pay to see, and these styles cameo in this album at some point or another. His voice has acquired another layer of gravel since “Bustin’ Loose,” his big crossover breakthrough from 1978. And because ’80s-era go-go incorporated rap anyway, Brown doesn’t sound as awkward adapting his sensibilities toward hip-hop as, say, certain blues acts do. Let the party roll.—James Porter