With all of the club music oozing out of our collective speakers here in Baltimore (and trust me, I love every second of it), I think sometimes we might forget that hey, we can do other things too! In fact, we’re so used to hearing DDm (pictured left here), or Unkle LuLu as he’s known as for this project, spittin’ verses over “Think” breaks and hosting energetic club music nights. But this week he unveiled a new project with Paul Hutson (pictured right) called Bond St. District in which together they explore more of a traditional hip-hop path. With Paul Hutson on beats and DDm on raps, this Bond St. District unveiled their debut EP, Everybody’s So Sleepy, along with a really dope video for “Matinee”. Seen below, in the video for “Matinee”, you’ll see Bond St. District on some real talk as we explore the different faces of Baltimore (I spy Baltimore’s own Chrissy Vasquez & friends!).
You never really expect international DJs or experimental electronic music to be amongst Alaska’s main exports, but Astronomar bridges the gap between his home state and the rest of the mainland with energizing electricity. With a background in hip-hop and turntablism, Astronomar (aka Marlon Lumba) has proven himself to be one hell of a DJ. So good, in fact, that he was just recruited by AM Only, a highly-respected booking agency with an incredible roster of artists including Disclosure, Craze, and Skrillex. And on top of it all, he’s one of the innovators behind one of the most consistently dope record labels, Main Course.
Astronomar’s remix of Wax Motif and Neoteric’s “Go Deep” sounded gigantic (!!) – enough to fill outer space – but Skrillex found plenty of room for it in his Essential Mix for BBC Radio 1 in 2013, and just like that, labeled Astronomar as a force to be reckoned with. But it was in 2012 he caught my attention with his “H3Y I C U PERCUL8-10”, an insane remix of Cajmere’s “Percolator”, a house track that has been a staple in club music sets here in Baltimore since I was in middle school. Honestly, I didn’t even realize people were still fucking with that song so it was a pretty dope discovery for me and definitely landed him a spot on my radar.
Now, with his friends Bot (from Crookers) and Neoteric, Astronomar runs Main Course, one of the coolest dance music record labels in the game right now. Main Course is hella dope, yall. They’re constantly searching on the fringe of dance music for the world’s most hard-hitting sounds and they’re generous enough to bring them to us for free (for the whole first month after its release)! And in between Main Course releases are small and more frequent releases appropriately called Snacks, which allows them to showcase music more immediately rather than waiting to compile an official release. So, no matter which way it comes, they’re releasing quality music at light speed. (If you think you’ve got what it takes to forge a partnership with Main Course, here’s how to get your demo to their ears.)
Astronomar and the crew at Main Course aim to represent the very best out there in electronic music of all styles and have graciously shown a lot of love to Baltimore club music. As a person who’s grown up listening to club music, it’s so refreshing to see a reputable label feel compelled to release diverse interpretations of Baltimore’s unique sound by other inspired producers from different cities all around the world. Their affinity for the sound extends far back to the classics, as evidenced by their releases, which showcase remixes of legendary Baltimore club music artists like KW Griff, Debonair Samir, and Rod Lee, to name a few.
But now, they’ve ventured far past traditional club music sounds into territory they aptly referred to as “mutant club”. For their Mutant Club EP titled Attack, you’ll see collaborations with artists like Tony Quattro and Dizzy Bell yielding heavy buzzing, terrifying shrieks, and Tetris samples. It’s all over the map but specializing in the weird and abnormal, something that is pretty hard to pigeon-hole into one genre. Hear it for yourself:
Basically, Astronomar is the man. He’s such a positive force in this cannibalistic dance music industry that I swear it’s changed forever for the better because of him. In between touring, listening to demos for Main Course, and producing his own music, he had a moment to talk with me about what’s goin’ down in his life right now! Get to know him before he comes to visit us in Baltimore to play Mutant Club music alongside Bot, Scottie B, Matic 808, The Clown Prince, and Hoss!
It seems like you’ve had one busy year and have traveled everywhere from Italy to LA to DC to Portland and everywhere in between. Which city has been your favorite to visit so far? Who really turns the fuck up?!
I love every city I play in, but some do take the turn up a bit more seriously. I’d have to say Austin was one of the funnest shows I’ve played in a while. I was sharing the bill with my good pal Sinden – we did a short three date tour together last month. But yea, the past four months have been nonstop – I love it.
Do you have any crazy tour stories from this year?
Hmmmm. Nothing too crazy aside from partying into the afternoon and missing flights, haha.
What was it like growing up in Alaska? I’m sure it’s been nice to get away and see the rest of the world!
Alaska is great! It’s less densely populated than most areas, the tap water is amazing, my family is there, and it’s a bit culturally disconnected from the rest of the world, which are all the reasons [why] I love it. It’s home. But it is definitely a privilege to get to travel and do what I love.
Have you ever been to Baltimore? If not, do you have any expectations?
Yeah I played there a couple months ago at a rave called Temple of Boom – it was really great! They took great care of us (Neoteric, with whom i run Main Course played also) and we really had a blast. A handful of homies from DC came down, so that was really sick. Scottie B & Vjuan Allure came through also and kicked it for a bit – legends!
I hear a lot of influences from club music in the sounds coming from the Main Course camp, be it in your own productions or in remixes selected for your releases. I always forget how far of a reach club music has had historically. How did you first become interested in club music?
I’d have to say my introduction to club music was the early Blaqstarr stuff while I was still living in Alaska, maybe around 2006-2007. Shortly thereafter I was looking up heaps of the dance videos on YouTube and learning about all the tracks. I guess one of the things I was attracted to was the rawness of the sound. I grew up loving lots of underground hip hop and club felt like a manifestation of that energy in dance music form.
How would you describe “Mutant Club”? This is totally new to me!
Mutant Club is the name of an EP of mine that came out earlier this year on Main Course, and it’s the name of a new project coming soon also on Main Course, which has a rotating cast; Bot & myself sort of being the residents and Neoteric being the mastermind. Mutant Club is wild and fucked up club music. Neo, Bot & myself all have wide, genre spanning tastes, but we all still love the mind bending club shit.
