"Club music" is often misused to describe any kind of dance music, but let's keep it straight: the classic definition refers to Baltimore club and its derivatives, Philly and Jersey club. While the three genres are close cousins, each has its own rich history and evolution—and collectively, they represent some of the most vibrant local dance scenes around. But if you haven't been keeping your ear to the ground, it can be hard to identify which city a club track comes from, or even how to tell each style apart. So we asked the producer Schwarz, a key figure in today's Baltimore club scene, to give the rundown on the three genres' key differences, including their key samples, tracks, and dance moves.
Baltimore club emerged in the late 1980s, born out of DJ meshing divergent styles like Chicago house, hardcore UK rave, Miami bass and hip-house, which were just gaining popularity. Baltimore club DJs picked up on tracks that used the "Think break" from the James Brown-produced track "Think" by Lynn Collins. That sample was already occasionally used in some UK rave tracks, but became ubiquitous in Baltimore Club, becoming a signifier of the genre. Pairing the "Think break" with a hard-and-heavy bass drum pattern—in which the bass drum hits evenly on the first, second, and third beat of the measure, and is followed by a hit slightly after the fourth—and a kick drum hit known as "The Thump" that comes slightly before the first beat became the scaffolding for Baltimore club tracks.
Chopped up, repetitive, often raunchy vocals also became a key signifier of the genre. The vocals, are sometimes sampled from rap acapellas, or often low fidelity recordings of the DJs and producers own voices. The first popular Baltimore Club records were from DJ/producers like Scottie B, DJ Equalizer, DJ Technics, and Frank Ski.
As the genre evolved, the standard tempo has increased from 125-128 BPM to 130 BPM. Since the mid-2000s, Baltimore club music has been getting even faster, and samples of gunshots as well as the rapper Lil Jon's famously exuberant "What" and a barrage of "Heys" have become popular sounds to repeat throughout tracks in a percussive manner. Some of the more extreme tracks in this style are referred to as "Battle," "What" or "Shakeoff, tracks, and are specific to a scene of dedicated teen club dancers.
Classic Baltimore Club Tracks:
Scottie B - " N****z Fightin"
Miss Tony - "Pull Ya Gunz Out"
DJ Technics - "I Just Wanna Fuck" Ft. Kotton
Rod Lee - "Dance My Pain Away"
Blaqstarr - "Hands Up, Thumbs Down"
New Baltimore Club Tracks:
Lor Scoota - "Bird Flu (DJ Dizzy Remix)"
James Nasty - "Them Do It Horns"
Mighty Mark - "Ping Pong" ft TT The Artist and Sushi Samson
Popular Track Influenced By Baltimore Club
In Philadelphia, the sounds honed in Baltimore have evolved and been made into the city's own. When Baltimore club experienced its peak popularity in the mid-2000s through radio DJ K-Swift, producer Blaqstarr and his more mainstream collaborators MIA and Diplo, young producers in Philly, namely DJ Dwizz and DJ Sega, picked up the Baltimore sound. Soon, Philly had its own genre called Philly club, or sometimes just "party music." Often faster (sometimes as fast as 150 BPM), manic, and full of sirens, Philly club now has tracks that include elements of hardstyle, and the EDM variant of trap, adding in gigantic detuned saw-waves to make the tracks even heavier. Philly also has its own teen dance scene where dancers "Tang" dance in ciphers.
Classic Philly Club Tracks:
DJ Dwizz - "Get Em"
DJ Sega - "Woo Hah"
Diamond Kutz ft Lumindee - "Jump In" (Prod. by Swizzymack)
New Philly Club Tracks
Dollarboyz "Dollarboyz 2K15 Anthem" (Prod by DJ DB Shawny)
Rihanna "BBHMM" (DJ Ayo Remix)
Will215- "Philly Anthem"
Knockout- "The Takeover"
Popular Track Influenced By Philly Club
New Jersey had DJs like Brick Bandits' DJ Tameil and DJ Tim Dolla picking up Baltimore club records anyway they could, often times taking runs to Baltimore to pick up the newest club records in order to bring them back to Newark to play at parties. In New Jersey, like Philly, the Baltimore Club sound began to mutate, according to what local DJs, and producers picked up on and added to the sound.
Watch our documentary on Jersey Club:
Sticking with a steady 140 BPM tempo, Jersey club smoothes out Baltimore club's rough edges. Where Baltimore Club is rugged, raw, and violent, Jersey Club is sexy and smooth. The "bed squeak" sample from crunk-rap group Trillville's "Some Cut" is often found in Jersey club tracks—signifying a popular after-the-party-activity—as are different "water drop" sound effects. Jersey club dance styles are simpler and universal to accompany its smoother sounds. Some of the most popular Jersey club songs focus around vocals narrating new dances as they come out.
Classic Jersey Club Tracks:
Tim Dolla- "Swing Dat Shit"
Dj Tamiel - "Fuck Em Up"
T2 "Heartbroken" ft Jodie (DJ Jayhood Remix)
New Jersey Club Tracks
DJ Lil Man - "Team Lil Man Anthem 2K15"
DJ Sliink X DJ Taj X Big O - "Best Friend Anthem"
T-Pain - "Up Down" (Uniique Remix)