Rare Essence

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Rare Essence
Origin Washington, D.C., United States
Genres Go-go
Years active 1976–present
Labels Groove Records
Website http://www.rareessence.com/
Members Anthony "Redds" Williams
Andre "Whiteboy" Johnson
Michael "Funky Ned" Neal
John (Big Horn) Jones
James (Jas. Funk) Thomas
Mark (Godfather) Lawson
Rory (DC) Felton
David Green
Marky Owens
Benjamin (Scotty) Haskell
Lawrence (The Maniac) West
Michael Muse
Tyrone (Jungle Boogie) Williams
Donnell (D-Floyd) Floyd
Milton (Go-Go Mickey) Freeman
Byron (BJ) Jackson
Derek (DP) Paige
John (JB) Buchanan
Darrin "X" Fraiser
Quentin (Shorty Dud) Ivey
Darrell "Blue" Arrington
Michael Baker
Kent Wood
Roy Battle
Dave "32" Ellis
Eric "Bojack" Butcher
Past members Quinten "Footz" Davidson[1]
Meshell Ndegeocello[2]
Anthony "Little Benny" Harley

Rare Essence is an American go-go band from Washington, D.C.


From Foundation to 2000

The band developed when four childhood friends: Quinten "Footz" Davidson, Andre "Whiteboy" Johnson, Michael "Funky Ned" Neal and John Jones decided to form a go-go band. After school, the four young musicians gathered together and play top forty hits from such influential bands like Parliament/Funkadelic, Cameo, and Confunkshun in basements. Eventually, the band adapted more players and conformed to the go-go style and sound, which started in 1976. It was at that time that the band called on the assistance of Quinten's mother, Annie Mack, who became the band's first manager. Today, Rare Essence consists of 12 musicians, who play a range of instruments from the timbales to the bass guitar. They play up to six nights a week, travelling throughout the country.

Rare Essence accomplished noteworthy successful hits as "Body Moves", the hit album Live at Breeze's Metro Club, and the single "Lock-It" which was featured on the Strictly Business film soundtrack. The band's most successful single, "Work the Walls", reached #68 in the US Billboard R&B chart.

In 1993, Rare Essence had a deal with Andre Harrell, the president of Uptown Records, signed the group through Sean Combs, but the group's recordings did not do too well so that relationship fizzled.[3] Go-go fans complain that most studio recordings aren't "hitting it”, says the Chicago Reader. But there are some studio recordings that are out there and Rare Essence has sold upwards of 30,000. However, fans prefer to listen to recordings of live shows.[4]

Rare essence sued Jay-Z on the basis that their song “Overnight Scenario” was copied by Jay-Z in the song “Do It Again (Put your hands up)” which was the first single from Vol.3 the Life and Times of S. Carter. There is an hour to hour account in the song “Overnight Scenario”, and “Do it again” follows the same concept.[5] For example, Rare Essence's line was “Three in the Morning the Pancake House” while Jay-Z said “4 AM at the Waffle House”. The question was whether or not the problem should be called plagiarism or just similar concept. The group had been performing the song for most of the late 1990s and wanted an undisclosed amount of money in addition to writing and production credit. Jay – Z’s defense was that go–go music is just remakes of other artists’ songs.

The 911 spin-off and Present

A few band members left the group Rare Essence in late 2000 and formed 911. The new members of 911 did not stray from Rare Essence's signature style. The new group's first CD, "Blueprint," earned good reviews and a couple songs got radio time. Whether it was simply because of a maturing audience or clubs trying to get away from the stereotypical violence associated with go–go, 911 moved away from aggressive, youngful sound toward a "grown and sexy” style, where groups use a backbeat of congas and timbales to jazzy, horn-driven R&B covers. Floyd from the group 911 called it, the "out to party, but dressed to impress and laid-back" crowd in the article called “Some Familiar Faces” in the Washington Post.[6]

911 started to play a more seasoned style, and the group changed its name to Familiar Faces. Still, Familiar Faces takes artists like Sade and play their songs more powerfully than most R&B covers, by putting a sharp beat behind the mellow vocals, but Familiar Faces says "It's not the music that makes it grown and sexy, it's the lyrics". Now the group is moving from covering other peoples songs and focusing on original material stating that, “The only way go-go will ever make it nationally is on the strength of the original songs”.

In 2009, Rare Essence performed at one of the inaugural balls. In 2012, the group collaborated with the Soul Rebels Brass Band during a Tribute to Chuck Brown on June 21, 2012 in Washington DC at the historic Howard Theatre which is re-opened in April 2012. Slick Rick was also on the tribute show.[7]

Notable Members

Band member Anthony (Little Benny) Harley died on May 30, 2010 in Washington, D.C. He was 46 years old.[8]


  1. ^ Jeter, Jon (1994-09-20). "Go-Go music pioneer Footz Davidson is found shot to death on P.G. road". The Washington Post. p. b.04. Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  2. ^ Wiltz, Teresa (2005-06-19). "Meshell Ndegeocello Breaks Step With Pop". Washington Post. pp. N01. .
  3. ^ Cheng,Jeff.”Bang The Drum.”Vibe,November,2001,p.114.
  4. ^ Dugan, John. “It’s a D.C. Thing.” Chicago Reader, February 06, 2003.
  5. ^ “More money, more problems”.the411online.com.Date accessed: May 10, 2011.
  6. ^ Fritz, Hahn. “Some Familiar Faces on the Go-Go”.The Washington Post, September 15, 2006.
  7. ^ "Soul Rebels at the Howard Theatre". Retrieved 7 April 2012. 
  8. ^ Thedeadrockstarsclub.com - accessed May 2010

There was a Rare Essence, R&B singing group from Detroit Michigan in the 80's, who recorded at The Sound Suite Recording studio. They were on the indie record label, Major Records. They had a minor hits called "Disco Fever" and "Kin Kong." The Sound Suite was owned by Michael Grace and John Lewis, who were former Motown Engineers. They also had a sound stage where the artist could perform. Acts that were associated with the Sound Suite at that time were Enchantment, Parlet, Was Not Was, The ADC Band, The Crowd Pleasers, and The Fantastic Four.

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