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The Club Beat with DJ Frie

November 7, 2008

For the past few years, DJ Frie has been one of Baltimore club music’s most prolific mixtape DJs, issuing 17 volumes of his Da Club Tip series of mix CDs. But this week, when we caught up with him outside Rod Lee’s new Club Kingz record store, Frie noted that, like many in the club scene, he’s been laying low since the death of one of its leading lights, DJ K-Swift, in July. “Every month, like every first of the month I’d have a new CD,” he says, crediting Swift as one of the only other local DJs who kept up the same pace. “Me and her was the only two that was doin’ it. She’d do hers and I’d go, she’d have new stuff, I’d have new stuff. But when she passed away, I just like gave up.”

A short, soft-spoken 30-year-old, DJ Frie has been spinning records since he was a teenager, and names unsung ’90s Baltimore club pioneers such as Mark Henry and DJ Shawn Marshall as his early inspirations. But it’s his old friend Scottie B that Frie warmly recalls has had the most impact on his career. “A lot of people do say that I mix like Scottie,” he says, pointing out that the Unruly Records co-founder has offered Frie a leg up as a DJ, and helped get him out of a less legal line of work that he’d been preoccupied with. From time to time, Frie has worked for Unruly, packing CDs for distribution to retail, and Scottie helped Frie land gigs at Club International on Baltimore Street, hosting parties and manning the turntables.

One of DJ Frie’s biggest contributions to club music came when DJ Manny, and later DJ Lil Jay and Rod Lee, brought the phrase “down the hill” into the lexicon a few years ago to describe certain parts of Baltimore. As a Cherry Hill native, Frie saw fit to put his own twist on it with the song “Up The Hill” to represent for his own neighborhood. “Up the hill is where I live at,” Frie says. “A lot of people was askin’ us, ‘Why y’all don’t do up the hill songs?’ So I’m the only one that did it.”

Though not a producer, DJ Frie has maintained relationships with several of Baltimore’s best beatmakers, who supply him with new and exclusive tracks for his mixes, noting Debonair Samir, Dukeyman, and DJ B-Eazy as three favorites he depends on the most. Sometimes he even gets material tailored explicitly for him, such as Samir’s intro track for last year’s Da Club Tip Vol 12: The Summer Rock Off, which featured a catchy chant of “he’s the youngest in charge, DJ Frie.” He sells his CDs mainly at local independent stores such as Dimensions In Music and the True Vine, though he says that he hasn’t been in touch with the latter’s new ownership yet about selling discs at its new location. Frie expects to return to the mix CD grind soon with Da Club Tip Vol 18, but he knows it won’t be the same without his biggest competitor, K-Swift, around anymore to motivate him. “Ain’t nobody tryin’ to take her spot,” he says.

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