Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We did it! My book, Tough Breaks: The Story of Baltimore Club Music, reached its $5,000 fundraising goal on today. For most of the last 5 weeks it wasn't even halfway to the goal, but thanks to some very generous 11th hour backers it got to where it needed to be in time. The page will still be open for pledges until about 9pm EST tomorrow (Thursday) night, and every little bit helps make the whole project bigger and better, so please feel free to still donate if you want, there's no limit on how high it can go past the initial goal. I owe a huge huge thanks to all of my 39 backers, some of whom are family and friends and peers in the music community, some of whom I don't know but really appreciate their support.

Now comes the really hard part: actually completing and releasing the book. There's a lot to still be settled on the business end, but my hope is to have it completely finished with the research and writing by the end of 2010, and have the book on sale at some point in 2011, although it's difficult at this early juncture to be any more specific than that. But I'm looking into some really great opportunities to make this all as big and as great as it can possibly be and give the project a whole life beyond the book. Just as there have been the past few weeks, there will be more print articles and radio appearances and online promotions between now and the book's release, along with events, the cool rewards some of the Kickstarter backers signed up for and all sorts of other stuff I don't want to spoil just yet but could be really really awesome. I'm gonna take a breather for a minute and just wipe my brow with relief, but the progress of this whole project will continue to be documented on Thank you!!

It's been a while since I've been a judge at a rap battle, but I'll be making my return to the judges' table for Speaker Boxin' 6 at Sonar next Saturday, July 10th, should be fun.

The 2010 Remix Report Card, Vol. 6

Monday, June 28, 2010
"Billionaire (Remix)" by Travie McCoy featuring Gucci Mane, T-Pain and Bruno Mars
As perfunctory and half-hearted a remix as there's ever been, changing up the beat slightly and adding some guests to attract urban radio spins that it won't get either way, with one of the verses from the original getting recycled to open it up. Even Gucci just throws a relatively bland 12 bars on here where the most eventful thing is that he says "freakin' bad" as opposed to Bruno Mars's "frickin' bad."
Best Verse: T-Pain
Overall Grade: D

"Hard In The Paint (Remix)" by Waka Flocka Flame featuring Gucci Mane
The first couple times I heard Waka Flocka I thought he sounded like Bone Crusher, then "O Let's Do It" made me figure that impression was probably wrong. I get that vibe again from this song, though. Don't feel real strong either way about this song or the remix, I like that Gucci sometimes tries an uncharacteristic doubletime, but it doesn't totally work here.
Best Verse: Gucci Mane
Overall Grade: C

"Pretty Boy Swag (Remix)" by Soulja Boy Tell 'Em featuring Gucci Mane
As you can see, this month's RRC is practically a rerun of about a year ago when Gucci Mane got out of jail and instantly dominated the remix circuit. Looking forward to him killing some good songs, but for now he's just guesting on junk like this. I think his "new Lambo" line was quoted too many times by the time I actually heard it for me to enjoy it at all, and the song is just over on the wrong side of Soulja Boy obnoxiousness for me to get into, which is a shame because I really liked "Gucci Bandana."
Best Verse: Gucci Mane
Overall Grade: B-

"Ride (Remix)" by Ciara featuring Andre 3000 and Bei Maejor
The original "Ride" is one of my least favorite songs of the year, but this is a total improvement just by replacing that sluggish synth fart beat with something much breezier. No idea who this Bei Maejor cat is, but he leaves no real impression and Andre kinda blows through one of his four verses a year without doing much of note.
Best Verse: Andre 3000
Overall Grade: B

"Tightrope (Wondamix)" by Janelle Monáe featuring B.o.B. and Lupe Fiasco
This lineup is appropriate since I'd been thinking lately about how one of the most critically acclaimed new artists of the year and one of the most critically reviled (Monae and B.o.B., respectively) both basically got their whole style from later bad idea jeans-era Outkast. This is aight, but really it just takes away a lot of whatever charm the song had to begin with.
Best Verse: Lupe Fiasco
Overall Grade: C