Record labels seem to be a dime-a-dozen lately, but I’m a HUGE fan of Main Course because I can always trust that whatever sounds you guys co-sign will likely be something I’d be into as well. What do you think sets Main Course apart from the other dance music labels out there?
Thanks! I’m happy you dig the label! I’d have to say what sets us apart from our peers is our composition. Bot left Crookers in 2012, Neoteric has been doing lots of important behind the scenes work in the game for many years, and I was a bit of a student of both of their work and began following suit. Now we are a trifecta that is open-minded, but still implies a high level of scrutiny. And we all come from different angles and apply those values to everything we do.
Who are some other DJs, producers, and musicians that really inspire you to step your game up?
I literally (like… LITERALLY) cannot stop listening to ILoveMakonnen’s new EP right now, and for dance music I’m currently fucking with Massacooraman, Bot, Sona Vabos, Poolboy92, WildLife!, and Torro Torro. Damn there’s so many people that inspire me – so hard to name them all here!
I see your taco game is real strong over in LA! What’s your ideal taco setup look like?
Two Asada and two AL Pastor, corn tortilla, limes, radish, red and green sauce mixed with a mandarin Jarritos from a truck ideally in a neighborhood where Spanish is the first language.
Keep it movin’ with this dope mix from Chicago’s Starfoxxx! If you get down with juke, footwork, and all varieties of east coast club music, this one’s for you. As an affiliate of Feeltrip Records and Donky Pitch of the UK, Starfoxxx generally goes fucking hard in life and I fully support that. And maybe with his mix for THUMP, you can channel a bit of his party vibes and turn the fuck up.
Starfoxxx – Keys
Matrixxman and Dick Van Dick – kanekalon (extensions)
Krueger – Dark Walk
Crucial Conflict – Hay (Starfoxxx Juke)
Chi Boogie – Pop, Shake, Jit
DJ Assault – I Say Uuuah
DJ Funk – Pump That Ass Down
DJ T-Why – 5,4,3,2
DJ Earl – Lookin 4 Me [CJMilli Hood Edit]
DJ Chip – Bang Bang Bang, Skeet Skeet Skeet
Dj K Millz – Tap Dat Donk
DJ Deeon – Point Em Out
DJ Yolo Bear – Bring That Ass To The Table (VIP MIXXX)
K Ci & Jo Jo – Tell Me It’s Real (Club Asylum Steppers Mix)
Craig David – Fill Me In
Brenmar – Hey Ladies feat. Uniique (Neana Remix)
Umbertron – Big Ol Booty
Cajmere feat Dajae – Brighter Days (Mercury Edit)
Starfoxxx – No Text No Call
Johnny Dangerous – Beat That Bitch (Problem #13)
Cajmere ? – I Just Wanna Fuck
Krueger – Turnin VIP
Nicki Minaj ft. Divoli S’vere – Pussy Playtime
DJ Rashad – Fuck Me in My Face
Chrissy Murderbot f. DJ Gant-Man – I Nutted In You
Big Dope P – Trinaz Geto Trak
Starfoxxx – Slow Jams
Umbertron – That’s My Shit
DJ Booman – Ha Ha
KW Griff x Baha Men – Bring In the Dogs (Tony Hawk Pro DJ 360 Flip)
Starfoxxx – Bae HD
Mala – Changes (Krueger Club Bootleg)
Dance System – RZ1 (Original Mix)
False Witness – Makina (Duro Mix)
DJ Solo – Let Me See Ya Bounce
DJ Spinn & DJ Rashad – Shawty Off Tha Chain
Bobby Shurda ft Mike G & Sharawi – Shmurda Bootleg (Hot Nigga)
Chi Boogie – Move Back
Ludacris ft. Shawnna – What’s Your Fantasy
Benga – Crunked Up
Starfoxxx – Ice Cream
Soft Tigers – Mr Ice Cream (Waxmaster Juke Mix)
Umbertron – Crunch Time
Chicago Traxmen – 96 U Got 2 Chicago
DJ Deeon – Da Dik Suk
Bleaker – Jam (#2)
Wax Master – Shaky Trax
Dungeon Meat – The Fuck Off Track
813 – Crying Flute
Both Baltimore-based artists, Abdu Ali and Schwarz are out of this fucking world. And I mean that in the best way possible. Neither artist prefers to follow in the footsteps of anyone else, opting to pave their own path instead. Creatively, these two seem so compatible that I’m convinced they’d still find each other even if they were blindfolded in a dark room. So it only makes sense they’d collaborate for this high energy ode to Baltimore, Already. And with remixes from Blaqstarr, DJ Dizzy, and Kilbourne, Already pays homage to Baltimore’s past, present, and future.
Ali recently packed his bags and headed North to Brooklyn, but Baltimore still holds a huge piece of his heart. In a recent interview with the Baltimore Sun, he admits, “I feel like you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone. I know that’s a cliché but it is kind of real. It made me realize that Baltimore is a really nice space for artists, and you can do a lot here and still be in the East Coast and still be between all these great cities.” And Schwarz has definitely experienced this homegrown success first-hand with his productions. The best part about him is that he’s totally unpredictable – you never really know where he’s gonna take the sound, and that’s exactly what we need with Baltimore club right now as we strive to take it from the underground and into the ears of the masses.
So if you’re new to the Baltimore sound or a long-time lover (like me!), Already is a must-have on your hard-drive. Aggressive and certainly not lacking in energy, Already is Baltimore personified. To me, this is exactly what this city feels like when the sun goes down and you finally find that good time you’ve been looking for. This is that party you stumble upon in that hole-in-the-wall club where all your best friends are already having the time of their lives.
With all of this fresh attention from Boiler Room’s Baltimore club dance party special, it feels a lot like Baltimore is getting a second chance at really making some noise in the music industry. The spotlight is bright and free for the taking so long as Baltimore artists really push the boundaries of their creativity into new territory.
