Know Your Product: DJ Class, Blue Lava (ClassHeat Records)
Not Actually the Cover
2009 was a whirlwind year for DJ Class. The veteran Baltimore club producer’s breakout single “I’m The Ish” got him signed to Universal Records, sent him on tours across the country, and spun off remixes featuring superstars such as Kanye West and Lil Jon. But as the year came to a close, the song’s buzz had died down, and his Universal debut album, Alameda & Coldspring, was nowhere in sight. So it’s at once encouraging and slightly disappointing that Class started off 2010 having to keep his momentum going with an independent release on his own ClassHeat Records.
The Blue Lava EP is a curious collection in that it features none of the several tracks that trickled out through 2009 in the wake of “I’m The Ish,” but the six new tracks follow its stylistic template to a fault. The lead single “Party Crackin’” is catchy enough, even if it pales in comparison to last year’s “Dance Like A Freak,” and “Swaggalistik” is marred by a guest rapper named Bias who shows up to drop the regrettable line “if she was a booger she’d be the one I’d pick.” Only “I’ll Be Your Bitch,” with the blunt, funny way it toys with gender roles, stabs through the haze of generic party tracks enough to be particularly memorable.
More worrying than the quality of the material, however, is how little of DJ Class’s indigenous sound there really is on Blue Lava. “I’m The Ish” was so great and timely in part because it so gracefully combined classic Baltimore club production with modern pop hooks and AutoTuned vocals. But until the familiar club trademark tambourine rattle of the “Think” break pops up on the subtle, slinky fourth track, “Holla,” there’s little on the synth-heavy EP that doesn’t sound like it could’ve been made by any Akon wannabe from anywhere. Even the brooding closing track, “Get Her Off My Mind,” comes off more like 808s & Heartbreak-lite than another killer cut that would inspire Kanye himself to hop on a remix. A year ago, DJ Class made it seem possible that Baltimore club music could change the sound of pop, but Blue Lava sounds dishearteningly like pop ambitions watering down Baltimore club.