"Window Seat (Remix)" by Erykah Badu featuring Rick Ross
This seemed like a goofy idea on paper but Ross, who will rap on pretty much any damn thing at this point, make it sound like just another one of his plush R&B tracks, for better or worse. And even though he just simplifies the song and talks about being on a plane, the flow is pretty good, it works.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B

"XXXO (Remix)" by M.I.A. featuring Jay-Z
I mainly checked this out for the thrill of hearing Jay-Z rap over a beat co-produced by Baltimore club producer Blaqstarr, but it's not the best work from either so it's only any fun on a conceptual level.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C-

Saturday, June 26, 2010

This month on the Baltimore City Paper's Noise blog, I wrote live reviews of We Used To Be Family/Yukon/Lands & Peoples @ the Metro Gallery, the Out Of Your Head Collective @ the Windup Space, Kadman/Israel Darling/The Foreign Press @ Velvet Lounge, and Medications/Deleted Scenes @ the Sidebar.

Movie Diary

Friday, June 25, 2010
a) GasLand
I can be as weary of lefty issue-driven documentaries as anybody, and at first I didn't like the kind of dry artsy vibe of the director's visual aesthetic and voiceover. But I'm really glad I watched this because it really made me genuinely angry and shocked about something that's apparently been going on for years, and as a film it ended up holding up pretty well and staying riveting right through the end. I really hope this stirs some shit up and sets about some change in what the natural gas industry is getting away with. I feel like in a decade or two you'll be able to stock a whole film festival with movies explaining all the different horrible shit Dick Cheney is responsible for.

b) Clash Of The Titans
Took the wife to see this as an anniversary date, and she's enough of a Greek myth geek and fan of the original that she was somewhat disappointed in it, whereas I had no particular expectations and found myself really enjoying it. They fudge the mythology and make the story even more ridiculous, but in general it was just light enough and kind of worked. Plus they threw a bone to people like me who thought the mechanical owl was the coolest thing about the original. If you only see Gemma Arterton looking superhot in one swords'n'sandals epic this year, make it this one. I mean, just don't see Prince of Persia as a rule, regardless.

c) Pandorum
I don't even remember this movie ever coming out, so it was kind of a pleasant surprise to watch on cable and realize it was a pretty decent mid-sized sci-fi movie. The whole 'space madness' hook is a little played out but a lot of the premise was otherwise fairly creative, and it had a pretty good look and atmosphere.

d) Julie & Julia
The wife was watching this and I was ready to be all 'lol a blog turned into a movie,' but it was actually pretty involving. And, embarrassing as it is to admit, I thought the movie did a pretty good job of demonstrating how throwing yourself into a blog or a writing project can be a really fun way to explore an interest and reach out to likeminded individuals, and used a relative minimum of really tedious scenes of someone sitting at a computer to accomplish that.

e) The Proposal
I thought this had potential to be a decent rom com, but it turns out it's basically 90 minutes of Sandra Bullock being Ben Stiller in Meet The Parents with a lot of stupid transparent setups for corny embarrassment humor.

f) The Hangover
I'm still kind of mystified by how huge this movie was, like, it was pretty funny, and I feel like they knew when to escalate the premise in crazy ways (although, let's be honest, it's the same plot as Dude, Where's My Car? basically). But I mean like how did this movie blow up so instantly? I love Zach Galifianakis but I never expected him to be in a hit movie.

g) X-Men Origins: Wolverine
I'm generally a fan of the X-Men movie franchise, and am kinda pissed that Ratner ran it into the ground with the third installment, but spinoffs focusing on one character are a way better idea on paper than in practice. Even with a bunch of other mutants in the mix, this just feels kinda empty and dull compared to the other movies, or maybe I'm just not that big a fan of Wolverine? I feel like his origin story is only worth looking at as a quick flashback, fleshing it out with a whole movie is kind of a drag.

h) Monsters Vs. Aliens
This was pretty decent, cute idea and good voice cast, probably my favorite computer animated DreamWorks movie, but that doesn't really mean much coming from me.

i) Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Another non-Pixar computer animation that I like more than average, but still not all that much. At least Queen Latifah isn't in this movie as much as the 2nd one, though, she's seriously a comedy killer. Even with the way they explain the Dinosaurs I hate the fucked chronology implied by the title. The character voiced by Simon Pegg is pretty funny.

j) Choke
I like Clark Gregg as an actor, so I kinda wanted his directorial debut to be better than it was, although maybe a lot of my problems with it were from Palahniuk's story. Sam Rockwell's always enjoyable, though, and it had its moments.

k) Vicki Cristina Barcelona
The only difference between Woody Allen's critically acclaimed movies and his badly reviewed ones these days is that the former piss me off more just because I'm amazed people like them. This came out right after the absolutely terrible Cassandra's Dream, and has virtually all of the same problems and is only the slightest bit more enjoyable, but made a ton more money and got a ton more awards and good reviews. The movie kind of fills up with life when Penelope Cruz shows up, but that's like an hour into the movie and most of what comes before that is incredibly drab and dull, no matter how sexy or intriguing or thought-provoking it attempts to be.

l) Alpha Dog
This is the kind of movie that looks good in the trailer, but then you watch it and realize that they give you pretty much the entire story in the trailer, save for the very last (predictable) plot point, which is kind of frustrating. Trailer editors need to show more restraint these days.

m) Bigger Than The Sky
Very enjoyable little film, I love things like this that capture a small town vibe in a really evocative way.

n) Her Minor Thing
This is one of the most inept movies I've ever seen, but it stars onetime supermodel Estella Warren and she is still insanely hot so I watched it for a while.

o) Dark City
I think people who are convinced that The Matrix or Inception totally ripped this movie off need to chill, but I totally understand where those comparisons come from, and I really do wish this had been a big hit instead of The Matrix. Really great visual effects, nice noir vibe, some corny dialogue/plot stuff but not really moreso than with most sci-fi movies along these lines.

p) The Last Unicorn
My wife had talked about loving this movie for years and I thought it was some "My Little Pony" kinda thing, but then one day she was watching it and it's by the same people that did the animated The Hobbit and it's not bad, really.

Thursday, June 24, 2010
A bunch of new Singles Jukebox blurbs and scores:

B.o.B. ft. TI & Playboy Tre – Bet I [7/6.22]
B.o.B. ft. Hayley Williams – Airplanes [4/4.92]
Ciara ft. Ludacris – Ride [3/6.38]
Nivea – Love Hurts [3/5.38]
Diddy Dirty Money – Hello Good Morning [5/4.8]
Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg – California Gurls [8/4.93]
Lloyd Banks ft. Juelz Santana – Beamer, Benz or Bentley [7/5.89]
Young Jeezy ft. Plies – Lose My Mind [8/6.29]
8Ball & MJG ft. Young Dro – Bring It Back [6/6.33]
Alicia Keys – Un-Thinkable (I’m Ready) [5/5.4]
Toni Braxton – Hands Tied [6/5.78]
Travie McCoy ft. Bruno Mars – Billionaire [3/4]
Kanye West – Power [2/6.3]
MIA – XXXO [5/5.89]
Miley Cyrus – Can’t Be Tamed [2/4.42]
Trey Songz – Neighbours Know My Name [3/5.67]
Sade – Baby Father [7/6.5]
Young Money – Roger That [4/5.17]

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This week in the Baltimore City Paper I have a feature about Tony Austin, the former Def Jam A&R and Russell Simmons Music Group president who recently began a career as a rapper and released the DJ Drama mixtape Gangsta Grillz: The Influence.

(photo by Mark Henry)

Tough Breaks Update: Kickstarter, WYPR, The Club Beat Archive, DJ Class, etc.

