Go-go music’s definitive conga-infused rhythms, call-and-response tradition, and style of dance have primarily remained within the confinements of the D.C. Beltway. But in 2020, Chuck Brown’s inventive brand of funk has found its way to the popular video-sharing platform, TikTok.
Over the past few weeks, the 2000s go-go song “Phatty” by Critical Condition Band—a five-member group that helped trailblaze go-go’s bounce beat, trading signature congas for powerful timbales and rototoms—has resurfaced in all its glory 13 years after its initial release.
Everyone from social media influencers like Rickey Thompson to celebrities like Niecy Nash have shown off their “Phatty” choreography while having some fun as the song encourages. However, like most things that go viral, few on social media are entirely aware of its origin story as they’re tagged and challenged to participate.
“Phatty” was written by CCB keyboardist, Bobby Moss, and performed by Kenecia “Keekee” Taylor, the group’s lone female voice in 2007.
“When ‘Phatty’ was recorded, I was about 19, and truth be told, I almost cried in the studio when recording it because I didn’t have a big butt,” Taylor tells DJBooth. “I didn’t want to perform it because I didn’t want people to be disappointed; I wasn’t thick back then.”
Today, “Phatty” elicits a judgment-free zone and can be added to a collection of female empowerment anthems.
“When people hear ‘Phatty,’ I would like to see them [let] their hair down. It’s like a girl anthem, you know? Like how Beyoncé has songs that empower women. Even with things like [YouTuber Lala Milan] and Niecy Nash, Lala’s butt was smaller than Niecy’s, but when you hear the beat, I want people to feel like they can do whatever and have a good time doing it.”—Kenecia “Keekee” Taylor
Taylor’s journey into the go-go circuit began after graduating from Surrattsville High School in 2005 in Clinton, Maryland, where her grandmother raised her.
“I couldn’t do things out in the world if I couldn’t do things in the church, so I would go to youth bible study and go see Backyard [Band] the following night,” Taylor says. “I joined the choir so I could go to the school dance when CCB would play. [My grandmother] wouldn’t let me participate in outside activities if I didn’t serve God first.”
After her cousins convinced her grandma, Taylor was finally allowed to join a go-go band. She became a member of Mad Collision, and they would perform at Club Neon in Clinton right before CCB took the stage. Eventually, CCB’s then lead singer, Kim Scott, got pregnant. Taylor was asked by Moss to step in as a replacement singer, so when Scott moved to Georgia, Taylor graciously took the throne as the group’s new female voice.
“They were grown and sexy, and CCB was like right in the middle,” Taylor explains, describing go-go bands that came before CCB.
While generational differences in style may have fostered disagreements on the genre’s evolution of sound, this did not hinder the family-orientated nature of go-go. Although Taylor was the only woman of the group, she recounts how CCB treated her like family.
“I was kind of shy,” she admits. “However, the guys were super family-orientated. They would tell me all the time to loosen up. I had a best friend that I would tag along everywhere because my manager wouldn’t let me tour without another female. So I always had her around, which was always fun.”
“Miss Kim was especially a mentor,” Taylor recalls. “We became like sisters in our field, and she taught me the ends and outs of go-go and how to call and respond. How to make the crowd do this and that, and what can happen if you dress like this. She used to tell me: ‘Forget what people think of you. Do you. Do Keekee. Don’t be scared.’”
Today, Taylor has added two additional hyphens to her title as the group’s former lead singer. She is a mother and hairstylist based in Fort Washington, Maryland. These days, she finds herself performing only when bands need her to fill in or when she’s requested to perform for special occasions.
Go-go music has experienced waves of relevance over the years, from making headlines during the Don’t Mute D.C. movement—a tagline used to fight for the cultural life of Washington, D.C.—to creating a platform to discuss broader issues such as gentrification. Now, it’s providing a global dance break when we need it the most, via TikTok.
“‘Phatty’ previously never reached one celebrity or one TikTok video, and it’s taking off all over again,” Taylor says. “It feels amazing, but also weird to see thirteen years later.”
As people continue to engage with go-go music via various social platforms, it’s essential to take a step back and learn of its rich origin roots to preserve its history.
“This is how someone told me it goes in the music industry,” Taylor concludes. “Someone may put out a project, and it might be 10 years before someone picks it up.”