Sunday, May 9, 2010

FROM WE ROCK TO KEYS----THE HISTORY OF BALTIMORE HIP HOP (PART I-THE 80'S)


THE MUCH-MALIGNED HIP HOP SCENE IN CHARM CITY RUNS DEEPER THAN WHAT HOMETOWN FOLKS AND OUTSIDERS MAY BELIEVE. EVEN THOUGH THERE HASN’T BEEN A HOMEGROWN ACT THAT HAS EXPLODED ON THE NATIONAL RADAR (WHILE STILL RESIDING IN BALTIMORE), THE POTENTIAL HAS ALWAYS BEEN PRESENT BUT UNREALIZED. DATING BACK TO THE MID-80’S, THE CLIMATE OF BALTIMORE’S HIP HOP HAS BEEN LUKEWARM, MAYBE BECAUSE OF OUR CITY’S BLUE-COLLAR WORK ETHIC, MAYBE BECAUSE OF OUR PROXIMITY TO MUCH LARGER URBAN METROPOLISES WITH MORE VIBRANT MUSICAL SCENES. WHATEVER THE REASON, THE SEASON IS NOW UPON US TO VIEW THE HISTORY, FOR FINDING OUT WHERE WE CAME FROM WILL AID US IN WHERE WE WILL BE HEADING FROM A HIP HOP STANDPOINT.



THIS STORY IS GOING TO DOCUMENT A MINUTE SECTOR OF BALTIMORE AS IT PERTAINS TO ITS LONG STORY WITH HIP HOP. THERE ARE THREE PHASES OF HIP HOP FROM THE “HOME OF THE WIRE”: THE BEGINNING STAGES (1980’S), THE MIDDLE PASSAGE (1990’S), AND THE CURRENT ERA (21ST CENTURY). TODAY I AM GOING TO START AT THE GENESIS DURING THE 1980’S. THIS IS THE ERA THAT I MOLDED MY OPINIONS AND VIEWS ON HIP HOP FROM A BALTIMOREAN’S PERSPECTIVE. THIS IS THE ERA THAT I IDENTIFY WITH MOSTLY, BECAUSE I GREW WITH HIP HOP. I GUESS I’M STARTING TO SOUND LIKE DRE FROM THE MOVIE BROWN SUGAR, BUT THOSE DAYS OF LISTENING TO WEBB-AM AND GOING TO NEIGHBORHOOD HIP HOP SHOWS AT FORT WORTHINGTON REC CENTER HAVE BEEN PLANTED IN MY PSYCHE. I VIVIDLY REMEMBER THOSE LONG, PRODUCTIVE NIGHTS HONING MY SKILLS ON THE 1’S AND 2’S IN THE BASEMENT OF LONG-TIME BEST FRIEND ED. HE WILL ALWAYS BE RECOGNIZED AS MY BIGGEST SINGLE INFLUENCE FROM A HIP HOP PERSPECTIVE. FROM ED, I LEARNED THE NUANCES OF THE TRANSFORMER SCRATCH, THE EAR FOR BLENDING JOINTS LIKE RUN DMC’S “SUCKER MC’S” INSTRUMENTAL WITH NEW EDITION’S “A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE” ACAPELLA., AND SAMPLING TECHNIQUES USING A CASIO SK-1. THOSE WERE THE DAYS (AS ARCHIE AND EDITH BUNKER WOULD SAY).


