“Raise Your Hands if You Got $20 In Your Pocket”: Artscape, My Crew Be Unruly party, DJ Culture Stage, and Paradox, July 18
A funny thing about Baltimore club music is that you can listen to it almost endlessly and not get sick of it. By all rights you should–it’s technically repetitive as all hell, and there seems to be a mathematical law that demands that over the course of three DJs, at least one track will be a repeat. But Friday, from the sun-baked evening Artscape DJ Culture stage to the very first lights of dawn at the Paradox, we feasted on breakbeats wound up pretty damn full.
And there was some fine people-watching, too, at the DJ stage. The teenage white couple awkwardly trying to keep up some small semblance of dance respectability next to the two teenage black girls with light-up fronts doing crazy legs wins some kind of award. There was a board down on the floor for break dancing, and big props goes to the young kid in the polo shirt buttoned to the top and the fedora doing a dance for someone’s camera that consisted of strung-together badass poses, and the same to the big lanky guy doing marionette moves. This is, of course, in addition to the crew rocking elbow and knee pads, bodies on the board.
We were there through South Rakkas Crew, and it wasn’t bad but didn’t register much. The one-two of Blaqstarr and Dave Nada did, however. Apparently, performers had to sign a form saying they would censor their lyrics–for the kids and such–and even the Clipse did on Sunday, we’re told (“Motha Sucka!”), but not so much for Blaqstarr. Though, notably, he didn’t appear as interested in making “your pussy wet” for the Artscape crowd (unless we missed that track).
He hit on some new sounding stuff, and it was as gold as we’d expect–somehow, as his stuff gets even closer to the edge of mainstream hip-hop accessibility, it gets even weirder. Like, on one track in particular, the quick defining sample loop of club is so buried and muddied in the mix, it winds up sounding like the song is built around a swarm of insects. It still has that Blaqstarr vocal on top, which is still very interested in making your pussy wet (if implicit here) and very interested in getting on your big-time radio station.
Dave Nada, who is turning into something pretty unfuckwithable in Baltimore club, hit with an attention-holding mix that verged between his trademark bombastic tracks–such as a club-mixed “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)”–and more traditional club tracks and some electro house, which works but doesn’t seem necessary. It’s funny sometimes to think of Nada the reformed hardcore punk dude turned Baltimore club party rocker, but watching him onstage thrashing his long hair around, you kinda get the sense that Nada, in his mind, is just on to some different version of hardcore punk. He did, after all, play guitar for a track.
Pretty much this same exact party, save for the little kids, moved down to Paradox for the My Crew Be Unruly party to sweat out the night and, you know, get really dirty. The crowd was another interesting mix–hip white kids that might not normally have the club on their radar and hip black kids maybe wondering how it got on said radar on that particular night. I was too busy dancing to care enough if the two groups fell into any kind of comfortable solution. I’m guessing that, yes, it was more comfortable and cool than not. Between the inside dance floor, the DJ on the patio, and the back room, Paradox was packed, and I’m convinced that Paradox packed is the best time you can have in the Mid-Atlantic at 3 in the morning, your after-hours warehouse coke party included.
Of course it should be packed: Just about every fucking Baltimore club DJ from here to Philly had a turn at the decks; DJ “Tear Da Fucking Club Up” Class, out of retirement; Scottie B murdering with his heaviest stuff, including some of that Chavy Boys gold we wrote about a little ways back; and the list goes on and on from Diplo to Say “Go!” Wut to Stretch Armstrong, and, yes, to K-Swift, who passed away this past Sunday night.
She was the night’s highlight, and the first and last time I’ve danced on her floor. What can you say, really? Well, a lot of things actually, but for our purposes here: K-Swift was the sort of DJ who knows what you need to keep dancing a minute before you do. Club Queen or no, her style was egoless–it’s not showing off, but it’s so perfectly functional in a club (or a Jumpoff mix), it might well have been. And, of course, there are her trademark call-outs: “raise your hands in there air if you got 20 dollars in your pocket”; “raise your hands in the air if you got 100 dollars in your pocket.” I’ve got no idea what time she left the stage or what time Diplo started or who the DJ was we danced to/kicked around the patio gravel to out on the patio, but we did see the sun rise that morning.