For many, the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States was a terrible moment, one of those times when literal Armageddon feels imminent, and there’s a black cloud with metaphorical blood-soaked razors for lining casting a pall over everything. However, there’s maybe only one truly positive, and wholly intriguing note to take from Trump’s election: it’s probably the wake up call that everyone needs to the revolutionary change that 2017 intends to bring to all things, worldwide. Most notable to those of you reading this in the Nation’s Capital, the best place in which to note what’s next isn’t while being depressed during Donald Trump’s swearing in on January 20, 2017. Rather, in noting the who, what, when, and where of local music’s most culturally significant and popular sounds of the year(s) to come, the swirling of winds of change is much more pleasurably noteworthy. Here’s a breakdown of where to look, who to listen to, and why, in the months and years to come.
SCENES AND ARTISTS
Most notable in D.C.’s rock (and we’ll include punk in this conversation) scene is the lack of safe space for the scene to develop. Haushaus and St. Stephen’s Church are both directly in the line of the Nation’s Capital’s issues with gentrification. There’s no old 9:30 Club, Black Cat, or Food For Thought that can actively book these acts and also keep a roof over their heads with rising rents. Thus, it’s a scene that feels transitory. Great bands existing in a vacuum is cool in the digital age, but does no favors for anyone in the post-postmodern age. Ten years ago many bands in DC-at-present could’ve all been bands that left vacuum-esque locales like D.C. is now for indie-favoring locales like Austin and Brooklyn. Of course, if you’re an artist in #newDC in 2016 though, the ability to save money for such a move while also still being a full-time artist is basically impossible. All that being said, there’s really something about Sean Barna’s voice that sticks in a way that feels blue collar, earnest, and reminiscent to late 70s era Bruce Springsteen that well, makes all seem right in America (again).
Wale being a little-to-no timer in D.C.’s streets of late, as well as Goldlink’s lack of true physical connection to the Nation’s Capital leaves the throne of “best D.C.-based rapper” wide open. Rap in general is leaving the era of a perpetual flurry of hypebeasts in purple sneakers behind, and instead is moving in a direction of professional artists making music that appeals to the genre’s classic standard. That being said, Kingpen Slim’s Life After Doubt may quietly be the best overall indie-to-mainstream aimed project put out to-date by a D.C.-based rapper. Slim’s not a Chaz French, Ras Nebyu, or any other emcee who’s been championed by the blogosphere. Rather, he’s a veteran artist who, when rap as a genre moved away from its traditions and embraced dance and a general hipster-friendly ethos, was left behind. However, in being the first to emerge in this revolutionary era with a project that sounds like Jay Z’s 1996 Reasonable Doubt in the best way, is worthy of appreciation.
Electro and moombahton are passe. Yes, I know. We all went to 150 million indie dance parties in the past decade, which actually allowed both then-underground electro-tinged sounds to become the stuff of generic top-40 fodder. As well, our beloved moombahton is much less the sound powered by 40,000 watts of sound at U Street Music Hall, but is instead the sound of everyone from Drake to Justin Bieber, and many, many more. Looking deeper into things and finding Will Eastman’s latest artist release, the soul-filled house and drum and bass of 1432 R, as well as parties like ROAM and what DJs like The Borrowers, Mathias., zacheser, Jett Chandon, and more (like at this CMPVTR CLUB-sponsored all-female Glow End Theory event at the Black Cat on 11/20) are doing are noteworthy. In finding unique and progressive rhythms located just beneath the surface of where dance is most popular in the mainstream-at-present, they’re continuing the long tradition of DC discovering and championing the best of what’s to come.
Yes, jazz. As in that genre that feels older than everything, and you likely feel is typically mentioned by people whose tastes you may also conflate with sheer music snobbery. However, I urge you to take one listen to what the Nag Champa ensemble are making, and in it being an experiential sound influenced by jazz, soul, R & B, go-go, multiple dance genres, rap and yes, mysticism, it’s a whole other journey. Yes, in the wake of Bohemian Caverns closing and the election of believed racist Donald Trump, one would believe jazz to be the deadest of classic DC things. However, in re-contextualizing the most renowned of D.C. things for the modern age, as well as having Songbyrd as a hub for their live performances, it’s important. Nag Champa’s popularity also spurring a redevelopment of more mainstream interest in those still making and playing jazz in the city could be significant as-well.
BLUEGRASS AND FOLK
Not to subscribe to hackneyed notions of those coming to #newDC in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, but the idea that the Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival could become the most significant of festival events is important. D.C. has a long-standing relationship to both genres, and there’s ample reason to believe that this, as opposed to any other festival experience that’s been organically birthed in the city, could experience the greatest percentage of growth in the next half-decade. Artists emerging to alt-indie kids and those less-than-aware as “surprise” stars should actually be not-so-surprising as their voices and stages will become infinitely more significant.
OTHER ARTISTS/THINGS OF NOTE
Aaron Abernathy tours with indie rap superstar Black Milk and his debut album Monologue is everything you forgot you loved about rhythms and blues.
Louis Weeks is a classically trained synth-rock hybrid performer who makes music that’s as much identified by echoes as it is melodies.
Kokayi is the president of D.C.’s Grammy chapter and is a producer, rapper, and multi-instrumentalist who maintains a significant presence in the city.
The Dope Music Village rap collective (including Nature Boi, Brain Rapp, and Ezko Bars) is routinely in the building at One Love Massive’s offices/store at 631 T St. NW across from the Howard Theatre.
If there’s any justice in the world the DC Public Library’s go-go archive should be showcased (with a cosign from the Funk Parade’s organizers) in the empty space that Tap and Parlour once occupied in the Bohemian Caverns building. The MLK Branch is the archive’s current location, but the city’s central library is preparing to undergo significant renovations in Spring 2017. Given go-go’s connection to funk and the Funk Parade’s significant success on the rapidly gentrifying U Street Corridor, this would be an immensely powerful and ultra-symbolic move.