Friday, June 18, 2010

It's time for a quick update on Tough Breaks: The Story of Baltimore Club Music, the book that I announced a few weeks ago that I'm in the process of writing:

- The Tough Breaks page on the fundraising website is now less than 2 weeks away from the donation deadline. I've already gotten more than 1/3rd toward the project's $5,000.00 goal, and can't thank the people that have pledged already enough, I'm so grateful to you all. But that still leaves a long way to go and time is quickly running out. I want to quickly stress: Kickstarter pledges aren't charged unless I meet the goal, and won't be charged until the July 1st deadline, so please pledge as soon as possible if you know how much you'll be able to pledge! Every little bit counts and no amount is too small (well, there's a $5 minimum, but still), and if you look at the list of rewards I've offered on Kickstarter, there might be something cool you're willing to pledge the minimum for (just $10 gets you personally thanked in the book itself, for instance, and there are much more interesting rewards for higher amounts). I'd love for everyone to pledge as much as they can by next Thursday, June 24th, just to not wait until the last minute, and leave a week to make up any remaining difference. The Kickstarter page for my project has lots of handy links to post about Tough Breaks on your Facebook or Twitter, or post widgets like the one at the top of this post on your blog, so please spread the word even if you can't donate!

- The interview with DJ Booman and myself that aired on WYPR's Maryland Morning last week is now streaming online, and features lots of talk about the book and the history of Baltimore club music, along with some club classics handpicked by Booman and a special new track he made for the occasion.

- On the official site for the book,, I assembled a handy guide to The Club Beat, the monthly column about club music that I've been writing for the Baltimore City Paper's Noise blog since 2007, with links to all 26 installments, including dozens of interviews with DJs and producers in the scene both big and small, legends and up-and-comers, and year-end lists of the hottest club tracks of the past three years. This stuff won't be in Tough Breaks, but will give you a good idea of what the book will be like and who will be featured in it.

- I've also started blogging about current Baltimore club happenings on the Tough Breaks site, starting with a piece about DJ Class's recent forays into pop music like his new song with "The Situation" from Jersey Shore.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mania Music Group, a Baltimore hip hop label I've spent the last couple years following and writing about a lot, released their first official album, Welcome To The Audience, yesterday, and since they'd given me an advance copy I got to write an extensive preview of the album for Splice Today.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I reviewed the Gary B & The Notions album New Twist & Shout for

Narrowcast Officially Endorses a Candidate for DEWmocracy 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

One of the very first posts on this blog years ago was about how I get weirdly geeked out about new and/or limited edition soda flavors, so of course I got irrationally excited about Mountain Dew's latest DEWmocracy promotion, in which customers vote for one of 3 new flavors to become permanently available. And I mean, like, I got a 12-pack of each and really thought about which soda I wanted to root for. I don't even drink regular Mountain Dew that often (although I'm not revolted by it like some people, it just isn't a great everyday soda in my opinion), but I appreciate that the brand is always throwing goofy new ideas at the wall.

Interestingly, my opinions of these flavors diverged pretty widely from my expectations. The one I was immediately most interested in, and bought first, was Distortion, the "lime blasted" green Dew, since I've always been into putting a slice of lime in soda when it's available. And it was alright, but really not that different from the original. Then, I tried White Out, the "smooth citrus" Dew, and it really just isn't as good in theory as what I imagined it would taste like. I thought it'd be really light and refreshing, but it's just kind of acidic and bland. Surprisingly, it was Typhoon, the "punch of tropical" Dew that I ended up really liking. Even my wife, who usually doesn't drink Mountain Dew, really loved it.

So I finally got around to going to the DEWmocracy website and voting, and it turns out that voting closes at midnight on Monday night, and Typhoon is trailing White Out by a few points (unsurprisingly, Distortion is doing Ross Perot numbers). Hilariously, MD even did a electoral map showing which states favor which soda, and the map is all white, with only 5 red states and just Oklahoma going for Distortion. So I'm preparing myself for the disappointment of Typhoon probably narrowly losing this context and disappearing from store shelves (in anyone knows any stores in Maryland that still have it in stock, seriously, let me know), but I thought I would say something here, since I so rarely discuss politics.

