When I was in Baltimore last month, I asked many people about the state of Baltimore club—a local genre that smashes together hip-hop, house, and club into raw, hook-heavy dance tracks at 130 BPM. The replies I got were fiercely opinionated and wildly varied, yet rooted in a common sense of pride. Some said that Baltimore club's heyday has passed and today's scene barely exists. Others insisted that while you won't hear it in nightclubs anymore, a new crop of talent (as well as old-gen stalwarts) are keeping the spirit alive while pushing the sound into exciting, hybrid directions.
Five minutes into this mix by Baltimore club pioneer Scottie B—credited with nurturing the genre from the streets to widespread popularity—and I'm already swayed towards the latter camp. In just shy of 35 minutes, the veteran DJ and Unruly Records co-founder delivers a raw lesson on Baltimore club's vitality—packing in OGs like Rod Lee to up-and-comers like Thunderbird Juicebox and Matic808, as well as artists like Night Slugs' L-Vis 1990, who has been repping Baltimore club for quite a while.
"I feel that these are some of the most progressive DJs/producers today when it comes to that real raw dance music," Scottie B says. "This is Baltimore, no matter the genre. We make it to dance."
Scottie B will be one of the headliners at this weekend's Splace Scape—a two-day event during Artscape, Baltimore's biggest music and arts festival. Hosted by local label Space is the Place (yes—that's a Sun Ra reference), the show's concept is about "bringing old-gen Baltimore club together with new gen, [something that's] very much at the core of how we run the label," says label co-founder Kate Boss. "It'll be like in season six of The Sopranos when Tony takes peyote in Vegas and wins at roulette. Then the sun...came up," adds fellow co-founder Astrolith.
"Many of us in the city feel that [Baltimore club] is at the dawn of a new renaissance," continues .rar Kelly, also a member of the Space is the Place crew.
"[It] is entering an evolutionary phase that happened with hip-hop in late-1992 through 1993, when the sound evolved from Wreck N Effect and Teddy Riley to The Chronic and 36 Chambers. Griff and Porkchop's "Bring in the Katz" was like our "Fight the Power"— a watershed track that inspired all us Baltimore producers."All the label founders and Scottie B can agree on one thing: Baltimore club is more than just a genre. Baltimore club is a feeling— an unpretentious hustle that transcends its sonic characteristics. Throwing some cunty vocal samples on top of a Think break just doesn't cut it.
.rar Kelly puts it best when he phrases it like this: "We really view Baltimore club— and all regional club music for that matter—as if it is one incomplete club track to which we all add a piece."
Splace Scape will take place at The Metro Gallery in Baltimore on July 17 and 18. Get tickets here.
Michelle Lhooq maxes out dancefloors like a credit card. Follow her on Twitter.
1. Double Duchess - Good Girl Freak Out (Normaling Remix)
2. Rod Lee - Enjoy Yourself
3. Deekline ft. DJ Assault - Clap Yo Handz (Tony Quattro Remix)
4. Normaling ft. Rye Rye & TT the Artist - Low Drop (Tony Quattro Remix)
5. Dai Burger - Fuzzy Gang (Produced by Mighty Mark)
6. DJ Booman - James' Revenge
7. Astrolith ft. Cakes Da Killa - Give It To Me (Normaling & TT the Artist Remix)
8. DJ Pierre - That's This Shit Right Here
9. Kw Griff ft Porkchop - Bring In The Katz (Lvis 1990 Remix)
10. Vjuan Allure - Polka Dot Afro Pussy
11. Matic808 - I Want U
12. Normaling - Full Metal
13. L-Vis 1990 - VHS Crash
14. Matic808 - Cerveja (Remix)
15. Thunderbird Juicebox - Glen Burnie Redux
16. Rell Rock, Punk Trouble - Boyz N Blue (Tony Quattro Remix)
17. Matic808 - Am I Wrong