— Speed on the Beat (@SpeedontheBeat) October 19, 2015
It’s been over seven years since Baltimore Club Queen K-Swift died in a freak swimming pool accident. In those seven years, Baltimore Club has undergone a metamorphosis of sorts. While not the automatic go-to source of those infinite 130 BPM dance tracks, since usurped in ways by Jersey Club, Baltimore Club still remains a critical part of the Baltimore experience. Artists such as TT the Artist, Tate Kobang, Money Mark, DJ Angel Baby, Blaqstarr (still), and others have led the fight to make sure that Baltimore Club, and one of its biggest supporters, are not forgotten.
But, even with that, it’s still an unshakable feeling to know that K-Swift is, in fact, no longer with us.
I’ve talked about this on other sites. But, it’s still one of those things that gets to me. When I heard that K-Swift died, it was a few months after my father had died. And, like Al Sanders, the WJZ-TV newscaster, served as my “television surrogate father,” K-Swift, in some ways, was part “musical surrogate mother,” part “musical older sister.”
Many of my takes on Baltimore Club and mixes of the genre, they were based on K-Swift’s Jumpoff mixes (and earlier mixes, including tracks from the late Miss Tony). Energetic and out-of-the-blue, but still familiar enough to get people out there and rocking off. Hell, my earlier recordings were modeled after some of the Baltimore hip-hop artists that I’d been introduced to via K-Swift, either through her early shows, her Off Da Hook Radio show, or just random mixes. And even now, even as I always try to not just be known as “another Baltimore rap artist/journalist/blogger/what-the-hell-ever,” the K-Swift–and Baltimore–influence is always heard in everything I do.
Pardon me for going a bit off-topic. But, writing while listening to old Baltimore rap and Baltimore Club can do that to you.
But, it’s crazy to think that kids and teens coming up now will never get to hear K-Swifts “ha ha!” ad-lib on a mix CD. Heck, it’s kind of crazy to think that the Baltimore Club mixtape is somewhat a thing of the past. Yes, Money Mark, Angel Baby, and other artists/DJs have kept the legacy alive. But, it’s not the same in some ways. You don’t have people rushing down to the Downtown Locker Room at Mondawmin, Security, or the joint that was over by Sinclair Lane (before they shortened it to simply “DTLR”), for instance, to cop that new K-Swift, that new Rod Lee, that new Unruly Records mix.
Why? The internet.
See, with the influx of B’more club on the internet, it was a double-edged sword. Yes, we got to see K-Swift on a major record label and get the recognition she long deserved. We got to see DJ Class team up with Kanye West and Estelle. “Dance My Pain Away” was featured a lot of places, even getting an amazing folk-y cover from Baltimore group Wye Oak. Diplo helped send the Baltimore Club sound international, for better or worse (take that how you want to), utilizing internet mixes and posts. And we even got the next generation of Baltimore Club leaders from internet buzz.
Inversely, however, some of the magic of crafting a B’more Club mix is gone. Everyone and their mom can hop onto FruityLoops, turn the BPM up to 128-130, craft your basic B’more Club bass/kick hits, and add a random sample onto it. Whether or not it’s successful, that’s up to the audience (read: usually YouTube or Soundcloud listeners). But, part of the original mystique of Baltimore Club was that it was, in some ways, not so easy to duplicate.
So what is the Baltimore Club scene to do?
Accept the change or perish. Most supporters have, and have kept the movement alive, as I noted. It’s just…not the same, though. That, I know, is an ironic statement. “Accept change even if you still long for the ‘old days.'” But Swift would’ve wanted the music shared with anyone who wanted it. Baltimore Club isn’t just made to be confined to “Hey Ryders” and “Tear Da Club Up.” It’s meant to be spread, warped, re-created, and molded so a new generation will know what it means when we say “hands up, thumbs down.”
And we’ve got many people to thank for that. Hell, Baltimore Club is still growing, along with its Jersey, Philly, and other regional offshoots. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to dance my pain away.