And as somebody who has grown up listening to Baltimore club music, Matic808 has some pretty high standards for the city’s unique sound. “No one is making hits. Everyone’s music is pretty good but no one’s making hits that will gravitate the whole East Coast dance scene to Baltimore,” says Matic. But damn if they aren’t trying. Baltimore club is starting to see some substantial depth and variety with artists of many different walks of life contributing to the sound. With DJs and producers like Mighty Mark, TT the Artist, James Nasty, Normaling, Schwarz, and DJ Dizzy, to name a few, I think we’re onto something here.
As for Matic808, he seems to find the most success when he seamlessly integrates yesterday’s Baltimore club breakbeats with today’s hip-hop hits from artists like Migos and Future. Last year, he even remixed Kanye West’s Yeezus in its entirety, which he considered to be one of his most creative moments ever. The inspiration behind the project was so electric, the output was even deemed invigorating to the Baltimore club music movement. I love when that happens.
Aside from exceptional collaborations with Brenmar and HI$TO, that was his last major project. For now, he’s just focused on making music that will represent his take on what “Baltimore Club is supposed to sound like in 2014.” Matic explains, “No genre sounds exactly as it did [ten] years ago – why should this genre do that?” It’s all forward motion with Matic808. Who knows, his next project might not even sound like Baltimore club music. He’s not one to be pigeon-holed into one genre. But I know Baltimore club music runs deep for this guy. Listen to his music and you can hear him pay homage to the pioneers who came before him and appeal to the constantly changing interests of today’s dance culture all at the same time. Sure, his aspirations are global and he really wants to inspire the rest of the world to embrace the sounds Baltimore has to offer, but he knows his real support begins and ends with the urban community, the heart and soul of Baltimore club music and the ones who started it all.
If you like what you hear, check him out LIVE in Baltimore on 11/8 as he joins Astronomar (Main Course) and Baltimore club pioneer, Scottie B, at Metro Gallery.
Trends in music have come and gone but instead of hopping on the bandwagon to instant (but fleeting) success, James Nasty set up camp in the studio with an incredible commitment to revitalizing Baltimore club music with his own unique formula. He’s ride or die for club music and it’s a dedication that should be envied by many. But his steadfast approach to production has finally paid off for him and the rest of Baltimore as the demand for club music has seen an ever-increasing demand on the dance floor, especially with energizing sonic assistance from local innovators like Matic 808, Mighty Mark, TT the Artist, Schwarz, and Normaling.
So it only makes sense that he’s leading the pack as Baltimore’s most talented DJs, producers, and rappers emerge to break out of the underground and into the mainstream. And he’s personally made quite the year for himself. After four years in the making, he finally released what came to be his Calvert Street EP, of which there was no shortage of praise and was heralded as straight up nasty “club weapons”. All the frenetic buzz and primal energy of Calvert Street made its way to the ears and feet of New York City and James Nasty was invited to play the legendary Boiler Room party alongside the best of the best of Baltimore club music – pioneers Scottie B, Rod Lee, and DJ Technics and new school phenoms Mighty Mark and TT the Artist.
This week, I had James Nasty choose some of his favorite tracks he’s feelin’ right now, which will probably take you deeper into the rabbit hole that is Baltimore club music. Have fun!
A seemingly unlikely pair from the outside looking in, the way Lemz and .rar Kelly met was purely an act of kismet, much like the stories of many other historic collaborations of the greats. It went down like this: unknowingly at the time, Lemz played a siren song direct to .rar Kelly’s soul when he played Gesaffelstein at The Ottobar here in Baltimore. The Ottobar might be grimey as fuck (in an endearing way, of course), but at the time, nobody here really had the chutzpah to channel the dark, electronic hymns of Gesaffelstein in the clubs, especially not in a Top 40-driven city like Baltimore. It was in that moment that they realized together, they just might be onto something.
The rest is history. Musically speaking, Lemz and .rar Kelly are soul mates. They finish each others sentences. They mirror each others thoughts. They’re left brain and right brain connected by the Corpus Callosum, which is incidentally how they titled their debut EP, officially released after a diligent year of working in the lab. If you paid any attention to the underground sounds of Baltimore, you knew Lemz and .rar Kelly were working on something, but you didn’t know exactly what it was becoming.
But one thing’s for certain – these two deal exclusively in emotions. They turn their backs the mainstream and are compelled only to make music that forces them, and us, to actually feel something. When asked to cite their influences, they mostly just derive inspiration from the music their friends are making: Mighty Mark and TT the Artist from Baltimore and the whole Seclusiasis family in Philly, to name a few. It’s a real grassroots movement here. Even Corpus Callosum was released via Space is the Place Records, a label ran by .rar Kelly and Astrolith of New York and formed simply out of a need to create a place for their family of artists to be properly showcased in the way that they deserve.
Listen to Normaling you might hear something like Baltimore club music for the runway. Or dark techno with a perfect hint of sass. The best part about their sound is the way it changes depending on how you shine a light on it. And unlike many other production twosomes, neither of them outshine the other. While they both bring their own unique element to the table, it gets equal representation in the output. See, .rar Kelly is a bit dark and mysterious while Lemz is like sunshine on a cloudy day. Together they’re like night and day, so their collaborative efforts behind the scenes could have shaped up to be anything, really, automatically cancelling out any notion of expectation. So, instead of teasing mediocre tracks along the way, Lemz and .rar Kelly exercised some serious patience and waited until their sounds, heavy and hard-hitting, were exactly as they imagined before sending them out into the world as Normaling.
So what is Normaling exactly? Their original intentions were a tongue-in-cheek way of poking fun at the mundane lifestyle nine-to-fivers. Sitting in traffic on the way to a job that just sucks the life out of you. Spilling Starbucks coffee on your tie. Major life buzzkills. But Normaling is much bigger than that.
The entire goal of Normaling is just to create something that’s genuine. No bullshit. And they don’t measure success by how much money they’ve made or how many heads fill the room when they’re playing. In fact, they’re gonna wild out and do as they do whether we’re there or not. They entertain each other just fine without us. They just want to keep it real and support the community in the process. Sonically speaking, they may seem a little dark and brooding at times, but there’s no shade coming from their corner. A win for Baltimore is a win for them.
