Wednesday, April 30

DC WEDNESDAY

DC SHORTS

DESPITE a Sacramento Bee story reporting that her guest is under federal investigation, Michelle Rhee still plans to have Kevin Johnson of St. HOPE - a private charter operation - meet with parents at Eastern High, one of those schools Rhee plans to outsource. You can read the sorry details here.

MARK SEGRAVES, WTOP RADIO One thing Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration is good at, and getting better at, is controlling the media. Take the headlines from Wednesday's papers. The day after Fenty announced that taxi cabs would have until June 1, an additional 31 days, to comply with new regulations requiring time and distance meters be installed, the Washington Post ran a headline on the front page of the Metro section reading, "Cabbies told to install meters by May 1." Across town at The Washington Times the headline was "Cab firms race to install meters." The Times first sentence says that the "law mandating the devices takes effect next week." Both papers go on to point out the reality of the situation, which is the city won't actually enforce the new regulations until June 1. So May 1 is a false deadline. And the papers weren't the only ones to "take the bait," as NBC 4's Tom Sherwood characterized it. . . So where did so many news organizations get the idea that Fenty was sticking to his guns on his May 1 mandate? Perhaps it was the press release Fenty's crack communications staff put out with the headline of, "District to enforce May 1 deadline for taxi meter system conversion.". . . Fenty had been under pressure from the drivers and the taxi cab commission to delay meters for several months. The District's new mayor isn't given to compromise, so he wasn't eager to change his deadline. . . Fenty has not had a true press conference since being sworn in. His predecessor, Tony Williams, had a weekly press conference, where reporters could sit with him as a group for an hour or more, and ask as many questions on as many topics as was our pleasure. Fenty has daily press events, where he breezes in and breezes out. He reads from some prepared talking points and takes a few questions, and that's it. . . Fenty is never in one place for more than 30 minutes. So reporters take what they can get, and for the press, that's dangerous.

PASSINGS: SYKE DYKE

BEN SISARIO, NY TIMES Robert Reed, who played keyboards in Trouble Funk, one of the definitive groups of go-go music - a raucous, high-intensity dance style that flourished in the 1970s and early '80s - died in Arlington, Va. He was 50 . . . The cause was pancreatic cancer, said his brother Taylor, who played trumpet in the band.

Go-go grew out of the dance clubs of Washington in the 1970s, when live bands competed with disco D.J.'s for gigs and dancers' attention. As pioneered by Chuck Brown, the bands kept a taut, midtempo beat for marathon sets and threaded steady rhythms through the breaks between songs, so that dancers never had a chance to sit down.

Influenced by Sly Stone, the Ohio Players and other leading funk bands of the era, Trouble Funk had a playful, futuristic style that brought go-go closer to the rap sound . . . Mr. Reed, whose stage name was Syke Dyke, toyed with his keyboards to create flashy electronic noises that could resemble science-fiction sound effects. Tony Fisher, Mr. Reed's childhood friend who was called Big Tony, played bass and acted as the "talker," sing-speaking repetitive, call-and-response phrases to whip up both band ("Hey, fellas, do you want to take time out to get close to the ladies?") and crowd ("Get on up!").

Early on Trouble Funk was adopted by tastemaking D.J.'s like Afrika Bambaataa, who played its records alongside rap and electronic tracks. The group worked with '80s rap stars like Kurtis Blow, and certain Trouble Funk songs have become among the most sampled sounds in hip-hop history, used by LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, Boogie Down Productions and Will Smith, among many others.

Trouble Funk's first album, "Drop the Bomb," was issued in 1982 on Sugar Hill Records, the New York label that dominated early hip-hop. Along with other groups like E.U. and Rare Essence, Trouble Funk outlasted disco, and for a time in the '80s, go-go was poised to become a mainstream hit. The group toured the globe and was signed to Island Records, home of Bob Marley and U2.

TROUSER PRESS Trouble Funk belongs to Washington DC's go-go scene. Go-go is a throwback to percussive, endless-groove funk that sacrifices structure, production and slickness for loose feeling and community involvement. The bands - basically fluid rhythm sections with a few added frills - do their thing while the musicians and audience yell a whole lot of nonsense (like "Let's get small, y'all" or "Drop the bomb!") The funk is solidly Southern, with a strong James Brown flavor and tons of sloppy percussion. In no other North American music does the cowbell play such a major role.

Chuck Brown, father of go-go, developed it from drum breakdowns which he used in clubs to link Top 40 covers. Not surprisingly, he found people were grooving more on these bridges than the songs. Go-go has grown concurrently (though not as popularly) with hip-hop, and offers a spirited group alternative to beatbox isolationism

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