DDM (Dapper Dan Midas) starts off The Ballad of Omar with a cavalcade of news and commercial clips. For a guy who’s done a commercial break (or 2.1), this automatically perked up my ears. These clips summarize the Baltimore experience in one crescendo-building swipe. From Al Sanders’ baritone cutting through the air like bullets ringing out in the city to commentary on race relations, we see it all, we hear it all. Ultimately, by ending the clip cycle with a Wire reference to the album’s namesake, DDM puts listeners in the shoes of the iconic character for a second.
And then we get into the actual raps and it’s less about Omar and more about what makes Baltimore tick as a whole.
Never someone to avoid a good punchline and gritty lyrics (even when he goes friendly), we’re given an abrasive concept album that further discusses the Baltimore State of Mind. I found myself nodding along with the boombap vibes of “1995” while DDM gave me a gander into his youth, dealing with the harshness of Baltimore while being a young gay man in Baltimore. “Boys Don’t Cry” keeps this vibe going, while also discussing colorism and PTSD. As Baltimoreans, we often have to compartmentalize ourselves and our hurts in order to function–sometimes in spite of ourselves and our hurts. There’re enough stories that, if HBO wanted, you could get like 50 seasons of The Wire. At least.
I’m not saying that Baltimoreans automatically have it harder than anyone else. However, it takes a special type of person to be even in my shoes–and I wasn’t even out in the streets like that.
Getting back to the topic at hand, The Ballad of Omar is a deeper-than-rap album that gives a plethora of dope lines while giving those unfamiliar with DDM and/or Baltimore a tour of what makes both unique. Neither are for the faint of heart, but that’s what keeps you coming back. You feel privileged to hear the thoughts of the rhymesayers and privileged to walk the streets of Baltimore. All in all, it’s definitely one helluva album. Check it out above via Spotify or song.link and remember to support music in all its forms.