And right now, Normaling is an essential part of a major renaissance in Baltimore – something that is truly electrifying. For the first time in a long time, now you can see the old school pioneers of club music like Scottie B, Rod Lee, and Samir playing right along side the new school players, bringing everything full circle and the entire experience generational. After years of Baltimore club music being put in the corner, having very few noteworthy hometown parties at which to dance and showcase our true sounds, and a community of artists who just wanted to pack up and leave, Baltimore is finally becoming the place to be again. The truth is, there’s a strong desire for a taste of Baltimore everywhere and not just Baltimore club music but the real underground sounds of Baltimore as a collective unit. As Lemz so perfectly stated, “Everybody was into Baltimore but Baltimore.” But witnessing the wild success of the latest Baltimore club showcase of infamous Boiler Room party in New York City, and the worldwide uplifting of true Baltimore talent like James Nasty, Mighty Mark, TT the Artist, and Schwarz, it’s safe to say the times, they are a-changin’.
Whoever said ‘club music is dead’ was sadly mistaken. When you’ve got a producer like DJ Sliink in the studio, the genre gets a revival every time a beat is laid down. Straight outta Jersey, DJ Sliink lives and breathes club music. At just twenty-one years of age, he still holds Jersey club pioneers like DJ Tim Dolla and DJ Tamiel close to his heart, but he’s got enough knowledge and drive within him to forage his own path.
Listen to any of the sounds in DJ Sliink’s catalog, like his Vibrate EP from February; his most recent $ NJ $ mixtape; or his latest collaboration with Berts on Beats and Trouble & Bass on “RRR U”, and you’ll hear classic club breaks and true Jersey soul fatefully blended with trap and heavy bass. DJ Sliink is creating an essential new school club music hybrid that pays homage to the pioneers of yesterday and hypes up the new dance music disciples of today.
With lofty innovation and a work ethic that never sleeps, DJ Sliink has made quite a name for himself in 2012. His Vibrate EP, released by Body High, slayed every dance floor it came in contact with. He bridged the gap between dance music and trap music this summer on his tour with Flosstradamus. He’s been valiantly pushing his own label, Cartel Music, with releases dropping all year. He recently mixed an hour long set for a feature on Diplo’s “Diplo & Friends” radio program on BBC Radio 1. His $ NJ $ mixtape, bursting at the seams with his own original productions, serves as a mission statement for his unique sounds. Plus he’s Twitter verified! Instant street cred here on the World Wide Interwebs. All of these things and then some have prompted major publications, like Vibe and Fader, to name DJ Sliink as one to watch in 2013. So it’s about time you get familiar, yes?
The good homie Nadus recently hooked me up with DJ Sliink and we talked about how he started producing, what it was like coolin’ with Flosstradamus all summer, and what’s next for 2013. Read on!
Cool Breezy: How did you get started DJing and producing Jersey club? Are there any particular DJs or tracks that inspire your creativity?
DJ Sliink: I started when I was about 15-16. I actually got inspired by my younger brother who goes by the name “ClubHeadSliim”. He was always [the]more outgoing and dancing type. This dude was really into music. I always stuck to sports. I used to always see him making beats on this program and they sounded pretty cool! One day I decided “Let me try” [and] from there on I always came in and worked on little beats. Other people who inspired me were Jersey Club Kings DJ Tim Dolla & DJ Tameil. Every party I went to, they just laid it down!
CB: How do you think Jersey club sets itself apart from Baltimore and Philly club?
Sliink: I think it sets itself apart by concept. In Jersey club, I think it’s more thought of stuff and strict dance floor music. Don’t get me wrong, I see Bmore music to be a bit more soulful and [with] a deeper background. It’s definitely much more slower with a lot more breaks. Philly club is really fast and reminds me of footwork, but really good!
CB: You recently wrapped up the Nomads Tour with Flosstradamus. What was it like being on the road with them and what was your favorite memory from the tour?
Sliink: It was so amazing being on tour with these guys. They were really down to earth and they are vets. The really understand the game well and I like how they work. My favorite memory had to be the last day of tour, when we all thanked each other and said how much of a great tour it was. One final time, we all got on stage when “Test Me” came on [we] wet the whole crowd with water. It was amazing – such good times.
CB: So far you’ve worked with producers like Brenmar, Nadus, and obviously Flosstradamus, to name a few. Do you have any dream collaborations you’d like to make happen?
Sliink: I love those guys. I would love to work with Pharrell, Manny Fresh, and Timbaland. These guys really had me vibing to most of the music I heard growing up. It really would be a honor!
CB: What’s something people may not know about you?
Sliink: Haha! I’m a really great basketball player ’til this day. I used to be a basketball star when I was a little younger. I also can cook everything! Cookin italian dishes is my favorite. I can also draw. I used to sketch a lot. Music has taken up all my time, but I don’t regret it.
CB: If some insane apocalyptic event occurred and for whatever reason you could only listen to three albums for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Sliink: This is easy lol. I would choose Bone Thugs “The Art Of War”, G Unit “Beg For Mercy” and The Vibrate EP.🙂
CB: Between the raging success of the Vibrate EP and the Nomads tour, it’s safe to say you’ve had a pretty exciting year. So what’s next for DJ Sliink?
Sliink: I really enjoyed this year. This year was pretty much a worldwide intro for me. What’s next for me? I have 3 EPs dropping with Flosstradamus, Brenmar, & MikeQ. This is something everyone should look out for. I’m trying to reach out to all genres that’s in my state’s favor.
CB: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming DJs and producers?
Sliink: I love to see young people grind! They need to keep grinding. Everyone has to start somewhere. I almost gave up on music a few times. Never give up!
One day you’re slowing down the tempo of Afrojack’s “Moombah Remix” so you don’t get the fur torn off of ya for playing music that’s too fast at your cousin’s skipping party and the next day you’re playing that very same style of music at some of the greatest venues in the world, spawning a whole new genre of music tailored for the dance floor. So the story goes for Dave Nada and Matt Nordstrom of the DC-bred, LA-based DJ and production duo, Nadastrom, who have godfathered a brand new style of dance music – moombahton.
