Baltimore club music is not dead. It’s just not living right. Some thoughts. (2024)

“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, a nation turns it’s lonely eyes to you…” – Paul Simon, Simon and Garfunkel, “Mrs. Robinson”

We look in history for comfort. We look in history to reminisce about those moments where we have peace, calm and pure joy. There comes a time though where history fades into the consciousness, and we must live in a cold new reality, until history is made again, and we find that era of good feeling. Baltimore, MD is in the midst of a crisis. Club music, it’s most important musical export, is dying. You wouldn’t know it if you were the Black Eyed Peas, David Guetta, Pitbull, Beyonce, Diplo, Dizzie Rascal, or anybody in the universe cashing in on the sound. But where Baltimore Club is dying, is at its core. The music still kills, but there is nothing new, nothing solid there from its core to truly perpetuate the sound. Gone are the days where everything coming out of the city’s club scene was new, fresh and inventive, and taking kicks, snanes, loops, breaks and samples into the most amazing places. Gone are the homegrown voices like Miss Tony asking “How you gon’ carry, wassup wassup.” Those things completely endemic and necessary to the sound, well, they’re just not there in the spotlight right now.

There are a multitude of issues facing Baltimore Club music that need to be addressed immediately and solved in order to make the city a perpetually viable location for the perpetuation of the club music scene.

1. Somebody needs to locate DJ Blaqstarr and have him mentor the kids.

Yes. In May, DJ Blaqstarr deserted Baltimore. We all should have seen it coming when he dropped “Get Off,” which wasn’t even a club track, then started doing surprise and secret sets as a rock guitarist blending Jimi Hendrix explorations with Issac Hayes’ voice at the Wind-Up Space. I’m sure he’s bored as hell, being the genius that brought soul and depth to club music production and not finding a competitor to challenge his innovations. But, if you grab 18 year old DJ Pierre’s Vol. 7 Mix, or heard 21 year old Aasha Adore spin at Cullen Stalin’s NO RULE this past Monday at Metro Gallery, you’d know that these kids are so close to being so impressive. Sadly, being kids, I really don’t think that say, a Booman or KW Griff would be as cool of an inspiration as a twentysomething, relatively fresh from his teens, making the music that likely was relevant when they were getting into club music Blaqstarr. Seriously. Somebody, somewhere needs to have this man’s number. He doesn’t even need to record. I heard “Ryda Girl” on Monday night, and it’s still as fresh then as it is now. All we need this man to do is just mentor, advise and assist. Somebody somewhere needs to have the finances to make this happen.

2. Top 40 refixes, while okay, are not the complete new club music solution

As I’ll tell anyone reading this, I do a lot of work these days with Bmore Original Records, a label right now who does more top 40 refixes than anyone, one of which of the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” by DJ Excel was the backbone of their American Music Awards appearance. To be frank, those refixes work to make money. But, on the back end, that money doesn’t end up perpetuating the extreme creativity of club music, but rather the ability of a man to do something smart to make a dollar. The type of creativity and development I’m talking about isn’t exactly going to lead to immediate five, six and seven figure checks. This is the type of creativity that becomes rock solid and untouchable by being played and succeeding at the Paradox, Club Choices and Club One, and as it stands now, ends up crushing a floor at TaxLo and Power Plant years later. Necessity is the mother of invention. It’s time to keep the one hand making money (because there’s tons of it out there now), but to also keep the other hand digging through the crates.

3. Keep K-Swift in our hearts, and perpetuate her legacy.

K-Swift’s a legend that is missed every day in the Baltimore community. Her radio shows on 92Q kept the culture alive, and her talent lifted spirits and was the emotional buoy for the Baltimore community. I really don’t think Swift would be okay with the amount of quiet staring and angst in Baltimore right now. I didn’t know her like that, but from talking to about 25 people in the past year that did, that’s the sense I have. You get the feeling that there are a lot of hurt emotions and angry people, but nobody wants to talk, nobody wants to scream, everyone wants to brood. This is a time to smile and be happy. The eyes of people with lots and tons of money are looking at the Charm City, and actively want to monetize the sound. Yes, agreed, there is a line, a very established line, but, everyone benefits from everyone else. Instead of being angry, be ready to grind. The hustle starts now, and there’s nothing fresh, different or completely unexpected coming out of the city. Everything on the club level sounds pretty much the same, or is a remix with a prominent “Think” or “Sing Sing” break. This is the city that recreated doo wop and Motown and gave it life to a brand new generation. This is the city that took aggressive 90s hip hop samples and made songs that induce violence. Listen to KW Griff’s “Swift’s Revenge” as I do every day. Keep it in your heart, and walk every day with it in your mind. Success is bound to follow.

4. Let’s get behind Rye Rye again, and let’s support all young local artists while we’re at it.

Word on the streets is that Rye Rye is attempting to record again after her pregnancy. It AMAZES me that there hasn’t been anyone who has put out a “Best Of” Mixtape, or gotten the internet buzzing that Rye Rye, whose voice is a staple of underground dancefloors worldwide, is coming back. Yes, she has a major label deal, but hell, so does DJ Class. And to be frank, while Class is banking major cake for sure on the back end now as a producer, “I’m the sh*t” and “Dance Like a Freak” have been pushed harder by Unruly on the grass roots level than by any larger entity. Sometimes, to make a sound in a forest, you have to be the one with the aid of friends, using the axes to chop down trees.

And while on that topic, why aren’t the voices of TT the Artist, Bossman, Mullyman, Lazerbitch and the Get Em Mamis on club tracks? Symphony and Roxzi started a party onstage at TaxLo, and even do a version of “Push It” that, well, might just work with a break, snappy snares and synths in a club environment. Mully and Bossman have street legit, hardcore quotes for days, and, well, Lazerbitch’s “Coquette” is liked by this site, The Couch Sessions and Discobelle to name a few, so, yeah. It’s an easy route to getting your blog game up, and on a larger notion a no brainer to get with these unique voices and make magic happen.

5. The veterans need to play out in the clubs again, meaning, we’re back to square zero

The hardest part of making it is to KEEP making it. Baltimore club music has “made it.” Now, to keep making it, you have to take care of the streets of your own hometown, keeping an underground buzz on music, and ensuring that the next hits ARE hits and can keep a dance floor motivated. The grind is real, and while the established veterans of club music are older, likely have families and kids, have other interests, or plain don’t like club music anymore, they still need to be busy, viable and in the streets, often. Then the onus falls on promoters and the remaining artists. Bmore promoters need to be aware that club music never fails to fill a dance floor. It never fails to get people in the door, it never fails to make a bar guarantee. And for promoters, Baltimore club “legends” are likely better DJs at feeling a room that most anybody in the world. I just saw Jonny Blaze on Friday night cause moshing to club breaks at the Talking Head. Insane.

On the level of the artists, we’re in a recession. Yes, while I understand people at the top of the food chain want to be compensated for their status, there needs to be an equitable way to keep veteran club DJs in the streets while at the same time keeping pockets relatively full. I certainly don’t have that answer, but the hustle must absolutely stay real. Sadly, resting only comes before winning in the dictionary. Baltimore club music is a music of the streets, of the clubs and of the people. Making a track, and not seeing visual proof that a critical mass of people are dancing to it seems silly. Just doesn’t compute. That needs to change. The DJs making a name for themselves now can certainly benefit from being cosigned by any great number of people. It’s just a matter of getting enough “old heads” out to make that a possibility.

By no stretch is Baltimore club dead. It’s just not living right. That can be fixed.

Baltimore club music is not dead. It’s just not living right. Some thoughts. (2024)
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