Rare Essence

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Rare Essence
OriginWashington, D.C., United States
Years active1976–present
Associated acts
MembersAndre "Whiteboy" Johnson
James "Jas.Funk" Thomas
Charles "Corleone" Garris
Leroy "RB" Battle Jr
Michael Baker
Calvin "Killa Cal" Henry
Quentin "Shorty Dud" Ivey
Samuel "GoGo Smoke" Dews
Willie Howell
Tabria Lampkin
Past membersQuentin "Footz" Davidson[1]
Meshell Ndegeocello[2]
Anthony "Little Benny" Harley
Byron "B.J." Jackson[3]

Rare Essence is a Washington, D.C.-based go-go band formed in 1976.[4][5] Rare Essence has been amongst the most prominent musicians of the D.C. music scene, producing numerous hit songs in the local D.C. market and several hits nationwide, including the charting hit "Work the Walls".



Rare Essence was started in 1976 after childhood friends Quentin "Footz" Davidson, Andre "Whiteboy" Johnson, Michael "Funky Ned" Neal and John Jones decided to form a band. After school, the band gathered in their basements to play Top 40 hits from such influential funk bands as Parliament-Funkadelic, Cameo, and Con Funk Shun in practice sessions.[6][7][8]

Eventually the band took on more players and conformed to the go-go style and sound, which gained recognition in the mid-70s. Although the go-go beat had been originated by Chuck Brown, the characteristic four Congo style played by all subsequent bands was originated by Rare Essence.

Once the direction of the band was settled, Rare Essence along with Chuck Brown, Trouble Funk and Experience Unlimited formed the basis for the emerging go-go scene. By 1979 their ability to draw consistent local crowds was well established. As was the wide dispersal of bootleg tapes.[citation needed]

Many of the band's original members contributed to the D.C. style, one would go on to be one of the most dynamic and influential performers on the go scene. Anthony Harley "Lil Benny" was on the way home from his weekly trumpet lesson when he heard the sound of a band coming from a nearby apartment building. After a brief audition, in which he performed the introduction to Kool & the Gang's "Hollywood Swinging", he was asked to join on the spot. Soon after, the band called on the assistance of Quentin's mother, Annie Mack, who became the band's first manager.

Present formation[edit]

Today, the band consists of twelve 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 albums Live at Breeze's Metro Club, and Live at Celebrity Hall. In 1991, Rare Essence was offered a record deal by hip-hop producer Sean Combs and Andre Harrell (founder of Uptown Records), which resulted with the production of the single "Lock-It", which was featured on the soundtrack to the 1991 film Strictly Business. The band's most successful single, "Work the Walls", was released in 1992 and reached #68 in the US Billboard R&B chart.

In 1999, Rare Essence had some controversy regarding their song "Overnight Scenario", which was allegedly copied by Jay-Z in the song "Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up)" and was the first single from his album, Vol. 3... 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.[9] 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 was concerned about the copyright infringement that seemingly took place. Jay–Z's defense was that go–go music is just remakes of other artists’ songs.[citation needed]

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, D.C. at the historic Howard Theatre which is re-opened in April 2012. Slick Rick was also on the tribute show.[10]

In 2018, Rare Essence collaborated with Ethiopian American singer Kelela, contributing a remix of her song "Take Me Apart" to her album Take Me a_Part, the Remixes.

Past members[edit]

Former drummer Quentin "Footz" Davidson was murdered on September 17, 1994 at the age of 33. Former band member Anthony Harley (Little Benny) died on May 30, 2010 in Washington, D.C. at the age of 46.[11] Byron "B.J." Jackson died of cancer on September 4, 2016 at the age of 52.[3] Former saxophonist Rory "DC" Felton was murdered on April 21, 2018 at the age of 57.


Studio albums[edit]

Mixtape albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]

Compilation albums[edit]


  • "Body Moves" (1981)
  • "Back Up Against the Wall" (1983)
  • "Shoo-Be-Do-Wop" (1984)
  • "Give It Here" (1986)
  • "Flipside" (1986)
  • "Hey Now" (1988)
  • "Lock It" (1991)
  • "Work The Walls" (1992)
  • "Must Be Like That" (1993)
  • "Brothers / Comeback" (1993)
  • "So What U Want?" (1994)
  • "No Bang No More " (1996)
  • "Body Snatchers" (1996)
  • "Player Hater" (1997)
  • "We Push" (featuring Redman) (1999)
  • "Pieces of Me" (2004)
  • "Turn It Up" (2016)


  1. ^ Jeter, Jon (September 20, 1994). "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". The Washington Post. pp. N01..
  3. ^ a b Edney, Trice (September 13, 2016). "Go-Go Community Mourns Byron "BJ" Jackson". AFRO. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  4. ^ Thompson, Dave (2001). "Part Four: The New School". FUNK: Third Ear - The Essential Listening Companion (1st ed.). San Francisco: BackBeat Books. pp. 297–299. ISBN 0-87930-629-7.
  5. ^ "Rare Essence biography". WAMA DC. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  6. ^ Lornell, Kip; Stephenson Jr., Charles C. (2001). The Beat: Go-Go's Fusion of Funk and Hip-Hop. Billboard Books. p. 252. ISBN 0-8230-7727-6.
  7. ^ Lornell, Kip; Stephenson Jr., Charles C. (2009). The Beat! Go-Go Music from Washington, D.C. University Press of Mississippi. pp. 221–224. ISBN 978-1-60473-241-2.
  8. ^ Nnamdi, Kojo (May 5, 2011). "The Past, Present and Future of Go-Go Music". The Kojo Nnamdi Show. WAMU. (transcript). Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  9. ^ "The 411 Online". The411online.com. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  10. ^ "Soul Rebels at the Howard Theatre". Howard Theatre. June 21, 2012. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  11. ^ Charlie. "The Dead Rock Stars Club January to June 2010". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved 24 April 2018.

External links[edit]