Video Premiere: Asheru’s ‘Funky D.C.’

By Marcus J. Moore

Asheru is a man about town—the world, even. Before hip-hop stepped out of go-go’s shadow in D.C., the artist named Gabriel Benn toured internationally with his rapping partner, Blue Black, as members of the Unspoken Heard. The duo’s 2001 album, Soon Come, racked up acclaim as an underground classic. Along the way, Asheru published hip-hop-themed teaching materials for local schools, recorded a theme song for The Boondocks cartoon series, and won a Peabody Award.

Now Asheru has a new music video for a song that touts his local pride. Over an Afrobeat instrumental, “Funky D.C.”—a track from his recent South Africa-influenced album Sleepless In Soweto—finds the veteran rapper shouting out neighborhoods and locations in his hometown: “Trinidad, Uptown, Mount Pleasant, Adams Morgan, Southwest Waterfront, Benning Road, Minnesota, Sheriff Road…”

Shot at the D.C. Funk Parade in May, the video has Asheru performing with the Ballou Senior High School Marching Band along U Street NW. Asheru says he wanted the video to focus on the students and the work they put in. “I wanted to make sure we got all the best sides of the city in one visual,” says the rapper, who’s served as Ballou’s director of arts integration for the past three years. But he aimed to demonstrate his own multitudes, too. “I also wanted this to show the many sides of Asheru.”

In May, Ash released a video for “So Amazing” that was shot during a visit to South Africa this spring. After “Funky D.C.,” he plans to drop a new video every month until a remix project for Sleepless in Soweto releases this fall.