Monthly Report: May Albums

Friday, June 11, 2010

1. Scarface - Dopeman Music
Scarface is such a singular figure even among other aging rap legends that it makes a certain sense that he often gets away with the kinds of things that tend to tarnish the legacies of others or make them seem out of touch or not worth paying attention to: repeatedly promising his retirement and then continuing to make albums, talking about starting a rock band, using his clout to put out tons of group and compilation albums that seem to exist primarily for the benefit of his unknown proteges and labelmates (or the other Geto Boys). Add to that list: making an extremely late entry into the world mixtapes in a way that kind of misses the point of mixtapes. And yet, once again, Scarface manages to make it work for him and comes out smelling like a rose. This seems like more of a ‘street album’ made as an excuse to do something outside of the Rap-A-Lot machinery, and about half the songs feature verses by unremarkable but by no means bad sidekicks named B. James and Monk Kaza. Still, the production is solid and Face is still rapping like Face, so it’s good. It’s actually kind of nice to hear a deliberately ‘minor’ Scarface record.

2. Young Jeezy - Trap Or Die II (By Any Means Necessary)
On some level I do realize that what Jeezy does isn't rocket science and that he can turn out records like this in his sleep, but in an era when no other A list rapper seems to know what they do well or stay in their lane, that kind of consistency is something to appreciate. Really the beats on this mixtape are so killer that if you put this on and told me it was the new album, I'd say well I don't hear a lot of potential singles but this is a solid follow-up to The Recession. I kinda hate that once Tom's Pitchfork review pointed out that it's a bit frontloaded now I actually notice the quality dropping off toward the end, because for a while there I was like holy shit this whole thing is incredible.

3. The New Pornographers - Together
I’m very much a casual fan of these guys -- haven’t listened to the members’ other bands, only checked out the first couple albums in the past year after having a few songs I loved from Mass Romantic for years and years. So I don’t know how this really fits in their catalog or compares to the two albums that preceded it, but it feels kind of fresh and not totally predictable to me based on their early stuff, which is nice. I’m especially liking the strings. On the Singles Jukebox I quipped about their single not being as good an ELO pastiche as the one(s) on Butch Walker’s album, but all in all this makes a good companion to that record, which is probably my favorite album of the year so far, although I don't like this quite as much as that.

4. UNKLE - Where Did the Night Fall
I've been following the Baltimore band Lake Trout for over a decade, and they've kind of had an interesting trajectory; at one point they got really good at doing live versions of drum'n'bass and electronic music, even covered songs by Aphex Twin and Amon Tobin. And while they drifted toward more of a rock sound later on, some of the members of the band (the three that are also in Big In Japan) ended up becoming part of the touring band for an actual semi-big electronic act, UNKLE. And now their bassist, James Griffith, is also pretty much part of the team that makes UNKLE's studio records, too, and it's fun to hear a vague Lake Trout-ish sound all over this album, as well as a few Baltimore guests (Katrina Ford from Celebration sings one song and the other members of Big In Japan play on another). I was never really that into Psyence Fiction but loved a few of UNKLE's early singles and remixes before DJ Shadow got involved, so it's cool to hear what Lavelle's up to now.

5. Reflection Eternal - Revolutions Per Minute
I'm still a stan for Train Of Thought and Kweli's other early records, which is kinda weird since I was never really a big Rawkus dude, he was kind of my token backpacker rapper to champion even though a lot of people think he's wack. And nowadays, well, he is kind of wack, and Hi Tek's production isn't quite what it used to be, so this is an object lesson in why you shouldn't take 10 years to follow-up a good album, but I actually do enjoy a few songs on this a lot. Can you imagine how wack the 2nd Black Star album will be once it finally happens in 2018, though?