Groovin’ at a 108 bpm pace and inspired by reggaeton, Dutch House, and pure kismet, moombahton is rockin’ every dance floor from DC to London and everything in between. What was once a “happy accident” now has countless producers demonstrating their take on the original sound of moombahton and exploring new sub genres, like smooth, sexy moombahsoul and the moombahton-dubstep hybrid, moombahcore. Nadastrom even started their own moombahton record label, Diabluma Sound, which kicked off this year with fresh releases from Steve Starks, JWLS, and Boyfriend. Because of all its success across the board, moombahton has become a destination event at major festivals and has sold out parties around the world, including its monthly Moombahton Massive celebration at the infamous U Street Music Hall in its homebase of DC.
Much like the curious hybrid that it is, moombahton is a family affair – it has a particular way of bringing people together and welcoming new party people and DJs alike to dance music with open arms. From Dave Nada’s early days of edits, like “Riverside”, to Nadastrom’s official remixes, like Alex Clare’s “Too Close”, Dave and Matt have been guiding the moombahton missle straight to the top, with their original productions serving as the ultimate creative guidance.
But Nadastrom has been slaying the scene long before moombahton – since before I knew anything about anything. I remember my first introduction to dance music in action was seeing them play Baltimore club, tech house, and everything else they could get their hands on at TaxLo parties here in Baltimore. They have been the real deal since the first night I danced to their soundtrack and with a deep knowledge of how Baltimore really gets down (spoiler alert: down and fucking dirty), they rose to the top like the cream of the crop. Enamored with their intuitive selections and the ease with which they control the floor, I’ve been following Nadastrom ever since. So of course, years later and with a rack of parties stored neatly in my memory bank, I’m so pleased and honored to have interviewed Dave and Matt. It’s their unwavering passion for music, their free-spirits which make every performance a great time for everybody involved, and their constant demonstration of forward-thinking creativity and innovation that sets the standard of excellence in this game.
Cool Breezy: We all know the story of how you accidentally created moombahton over three years ago and started releasing those classic edits like “Riverside” and “Moombahton”. Did you ever expect the genre to blow up the way that it has? What do you think of its evolution so far?
Dave Nada: Nah, I really did not expect it at all. I did, however, think the concept was cool and fun. I saw it work first hand since the start, so I already knew it was something that would translate well in the club. The evolution of it all is pretty crazy too! It’s come a long way in just three years and now there’s a moombahton vibe that exists in music and club culture. The production of the sound has gotten better as well. I feel like it continues to refine itself and new influences are popping up from all over the world.
CB: Since moombahton’s genesis, you have hosted successful Moombahton Massives in its mecca of DC and all around the world. Most recently, hosted a stage entirely dedicated to moombahton at Hard’s Day of the Dead festival in LA. Did you have any say in choosing the talent for the moombahton stage? Also, how does it make you feel to be the godfather of such a wildly successful movement?
DN: Yup! Me and my Moombahton Massive partners, Matt Nordstrom and Sabo, help curate the lineups for all of the Massives. When we work with Hard, we combine our forces with them. I feel like HARD are at the top of the game and they ALWAYS kill it with the lineups and tours for their events. I feel humbled and grateful when it comes to moombahton and how far it’s come, from the artists to the music lovers around the world. [I’m] very proud of what we’ve built with the Massives and the music.
CB: I know first-hand how uniquely wild moombahton parties can get. I’m sure there are many memorable and unmemorable nights for you, but describe one of your favorites.
DN: I’m biased here, but my favorite moment was at Moombahton Massive Thanksgiving 2011 when I proposed to my fiancé, Jen Lasher, in front of hundreds people at the end of her set! Not only was the moombah fam there, but a lot of our relatives as well. What a special night!
Matt Nordstrom: Man…they are all pretty special. It’s really hard to pick one, so I’m gonna say three. The night we had Toddla T for the Two Year Anniversary of [U Street Music Hall]; the night we had Thee Mike B who said, with quite an epic resume of parties played, that that was one of the best gigs and parties he has ever done; and of course last thanksgiving when Dave purposed to Jen, which, for the record, NO ONE knew he was going to do.
CB: Do you remember the first record you ever bought?
MN: It was either “Thriller” by Michael Jackson or “Future Shock” by Herbie Hancock.
DN: [The] first record I ever bought was Doug E. Fresh “Keep Risin’ To The Top” 12″ single. B-side was “Guess Who”, which got me fired up every time I listened to it. I also remember being mad confused as to why there was an acapella track and instrumental version. I didn’t understand the DJ side of things at the time, haha.
CB: While you have embarked on an entirely new maginificent journey through moombahton, Nadastrom’s nights of spinning club music in Baltimore have still remained the stuff of legends. How have those past experiences influenced the way you feel about music in the present? Any chance we’ll hear some new Baltimore club sounds from you in the future?
DN: They still influence us to this day. As a matter of fact, we’ve been playing tons of Bmore and Bmore inspired club music in our sets lately. We’re also getting a rep for playing longer sets these days, so this has given us more opportunities to play different styles in one night!
MN: It definitely still influences us – the stripped back approach, the loops, and probably most important is the impact of a kick drum. Pretty much sums up Nadastrom, haha! We recently did a remix for our new label, Diabluma Sound, reworking Boyfriend’s “Vodka House” into a 130 club joint. We have some more in the works as well but can’t really speak on them just yet.
CB: This year you’ve greatly advanced moombahton through major events, impeccable productions, and even the launch of Nadastrom’s very own moombahton label, Diabluma Sound. So, what’s next?
MN: We are currently working on our debut artist album, which is something we have toyed with in the past but got really serious about the past few months.
DN: Yup, we think it’s about time now!