WHERE DO I START? THERE WERE QUITE A FEW SEMINAL CREWS AND EMCEES DURING THE 1980’S B-MORE HIP HOP ERA. THE WE ROCK CREW. NUMARX. THE UNO GIRLS. CHARM CITY CREW. SWEET COOKIE. Z3 MCS. KOOLEY C. THE SURE SHOT CREW. THE GOLDEN BOYS. BALTIMORE’S VERSION OF JOCK BOX. I COULD GO ON AND ON AND ON ABOUT THE MULTITUDE OF LESSER-KNOWN NEIGHBORHOOD RAPPERS, BREAKDANCERS, DJS, BEAT-BOXERS, PRODUCERS THAT INFILTRATED THE UNDERGROUND SCENE THAT WAS BURGEONING DURING THE REAGAN YEARS. I WAS A PART OF THIS SCENE MYSELF, ALBEIT IN A GROWING ROLE AS A BEAT BOX (GOING BY THE NAME TNT). I EXPERIENCED HIP HOP CULTURE AS A PART OF THE DRUNK MCS (SHOUT OUT TO KEITH AND CHRIS), THEN AS A PART OF F.O.A. (THE FRATERNITY OF ARISTOCRATIA). I VIVIDLY REMEMBER TAKING A DEMO TAPE PROUDLY UP TO WEBB-AM 1360 FOR CHUCK MAXX TO LISTEN TO (BIG BIG MISTAKE, BY THE WAY). BESIDES WEBB, WWIN-AM (1400) WAS ALSO PLAYING SOME HIP HOP AS WELL. VENUES SUCH AS STARS PALACE, GODFREYS, PLATO’S WHEEL AND COUNTLESS REC CENTERS IN THE AREA TYPICALLY WERE GATHERING PLACES FOR LOCAL EMCEES AND DJ’S. IT WAS A BREEDING GROUND FOR A SCENE THAT HAD POTENTIAL TO BE SO MUCH MORE, BUT SOMETHING HAPPENED.


THAT SOMETHING, IN MY OPINION, WAS THE ADVENT OF BALTIMORE CLUB MUSIC CAPTIVATING AND TAKING OVER IN BALTIMORE. NOT TO TAKE ANYTHING AWAY FROM FRANK-SKI BEING THE CATALYST IN THIS ARENA, BUT BALTIMORE’S HIP HOP NEVER GREW TO A LEVEL THAT IT POTENTIALLY COULD. I SENSE THAT HIP HOP IN BALTIMORE AT THE END OF THE DECADE BECAME SOMEWHAT STAGNANT. THE NUMARX, FOR INSTANCE, RELEASED OUR TIME HAS COME, FEATURING “GIRL YOU KNOW IT’S TRUE”, A SONG PRODUCED BY ANNAPOLIS MUSICIAN AND PRODUCER BILL PETTAWAY (SOMEONE I KNEW YEARS AGO AT AN ANNAPOLIS GAS STATION). THIS SONG DIDN’T GIVE THE NUMARX THE ACCLAIM THAT IT SHOULD HAVE, AT LEAST DIRECTLY, BUT ONCE MILLI VANILLI RECORDED THEIR VERSION, THE SONG GARNERED THE LIP-SYNCING SPECIALISTS A GRAMMY AWARD AND MILLIONS OF RECORDS SOLD.



SO GOES THE STORY OF BALTIMORE HIP HOP. THERE ARE NUMEROUS OTHER STORIES THAT COULD BE TOLD ABOUT THIS CAPSULE OF TIME.  STORIES ABOUT ARTISTS SUCH AS DMX AND TUPAC THAT HAVE ROOTS IN BALTIMORE ARE ALSO A PART OF THE SCENE. THOSE STORIES WILL BE TOLD, IN FULL, OR IN PART, AS BALTIMORE’S HIP HOP SCENE CONTINUES TO EVOLVE AND GROW. HATS OFF TO THE PIONEERS, AND CHEERS TO THOSE THAT CONTINUE TO MOVE FORWARD WITH THE CULTURE HERE IN CHARM CITY, HARM CITY, BODYMORE, OR WHATEVER NOMENCLATURE YOU WANT TO PLACE ON THIS FAIR CITY OF OURS. NEXT UP I WILL DISCUSS HOW HIP HOP WAS AFFECTED BY THE BALTIMORE CLUB CULTURE DURING THE 90’S, AND HOW THE ARTISTS THAT PERMEATED THE SCENE DURING THIS ERA COPED WITH THEIR MUSICAL KIN.

3 comments:

  1. Love your page and thanks for the shout out suga!!!!!

    Sweet Cookie

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    1. Hi sweet cookie i am from hilltop. I remember when you used to work in the supermarket in the shopping center of of Reisterstown Road. Lol i love you music sweet cookie

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  2. I'm interested in hearing more about why taking your tape up to WEBB and Chuck Maxx was a bad move.
    You're welcome to check out the You Must Have Been Raised In Baltimore page on Facebook and kick some knowledge.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/259540624072033/

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