After a five-month battle with stomach cancer, Maiesha Rashad, recognized for catapulting the reach of D.C.’s go-go groove to new heights and an increasingly diverse fan base, died on June 15.
Heralded as the “Queen of Go-Go” and the “First Lady of Go-Go,” she led and managed her band, Maiesha Rashad and the Hip Huggers, infusing gospel and jazz to the go-go musical genre, topping off their songs with an old-school flavor — the grown and sexy swerve — that brought the group instant success.
Donned with bell bottoms and afros, Maiesha Rashad and the Hip Huggers made their mark while inviting scores of other local musicians and vocalists to join them on the stage and in the studio
In February, Rashad learned that she had stage 4 stomach cancer. She would receive chemotherapy treatments before being moved to hospice care where she died Monday. Her only child, Raina, spoke with a WUSA9 reporter about her mother in May following Rashad’s diagnosis.
“I’m proud that my mom was able to have her own band being a woman. That’s not even something that was heard of before her. Girl power. That’s what she was about. That’s what she is about,” Raina told the reporter.
Within the annals of go-go history, Rashad has been credited with attracting an older cadre of fans — those 35 and over — to concerts. Before she unleashed her creativity, few go-go entertainers, except for Chuck Brown, were able to expand their base of supporters beyond the traditional 18-to-25 age group. Then, in the 90s, Maiesha led a new movement, playing 70s-themed performances for fans in their 30s and older who longed to hear the music of their youth: Chaka Khan and Rufus, the Jackson 5 and Earth, Wind & Fire.
A new arm of go-go would be formed — “grown and sexy” — with other D.C. entertainers joining Maiesha and her band including William “Ju Ju” House, Gregory “Sugar Bear” — both from the famed group E.U. — and Sweet Cherie Mitchell.
Friends Salute the Queen
Sugar Bear: “She was the queen of go-go. When she came around with the Hip Huggers, we merged with me and Ju Ju from E.U. contributing the rhythm. She helped us. We helped her. She revitalized the whole culture with the grown and sexy and a versatile repertoire. Folks got a double treat — old school and new school — and it shocked everyone. Maiesha had an amazing voice and she always demanded perfection. What she did for and brought to the culture will never be replaced or forgotten. She started a real movement — that’s why she’ll always be known as the queen.”
Adrienne DreDre Burkley: “She gave me my first shot at band management and then became a very close friend. She constantly expressed how proud she was of me. I had been texting with hopes she’d respond but God had other plans which included no more pain. Now Mai can sleep peacefully forever.
Bo Sampson, CEO, Bodacious One: “The passing of Maiesha has shaken up the go-go community. But it has also inspired us to keep the music alive. She goes down in the history of the go-go community as a legend in the game. She will be missed.”
“Shorty Corleone” Garris: “Maiesha’s impact on go-go was strong and her stage presence and musicianship, particularly as a woman was undeniable. I had the chance to work with her and she shared her knowledge about what an artist needs to know in this industry to sustain their career. The go-go community has lost a true pioneer.”
Cherish “Sweet Cherie” Mitchell-Agurs: “There aren’t enough words to express my feelings about a woman who had faith in my musical abilities when I was fresh out of college. Here’s to 25 years of friendship. She was like a mother, big sister and a role model to me. I will miss our talks and her beautiful face. I wish we could’ve had one more Maiesha and the Hip Huggers tribute before she left us. But now she’s in a peaceful place. We will never forget her.”
Charles Stephenson: “As the ‘First Lady of Go-Go,’ Maiesha must be credited with the resurgence of go-go in the late 90s and early 2000s. Maiesha and the Hip Huggers grabbed the attention of party-goers and at the same time relieved club owns of the negative connotations of go-go music during their era. Her band featured go-go luminaries such as Sugar Bear, Ju Ju and Sweet Cherie playing old school covers that got crowds jumping when they laid down go-go beats for their final set. Maiesha was one of a kind: caring, beautiful inside and out. She loved D.C. and go-go music and now her vision for go-go is coming to pass. It’s now recognized as the official music for the District. When she received the Go-Go Awards Hall of Fame honor in 2019, it warmed her heart. Even more, it served as a testament of her dedication to the music. She will always be with us.”