A man of true diversity and versatility, Jon Kwest soars under the radar. It’s not his style to be out in the limelight, flaunting his creativity. He’s more of a “behind the scenes” type guy, and while that’s extremely humble of him, unfortunately it often leads to him being quite underrated. Currently a resident of Philly, Kwest hails from my charming city of Baltimore. He produces amazing Baltimore club music and despite my selfish desire to see him perform a club set in Baltimore, he is fully submerged in the moombahton scene. I’m not mad at that at all. He’s one of the most productive and meticulous moombahton producers in the game right now, only releasing tunes that are top of the line productions. You won’t see any throw-away tracks coming from this guy.
While his moombahton productions vary in vibe from time to time, he’s known for creating this particularly smooth, soulful sound by replacing sirens and rave horns with house grooves and R&B vocals. One of my favorite moombahton productions of his is “Dreamin’”, which samples vocals from that Christopher Williams’ tune, “I’m Dreamin’”. Not exactly the standard moombahton rage tune, Kwest’s “Dreamin’” has this morning glory vibe to it. He excels at producing tracks that are just outright super soulful, straddling the line between moombahton and moombahsoul, the hybrid of moombahton and R&B, which explains his heavy involvement with David Heartbreak’s Moombahsoul Compilation releases. Kwest has seen his own productions featured on Heartbreak’s moombahsoul releases, as well as tracks he’s collaborated on with Heartbreak and DJ Melo. This is where he thrives. Don’t get me wrong – dude can rage. But he stands out when he makes moombahton for the ladies.
As far as the subgenres of moombahton go, so far we’ve heard moombahcore, the hybrid of moombahton and dubstep, and moombahsoul. But last week, Jon Kwest extended his creative reach by releasing Dust Mask, a compilation of new tunes that present a brand new hybrid of moombahton and UK hardcore (listen above). Despite the lack of an official moombahname, Kwest found enough parallels between the two genres to be able to form a fresh and energetic hybrid, funneling the heavy synths of UK hardcore and the familiar dubstep wobble into moombahton zone at 108bpm. On Dust Mask, Kwest slows down UK hardcore and revives these classic rave tunes by adding the sexiness of moombahton, reeling in all sorts of party people by appealing to both new school moombahton heads and old school ravers. With these types of musical innovations, the moombahfamily just gets bigger and bigger by the day.
As a fan of moombahton, you owe it to yourself to see Jon Kwest live and in action. He played a killer set at Moombahton Massive Tres in April. And two weeks ago at the Artscape festival in Baltimore, he performed a set that was so heavily saturated in moombahton exclusives. Tonight, he’ll be at Red Maple in Baltimore for Serious Dynamite’s first ever moombahton showcase. Admittedly, the party people in Baltimore haven’t latched onto the moombahteet as well as its DC counterparts, but who better to open the floodgates than Jon Kwest himself? And finally, if you can’t make it to Baltimore tonight, you better make plans to see him at U Hall on August 18th for Moombahton Massive VI. It’s gonna be the biggest problem DC’s seen since Marion Barry.
(Tonight, Serious Dynamite begins at 10PM. Get there early to enjoy $5 mojitos and boombas, and $3 Red Stripe until 11:30. Plus, moombahton all night! It’s a no-brainer. Where else would you wanna be?!)
Anyway, I was really lucky to be able to catch up with Jon Kwest. I had so many questions for him but I didn’t want to stifle his productivity so I kept it short. We talked about the characteristics of moombahton that drew him to the genre, which producers are currently rockin’ his world, and what kind of advice he has for up and coming producers.
Cool Breezy: How long have you been DJing and producing? What came before moombahton?
JK: [I] started DJing when I [began] high school, mostly hip-hop and some house & hardcore breaks. My first real gig was in ‘94 playing jungle at a party in DC at that five-story “Bomb Shelter” warehouse. I remember Diesel Boy was playing too. I was pretty hyped.
Production began around ‘98/’99, I guess. When I started working at Music Liberated, [I] met up with Ian Carey. Dude hooked me up with studio time here and there and that was it – I was hooked. Around 2000 or so, Reason came out and the “room full of credit card debt” type studio wasn’t necessary. Production became a daily thing.
CB: What initially inspired you to start creating moombahton tunes?
JK: The tempo is what primarily drove me to moombahton. It was new, not just a half time snare over an existing genre. It doesn’t mix tempo-wise with any other type of music so you have to really want to play it to play it. I like the fact that there was pretty much every style of music represented. It wasn’t all just noisy and hard, like it seems every new genre goes all too quickly.
I had been messing with mid-tempo type tunes for the last few years, but basically never had the balls or standing to really pursue it like Nada did. Dude definitely went about it the right way.
CB: Your name is at the top of many DJs’ lists of “favorite producers” right now. How does it make you feel to be that dude? And who are some of your favorite producers right now?
JK: I’m super hyped that like-minded people relate to what I do. That’s why all of us let people hear our music. I just do me though. I’ve been going at this rate for a long time now. Luckily, I found an outlet that motivated me to push myself again.
My favorites is a tough question… lotta folks. Heartbreak, Munchi, Nadastrom, DJ Melo, Uncle Jesse, Sabo, Pickster One, Billy The Gent, Cam Jus and all the OG’s pretty much go without saying. Tactic, Smutlee, Ckrono, Boyfriend, Neki Stranac, Sazon Booya, Soron, A-Mac, JWLS, Long Jawns, Nate Metro, DJ Theory all killin’ it right now. Some cats I’ve only recently came across DJ DIce/Chicago Deadbeats & Habanero Posse out of Japan been sending me some nastiness lately. I know as soon as I send this I’ll notice who I left off of this list and kick myself.
Every week I’m hearing from someone new that motivates me to go harder.
CB: You have a lot of influence not only in the moombahton scene but also in the Baltimore club scene. How do the two currently compare?
JK: Current Baltimore Club is almost a grey term. It’s expanded and re-invented itself over the last few years. Dudes like Benny Stixx, King Tutt, Murder Mark, DJ Say Wut [produce] tunes [that] can sound any number of different ways, which shows a versatility pretty much unseen since the term “Bmore Club” was termed in the early 90’s – no disrespect to anyone.
That, I believe, is the common ground. We all wanted something new and instead of waiting for it, we made it. We made it; expanded it; forced its evolution and made it our own voice. That’s what makes influential music, not pandering.