Monthly Report: May Singles

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

1. Katy Perry f/ Snoop Dogg - “California Gurls”
You can’t really uphold any principles or standards with pop music, or force your expectations on it. Katy Perry has a horrendous voice and singing style, a completely corny image and sense of humor, and such an utter lack of personality that she’s actually even harder to like when she’s just talking, but none of that matters because she’s super hot and has a team of experts crafting surefire hits for her, some of which are actually good songs. “Hot N Cold” already broke down my resistence to accepting the fact that sometimes Katy Perry gets a winner, and this one has just tramped all over it. Totally generic, calculated summer jam, but a summer jam nonetheless.

2. Sick Puppies - “Odd One”
I occasionally channel surf to Fuse, the music video channel where I’m more likely to see random major label alt-rock bands I wouldn’t know exist otherwise, and for months that was the only place I’d see this video. But then more recently I started to hear it on the radio and the song really grew on me, has a nice serene vibe that I wasn’t really expecting from a band called Sick Puppies.

3. Erykah Badu - “Window Seat”
I was pretty so-so on this song when it first came out, and for a while that might have been partly because of my aversion to the corny publicity stunt video. But after a few months of hearing it both in the context of the album and occasionally on the radio, I’ve really come to love it.

4. Trae f/ Lil Wayne and Rick Ross - “Inkredible”
It’s kind of frustrating how there are dope rappers like Trae that are in a weird semi-underground midde tier of rap where they’re easily big enough to do songs with Wayne and Ross, but will only really get played on MTV Jams much if they do a video for a song with those guys. Still, this is pretty dope and it’s good to see on MTV Jams now and a then, especially because it doesn’t sound like a single in any sense other than that it has big name guests (who are both better than average here), just a crazy spiralling string-driven and the producer (Mr. Inkredible, who is confusingly not the same thing as The Inkredibles, who’ve worked with a lot of the same artists) dropping his name between verses.

5. Say Anything - “Do Better”
Say Anything is my favorite rock band of the last few years that has had a reasonable shot at major success, that I’ve actually rooted for getting a platinum plaque someday, that just hasn’t been able to make it work. And that hasn’t felt like so much of a disappointment only because they’ve continued to make great songs, and have mostly released weak and unrepresentative singles that I wouldn’t want to be hits anyway. I’m not sure why they seem to have given up on breaking through on rock radio and keep releasing drum machine and synth-heavy songs like “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too” and “Baby Girl, I’m A Blur” as singles -- emo electro is riding high on the pop charts, but Say Anything isn’t fratty enough to get a 3OH!3 or Cobra Starship-style obnoxious party hit, or soft enough to get a gooey synth ballad hit like Hellogoodbye or Owl City (well, maybe if they’d released “Crush’d” as a single). Now they’ve finally released a pretty great song as a single, but it’s still in an awkward aesthetic middle ground where no radio format will play it, but I’m happy they’re pushing a good one for once.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Parts & Labor and Soft Power, May 13 at the Black Cat

It hasn’t been that long since New York noise rockers Parts & Labor last released an album, less than 2 years in fact. But they kept such a breakneck pace from 2006 to 2008, with constant tours, three full-length albums and a couple EPs, that their recent downtime, which included lineup changes and side projects, felt like more of a hiatus than it really was. So it was exciting to see the band back in action and not at all rusty on Thursday night in Washington, as part of a brief run of east coast dates with D.C.’s own Soft Power.

Thankfully, it can’t be much longer before Parts & Labor to release a new album, since the meat of their set consisted of new songs, which combined synth skronk, punk rock rhythm section dynamics, and anthemic choruses as delightfully as on previous records. The band bookended their set on the Black Cat’s small downstair stage with more familiar material, opening with one of their best known singles, “The Gold We’re Digging,” and finishing with a trio of songs from 2007’s Mapmaker and 2008’s Recievers. “Fractured Skies” didn’t quite live up to its potential without the horn section of the song’s studio version, but still sounded fantastic, while the midtempo “Wedding In A Wasteland” felt almost like a majestic power ballad in the context of the band’s faster material.

