Doug E. Fresh’s peers have dubbed him “The World’s Greatest Entertainer.” Chuck D, co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted group Public Enemy, coined the moniker after touring with Fresh and marveling at his unrivaled ability to electrify any crowd, of any age, race or gender, night after night. Prince was such a fan of his boundless live performance skills that he insisted Fresh tour with him for several years in that late 90s, ultimately asking him to perform with him at the White House during the Obama Administration.
Harlem born, but globally recognized as the Original Human Beatbox and a hip hop icon, Fresh has amassed countless awards for his mesmerizing beatbox abilities, catchy rhymes, signature dance moves, and masterful command of audiences. His popularity spans generations. Nearly a dozen millennial rappers have written songs in tribute to him, most notably the 2009 breakout hit “Teach Me How to Dougie,” which spawned the international “Dougie” dance craze, a nod to moves Fresh created in the 80s.
Pre-pandemic, he averaged a whopping 200 live performances per year for 20 straight years – a rare feat for an any artist, especially one whose career has remained active for nearly four decades, thanks, in part, to his cultural classics “The Show” and “La Di Da Di,” both released in the mid 1980’s, when he was a teen, as duets with fellow rap legend Slick Rick. To date, “La Di Da Di” holds the unique honor as one of the top five most sampled songs of all time, with use by Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Miley Cyrus, the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Will Smith, Snoop Dogg, the Notorious B.I.G, and more than 1000 other artists (according to a 2019 Wall Street Journal report).
Never one to rest on his laurels and with unforeseen time offstage due to the 2020 lockdown, Fresh began work on his first full length album since 1995, a passion project called “This One’s for Chuck Brown.” It’s a salute to one of Fresh’s late musical mentors, also known as the Godfather of Go-Go, a super syncopated, heavily percussive subgenre of funk music native to Washington, DC, which gained national exposure with the help of Experience Unlimited’s (E.U.’s) 1988 #1 R&B hit, “Da Butt,” featured in Spike Lee’s film “School Daze,” and most recently at the 2020 Academy Awards. Chuck Brown scored a 1979 top 10 R&B hit with “Bustin’ Loose,” which rapper Nelly sampled in his 2002 chart-topper, “Hot in Herre,” but Fresh has been adapting various elements of Brown’s unique call-and-response performance style into his live shows since the two first met in 1985 when Brown’s band was the opening act at a DC arena Fresh headlined. Peering from behind the curtain, Fresh became entranced by Brown’s band’s tribal groove and the rhythmic interplay between the drummer, conga player, and other percussionists, which ebbed and flowed as Brown and other vocalists engaged with the audience for a fully immersive, communal celebration. Given Fresh’s innate ability to mimic various drum patterns with his mouth, he instinctively took to the DC go-go scene, often performing with Chuck Brown and other local bands, even releasing his own 1988 go-go classic, “I’m Getting Ready,” which remains in regular rotation across DC radio.
After this past year-and-a half of unthinkable tumult and tragedy, Fresh seeks to sonically transport people to happier times and unite hip-hop and go-go audiences with “This One’s For Chuck Brown.” He safely drums up the excitement of being at a live show, while paying homage to one of his heroes, in a mixture of original recordings and go-go renditions of some of his own hip-hop fan-favorites. He begins the album with a song titled “Chuck Brown,” which offers an audio history lesson of Brown’s significance. Elsewhere on the album, he delivers new, live versions of “Play This Only at Night,” “Come Again, and “The Show,” re-imagined with go-go instrumentation, recorded live in Washington, DC. “The Show” features a guest appearance by Fresh’s longtime friend and one-time beatbox mentee turned lovable hip-hop great, the recently departed Biz Markie. The album also includes “I’m Getting Ready” and new song called “Age,” on which Fresh raps over R&B vocals in an ode to maturing women, many of whom have remained loyal Fresh fans throughout his career. Additionally, the album features a COVID-inspired PSA bonus track, “20 Seconds or More,” recorded and released at the start of the pandemic to urge listeners to wash their hands to better reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Proceeds from that track raise money for the Hip Hop Public Health non-profit Fresh co-founded more than a decade ago in an effort to foster healthier behavior changes through the transformative powers of music, art, and science.
Ever reverent to those who have inspired him and ever ready to use his art to uplift, educate, and ignite positive change, Doug continue to be an “ever so” Fresh breath of air.