It’s not supposed to be for everyone.
CB: Do you have any words of advice for up-and-coming DJs and producers out there?
JK: Do you 100%. If you half ass your ideas to make dim wits happy, you should just throw in the towel and quit muddying up the craft.
Just as important, though – be humble, be polite and give credit where credit is due, but nothing of value ever comes from ass-kissing or dick-riding.
How does one go from hating Baltimore club music to becoming the City Paper’s choice for Best Club Music Producer of 2010? Just ask Murder Mark. As a hip-hopper from the jump, Murder Mark, aka Marquis Gasque, was more used to a certain type of flow and spoken word you normally hear in standard hip-hop. Some of his favorites were Biggie, Lupe Fiasco, and Kanye West. He appreciated their unique types of flow, whereas he thought the styling of Baltimore club was merely just noise. Cut to a few years later when he took a challenge to produce Baltimore club and the rest was history. Turns out he’s got a knack for creating something he never liked in the first place. How ‘bout that?
But you can’t make great Baltimore club music without a vast understanding of it. So after a doing ton of research ranging from just being in the scene, kickin’ it with true Baltimore club heads, and listening to an endless loop of 92Q Jams from DJs like K-Swift and K.W. Griff, Murder Mark turned his hatred into skill in no time. Look at him now, ayy!
He’s been praised for his old school-meets-new school mentality – more specifically, the way he uses a unique style of synths, almost like hyperactive techno at times, layered behind original, chopped and looped vocals, an old school element of Baltimore club that some producers have since replaced with Lil Jon loops. What inspired the City Paper to award Murder Mark the title of Best Producer of 2010 was his signature sound being “an absolutely horrifying buzz of synthesizers—like the sound of club’s youth scene attacked by bees—rubbing up against a surprisingly traditionalist sense of sample-chopping and looping.” Murder Mark knows what old school Baltimore club music should sound like, but this is 2011 and he also knows the movement needs to keep moving with the times.
His most notable release to date is his Party Starter EP, which features his original beats behind original vocals by Mike Mike and TT the Artist. Showcasing twelve songs of pure Baltimore club adrenaline, the Party Starter EP is just as it aspires to be – that one joint you play when you’re getting ready to go out, pre-gaming with your friends, or on your way to the club. With grimy, hyperactive tracks like “Cherry Hill and Down Ya Block” and “In My Hood”, it’s the perfect mix to play when you’re looking for the right energy to begin your night – an essential weekend jump-off.
In addition to creating club music on the regular, he’s also an innovator of Zoo On Mars Entertainment, or Z.O.M.E. for short, which is an artist’s collaboration between Murder Mark, TT the Artist, Mike-Mike, D.O.L.L.A.S., K.S., and Doug. Keep a look out for Z.O.M.E. as they’re promoting and booking various artists and gigs in the area. Also, Murder Mark is learning how to DJ so perhaps you’ll see him behind the decks a little sooner than you expected.
I had a chance to talk to Murder Mark recently. Here’s what he had to say about the state of Baltimore club, working with Mike Mike, and where you can find him when he’s not in the studio:
Cool Breezy: What inspired you to get into production and why Baltimore club?
Murder Mark: I started to make club music back in 2008. I was never really a fan of club music back in my high school years. I didn’t really like dance music. I though it was soft, lol. I used to produce hip-hop style sample beats during my Poly high school days and I used to rap. After I graduated in 2007, I spent a lot of my time volunteering in a recreation center in Cherry Hill where the kids were big fans of club music. People kinda dared me into making club beats and that’s how it all started. I listened to K-Swift and K.W. Griff on 92Q to hear some of the latest heat and I just studied it.
CB: There’s this grimy, in-your-face element to a lot of your tracks. Who are some of your influences?
MM: My main influences are environments and feelings. Sometimes when I get off of work I just feel frustrated and angry. I want to take it out on someone, lls. When it comes to actual producers, I’m influenced by Timbaland, Pharrell (especially his work with The Clipse), Kanye [West], Outkast…all the top names. Bmore Club Producers…King Tutt, Blaqstarr, Samir, K-Spin, and Say Wut.
CB: It seems like you’re always cookin’ up some fresh tracks in the studio. What was your creative process like for the Party Starter EP and what was it like working with Mike Mike?
MM: Well I always like to use original vocals in a club track when I can. Mike-Mike has been my go to guy for vocals on plenty of 92Q hits. I wanted to make a Bmore Club EP that blends club music with club music songs. All I really did was make the beats and have Mike-Mike say catchy phrases that fit the feel of the beat, then enhance the beat once I had the vocals. I threw a couple fledged songs on there for good measure with the typical verse hook-verse-hook formula as well.
CB: Mike Mike and TT The Artist are featured on many of your tracks. Who are some other artists that you really want to work with?
MM: I would really would want to work with Outkast, Lupe Fiasco, J.Cole, and Kanye West. As you can tell I’m a hip-hop head.
CB: What do you consider to be one of your greatest accomplishments so far?
MM: My Show In Greensboro with DJ Pierre and James Nasty. Getting my music on 92Q. 2010 Best Bmore Club Producer Award by the City Paper.
CB: What can we expect from Murder Mark for the remainder of 2011? Any hints on what you’re working on now?
MM: I’m working on this “She Rockin” project with TT The Artist and this joint is gonna be crazy. Expect to see Murder Mark on tour this summer. This project might take Bmore Club Music to new heights. It might flop, but I hope not. TT is working on a documentary loosely based on Bmore Club Music that I’m gonna be a part of. This film is gonna be huge as well.
CB: Where are we most likely to run into you in Baltimore? What clubs/parties do you hit when you’re not in the studio?
MM: I used to hit Club One but its closed…I used t hit Sonar but its closed as well, lol (Editor’s Note: Sonar has since reopened its doors since the publication of this interview). But I still do hit the Paradox on Friday Nights probably once or twice a month. DJ Big Nasty in the back chamber spinning some of my hottest joints.
CB: Finally, if you HAD to choose, what would you pick as your favorite Baltimore club track of all time?
