D.C. has had a pretty vibrant dance/club scene since the 1970's thanks to the hometown creation of go-go, a subgenre that combines funk and R&B jamming styles over a basic dance beat. District love for go-go and its main man, Chuck Brown runs pretty deep (Dude actually has a street named after him, and he played at the recent inaugural for the Mayor). Go-go clearly displays D.C.'s capabilities for innovative music and community love, yet D.C. has never strongly been known for its hip-hop community.
That's changing with the rise of Wale, who defiantly displays a D.C. flavor in his early releases. The 2006 mixtape Hate is the New Love samples staple go-go beats and utilizes its call and response vocals. The track “Freeway” and “Chillin” from 2009's Back to the Feature is also ripe with DMV references, including shoutouts to Md. suburbs Largo and Prince George's county.
Wale's video for “The Work” provides a glimpse of local mainstays like H St. NE, Adams Morgan, and Shaw.
Wale has done wonders shedding some light on the metro area, but he's not the only thing going.
If your tastes tend more toward mashups, then Whitefolkz's (actually just one white guy) “The Waiting Line” provides an engaging remix of Zero 7's “Standing in the Waiting Room”. (He deserves a medal for spinning something fresh on the horribly overused, Zach Braff-tainted song). There's some cross-city love thanks to a guest spot from Charm City's Wordsmith.
If avant-garde hip-hop is more your mainstay, than powerhouse The Cornel West Theory (on the previously highlighted Sockets Records) will still manage to blow your mind with their original mixing of politics, philosophy, black history, etc. in their all-encompassing verses and samples (the opening track of their recent album Second Rome is descriptively haunting, terrifying, and awesome). Although the over hour long album offers a variety of excellent tracks to choose from, might I recommend “Gentrifried Chicken”. It starts off with a charged verse covering topics like white flight, D.C's rising gentrification/housing issues, and racial slurs while the stripped down instrumentals faintly recall an air raid siren. A brief, slow moving jazz-laced breakdown brings to mind the hey-day of D.C.'s U Street before it was torn apart during the MLK riots. “Gentrifried Chicken” is a song to move to, learn from, and ruminate on.
So there you have it; only a glance into the underground world of hip-hop pulsating throughout the District.