In its current trio lineup, Parts & Labor is less heavy on guitar live than on record, with Dan Friel mostly sticking to a bank of synthesizers and effects, while bassist B.J. Warshaw and drummer Joe Wong bring the thunder behind the band’s signature noise attack. But for the last song of their 40-minute set, “Nowheres Nigh,” they drafted Mary Timony from Soft Power to guest on guitar, which brought a welcome additional texture to the proceedings.

Timony, a D.C. native who returned to Washington a few years ago, has been an indie rock vet since fronting the Boston band Helium back in the ‘90s. And Soft Power, which she formed last year after several solo albums, is such an apt band name that it could describe almost any of Timony’s projects over the years: gentle yet strong, feminine and masculine in equal measure. Like her previous bands, Soft Power punches up its indie rock with classic rock grandiosity and proggy alternate tunings and time signatures. Bassist Jonah Takagi sang about half of the songs in the band’s set, but seemed shy and noncommital in front of the microphone, in sharp contrast to the effortless charisma of Timony’s calm, almost deadpan vocals. And though she may enjoy sharing the spotlight with a bandmate, Soft Power can’t help but suffer by not letting the more confident Timony take the lead more often.

Tough Breaks Update: Words. Beats. Life, WYPR, Kickstarter and more

Friday, June 04, 2010

It’s been about a week since I announced Tough Breaks: The Story of Baltimore Club Music and launched the official website, and I just wanted to put together a quick update of some things going on related to the project:

- The new issue of Words.Beats.Life: The Global Journal of Hip Hop Culture has just been published, and features an article I wrote about Baltimore club music. The Washington, D.C.-based peer-reviewed academic periodical asked me a while back to contribute to its Sex Issue, and the piece I wrote is titled “Sex In This Club: Gender And Sexuality in Baltimore Club Music.” It touches on the sexually explicit nature of Baltimore club lyrics, gender dynamics in the club community, and the role that female and gay musicians have played in the scene over the years, focusing on the late Khia “Club Queen K-Swift” Edgerton and the late Anthony “Miss Tony” Boston. The piece also features previously unpublished quotes from my personal interview archive from people like Ron “Dukeyman” Hall, 2 Hyped Brothers & A Dog producer Al “T” McLaran, and Club Queen Entertainment staffers Buck Jones, Lady Pitbull and Crystal Tennessee. Although the article, like my other freelance works, won’t appear in Tough Breaks, it can be considered something of a preview of one of the topics that will be explored further in the book. More information on Words. Beats. Life and how to pick up a copy of the new issue is available at

- Baltimore club veteran DJ Booman and I recently taped a segment as guests of Baltimore public radio station WYPR 88.1FM, which will air next Monday, June 7th on Maryland Morning. In the 10-15 minute segment, WYPR’s Tom Hall interviews Booman and I about the early days of Baltimore club music and we get a bit into the history and the culture of the scene and the music, and Booman produced a special track for the occasion that should be fun for everyone to hear. The piece will air between 9:30 and 10am on Monday morning, but should also be available to stream on the WYPR site,

- The page for Tough Breaks on fundraising website has gotten off to a great start since its launch last week. In its first 7 days, the project has raised over $1,400 towards its $5,000 goal. There's almost a month between now and the July 1st deadline, but there's a lot still left to raise, and I hope anyone who hasn't already is considering even a small pledge, because if we don't reach the goal by then, none of the donations go through.

- The Tough Breaks announcement has been posted on a number of sites and blogs, including Unruly Records,, My Baltimore Diary and D.C. Mumbo Sauce, in addition to countless Twitter and Facebook postings. Thank you to everyone, please keep spreading the word!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