MM: …Umm….”Cherry Hill and Down Ya Block”…of course, lol. Sike, naw, that’s a hard question. I would choose “Go Pt. 2” by Say Wut. But it all depends on how I’m feeling. I could change my mind by the time you post this interview.
Named Best Club Music Producer in 2007 by the City Paper’s annual Best of Baltimore competition, DJ King Tutt has been on the up and up ever since. Constantly pushing the boundaries of club music, electro-house music, and a fusion of the two, Tutt strives to never let his talents become stale. A strong believer in quality of output, you can only expect the absolute best from his mixes and live performances.
If you’ve been into the Baltimore music scene for a while, you’ve at least gotta know Tutt for his tracks like “Shake My Ass”, “African Chant”, and “The Roof Is On Fire”. Tutt’s been producing tracks since I was twelve years old and playin’ kickball at recess. Okay, so I might be young, but he’s really been in the game so long that he’s become a respected Baltimore institution. After “Shake My Ass” gained the approval of Baltimore club king Scottie B, Tutt became his go-to guy for productions. Scottie B and Tutt quickly formed a dynamic duo and became an untouchable force as prominent DJs and producers for the events and releases of Unruly Records.
Tutt is all about testing his limits in the realm of music. To hear a perfect example of his house/club music hybrid, check out his Evolution EP, released in 2008. There are seven tracks on this EP, but two of them specifically stand out to me: “The Future” and “Black Democrat”. “The Future” touts this, well…, futuristic house music appeal while “Black Democrat” sounds like this epic, Baltimore club march. Juxtaposing these two totally different vibes on Evolution says a lot about Tutt’s confidence in his skills as a DJ and producer.
Last month, he released his latest electro-house mix, Say Hello to the Bad Guy. Nineteen tracks deep, Bad Guy quickly whisks you away to the sunniest of days with its upbeat melodies and steady grooves. One listen to this mix and you’ll quickly find yourself in the right mindset for your evening outing or just coolin’ out at the crib. Check my review of it here, but more importantly, download the mix and listen for yourself! Trust me, you might need the energy for your weekend jumpoff.
If you wanna hear more of Tutt’s house mixes, why don’t you go catch him live and in action this weekend? He’ll be playin’ some records at the Deep Sugar party on Saturday at the Paradox in Baltimore. Dude’s mad busy so don’t sleep on this chance to see him play!
But, I wanted to get to know Tutt a little better so I hit him up with a few questions for Cool Breezy. I’m sharin’ the wealth! Here he talks about Say Hello to the Bad Guy, the state of music in Baltimore, and what it takes to be a good producer.
Cool Breezy: How long have you been in the DJing/producing game and what initially brought you into it?
King Tutt: I started DJing in ‘95 after my father died and producing in ‘99. I used the money that I received to buy my first set of turntables. But, while going through school, I played various instruments and was in the band. My main focus was the percussion section and I was also a drummer. I took classes in music theory, as well. So, basically I was DJing and playing the drums at the same time. I’m one of the few producers and DJs in Baltimore that can actually read and write sheet music. While I was in high school, I worked as a DJ and floor guard at Skateland Orchard in Towson. [That] is where I first start DJing on a regular basis for a large crowd.
CB: Who or what influences your particular style of electro-house music?
KT: For me, I have always had a love for house music. Everybody in Baltimore knows the deep house classics but you never hear new stuff. So when Scottie [B] and me started producing and DJing together [and] by him traveling around the world, he exposed me to what the rest of the world was listening to and I started loving it! So I would, and still do, frequently visit YouTube and search various DJs like David Guetta, Carl Cox, and others to see how DJs are gods overseas. I also have a strong love for good Baltimore club music. So I like to ride the thin line between the two and see how far I can take it. When I’m in my studio, it really depends on how I feel that day and what I’m working with.
CB: Describe the creative process for your most recent mix, Say Hello to the Bad Guy, and what were your goals for the mix?
KT: At least one person a day will ask me for a mix of some sort. So as much as I hate recording myself mix, I decided to start doing it on a frequent basis. First, it starts with satellite radio. Listening to different DJs mix, I kinda study what tracks are [being] played. I choose what songs I like and what I feel are the best songs for me to play with my style of DJing. Then, I will call a couple different DJs and we swap files. After I pick through the all the songs for the mix, I turn the turntables on…and go!
The goal of the mix was for everybody to know that I do DJ! Some people know me for my production and some people know me for my DJing. I want everybody to know that I do both. It was a chance for everybody who hasn’t heard me mix in awhile to see what I have been up to while I’m working on my new EP.
CB: What do you think about the state of music and production in Baltimore right now?
KT: We can talk about this all day!!!! In Baltimore, it’s getting better and worse at the same time. I think all of the serious artists in Baltimore have really stepped their game up in the last couple of years with the level of products that are being released. But I think [there’s] still too many people in this city that take what they do as a hobby or joke. For example, a lot of people come to me to talk about production, but they use terrible equipment. If you’re serious about what you do, you try to get the best possible gear. I have seen producers use the same beginner equipment for their whole career. [There’s] no way possible for you to get [professional] results with beginner equipment! Some rappers in this city don’t even have any type of recording equipment. I think that’s crazy. Another thing that bothers me is that some DJs will play anything and don’t have the heart to tell some artists that the song needs work. I have heard so much garbage on the radio it really kills me. If an artist thinks he or she can just put anything together and expect me to play it, they have another thing coming!
CB: You have a solid reputation in the game. Do you have any advice for present and future DJs and producers?
KT: Study what you love! Don’t be in a rush for people to hear your work. If you’re good, it will come out eventually. Don’ t be afraid to be different. Lastly, if this is want you wanna do, spend money! Anything that is cheap, is cheap for a reason!
CB: So, what do you do when you’re not playing records and producing tracks?
KT: A lot of people don’t know that I’m a police officer. So basically, I work all day!!!! On my rare off days, I try to spend as much time with my family as I can. I’m a movie and TV dude too. I can watch the discovery channel and the Bourne Trilogy all day! I recently just brought a ps3 also, so let’s see how this works out with that.