Up From the Gutter

Baltimore club music finds a second home in Philly.

By Julie Gerstein
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Nov. 2, 2005

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Low Budget

Pop culture lives by the law of reuse and recycle-everything old is eventually new again. Baltimore house is no exception.

Booty music that first came into its own in the early '90s, with guys like Rod Lee and DJ Technics dominating the genre, Baltimore house music (also called Baltimore club) is the next big regional sound, picking up where crunk left off.

A mix of repetitive, easy-to-remember lyrics and funky disco-based beats, Baltimore club has long been favored by the city's black community. For years Baltimore record store Music Liberated provided local DJs with the latest funky, catchy-as-hell tracks, until its proprietor Bernie Rabinowitz passed away two years ago. When the store shut its doors, the music became even harder to get hold of.

Baltimore club only recently entered alternative circles. The second wave of B-house superstars includes DJ K-Swift, Spank Rock and turntable partners Dave Nada and DJ Tittsworth, who bring their live Baltimore PA system to Silk City Saturday night.

Dirty South Joe
Ron Morelli, who organized the party, is astonished by the attention Baltimore club has received lately. "Tittsworth and Dave Nada are part of a new generation of Baltimore house DJs and producers," he says. "Three years ago they didn't have a national audience and were probably selling tapes out of the trunk of their car."

Baltimore house is typically uptempo and breakbeat-oriented. Philly DJ and Hollertronix co-founder Mike "Low Budget" McGuire-whose Bmore Gutter Music album with fellow DJ Aaron LaCrate was released last month-describes Baltimore house music as "the club bangers that create the climax to any decent DJ party set."

Most B-more club songs share the same breaks-borrowed from Lyn Collins' track "Think" and Gaz's "Sing Sing." One of the most popular tracks is DJ Class' "Tear the Club Up," a call-and-response dance-floor classic. The genre often borrows from TV theme songs and oldies tracks as well. (Low Budget recently incorporated the theme to Curb Your Enthusiasm into a Baltimore club track that appears on Gutter Music.)

Low Budget considers Philly the B-more club sound's second home. "Even though it's not from Philly, people here identify with it and understand its regional value," he says.

Brendan
Joey Massarueh (who DJs as Deluxxx and Dirty South Joe) attributes the growing popularity of Baltimore club at least in part to the Internet. "The world keeps getting smaller, and you have more access to music," says Massarueh.

While Philly may not have developed a particular dance music style, he believes the city's unique DJ culture helps promote regional dance music. "Philly is the ninja school for DJs," he says. "We have the best DJs hands-down."

Massarueh credits the particular success of Baltimore club to the music's innate sexuality and uptempo rhythms.

DJ Brendan Olkus agrees.

"I've been playing Baltimore house for as long as I've been DJing [10 years]," he says. He traces the genre's popularity to the pastiche quality of B-house. "People hear some aspect of every dance genre in it, and that kind of tickles them. It catches them, and they can't help it." Brendan, who DJs five nights a week with his Soul Travelers crew, says his repertoire heavily favors Baltimore house. "If I don't play Baltimore house, I'm in trouble," he jokes.

While Low Budget and Brendan are firmly planted in B-more house, Morelli prefers the similarly booty-centric regional sounds of Detroit's ghettotech and Chicago's ghetto house, which, he explains, "have a minimal rawness and an unrelenting energy not found in most dance music."

While Morelli concedes that Baltimore house is blowing up (recent B-house features in Urb and XLR8R magazines attest to the fact), he says ghetto house and ghettotech have been virtually overlooked by the press and most DJs over the last seven years.

Ron Morelli
"Plain and simple, the records are hard to find. Plus it's pretty hard for DJs to incorporate music this fast into their sets," Morelli explains. "If people heard the music, they'd be into it-they just haven't heard it yet."

Morelli, who already runs the monthly Reagan Disco Headache electronic disco party at the Khyber, put together the night of what he calls "regional booty music" at Silk City in order to expose more people to all these genres. What can attendees expect at the Nada/Tittsworth soiree? "A lot of sweating, fist pumping and curse words," Morelli says, his voice trailing off. "A lot of curse words."

DJ Tittsworth, Dave Nada + Ron Morelli
Sat., Nov. 5, 10pm. $5. With Plastic Little. Silk City, Fifth and Spring Garden sts. 215.592.8838. www.silkcitylounge.com

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