This week the Baltimore City Paper ran a cover story written by Jaye Hunnie about Keys, the female rapper who came to fame a couple months ago with a YouTube diss of Nicki Minaj. Alongside Jaye's lengthy article is my brief review of Keys's mixtape, Infiltration, and interestingly today it seems like all the feedback is about what I wrote, including a lengthy comments thread on the CP site, chatter on my Twitter, and people sending me personal messages on Facebook about how I'm 40 years old and shouldn't be writing about hip hop. Previously I'd only once briefly made a reference to Keys on Government Names, and had for the most part not written anything publicly about her because, to be honest, I was hoping this whole thing would blow over. I've long been a major supporter of the dozens of talented female rappers in Baltimore, and wrote a big CP story, Ladies First, about that part of the local hip hop scene 3 years ago, so to be honest I was just kind of bewildered that someone who wasn't any more talented than a lot of those artists who've been making records and doing shows for years got all this publicity the easy way, dissing a major label artist. Some people have made this out to be a personal vendetta or have implied that I've met Keys or have some kind of personal history there, but it's all just me being a music fan and calling it as I see it. I hope all this hubbub motivates some people who aren't already drinking the Kool-Aid to download Infiltration and call it as they see it, because seriously, it ain't all that. I hear 30 mixtapes as good as this or better out of Baltimore every year.

(photo by Rarah)

TV Diary

Tuesday, June 01, 2010
a) "100 Questions"
I always have a morbid curiosity about doomed shows that networks dump into their summer schedule, partly because there isn't a whole other slate of competing new shows to worry about. And this one, which NBC quietly put on Thursdays the week after all the regular shows had their finales, is pretty dire. But in a weird way, I swear it's a total "How I Met Your Mother" knockoff, which is funny enough considering that show doesn't seem big or old enough yet to inspire imitators. But really, the high concept framing device, the constant flashbacks, the style of humor, even the laugh track added to the pre-taped show format (which "HIMYM" is probably the only show to successfully pull off), all echo it. Of course, "How" has a great cast and this really doesn't, especially because of the deeply funny British female lead, but David Walton, who was also really funny in Fired Up!, is the show's one redeeming factor. Hopefully he'll get in on something better the next pilot season.

b) "The Good Guys"
Bradley Whitford was always the most game to tip the comedy on "The West Wing" into slapstick territory, and dude was in friggin' Billy Madison, so it's not shocking to see him in a goofball FOX show like this, but still a little amusing. I enjoyed the pilot, but honestly this kind of cop show satire is so overdone, and not particularly fresh here, that this exact same show could've been done with a different cast at just about any point in the last 20 years and look/feel more or less identical. And it would've been short-lived in any of those imaginary past iterations just like it'll probably be short-lived now. For the time being, though, nice to see the incredibly hot Jenny Wade from "Reaper" back on TV.

c) "Treme"
It's weird, even though I can't say I love this show so far, I'm glad it's been picked up already for a 2nd season, because I feel like it's gonna need a while for the actors and writers to really sink their teeth into those characters and get shake off some of this freshman awkwardness. It's such a low key, character-driven show that they just need to find a groove and actually feel like a low key, character-driven show instead of a kind of lethargic follow-up to "The Wire."

d) "Parenthood"
This show ended up having a pretty solid, promising first half-season. I kinda hated where they took the plot in the last few episodes with the two cousins fighting over a boy, though, it felt kind of sudden and forced compared to the show's other slow-burning storylines.

e) "The New Adventures of Old Christine"
Pretty rough that Wanda Sykes just got 2 shows cancelled at the same time, although I think I was one of the only people still watching and enjoying this one, which kinda puttered along for 5 seasons (while only making 88 episodes) after initial Emmy nominations and hype about Julia Louis-Dreyfuss breaking the 'Seinfeld curse.' This show really had a nice, unique rhythm and kind of ruthless attitude towards its own characters that I liked, though. If it doesn't get picked up by ABC, which is apparently a possibility, I hope Hamish Linklater and Clark Gregg get some good career opportunies now.

f) "Lost"
I was never one of the super analytical "Lost" fans who wanted every question answered, but man, they really didn't even try with that finale, did they? I probably would've been more mad, but that Alison Janney island origins episode was one of the worst hours of television I've ever seen a major series air, and really pretty much broke my spirit and gave me some pretty low expectations for the end (which it still didn't live up to, but still). I still feel pretty good about the show as a whole and may re-watch the first 5 seasons again someday, but this year was pretty much a wash.