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Scottie B and Baltimore Club | Print |  E-mail
Written by Patrick Bernard   
Wednesday, 03 May 2006

Baltimore Club music is raw. Ol’ Dirty Bastard raw. Like eating hamburger that has not been cooked, teeth clenched into the meat as blood drips down your chin, raw. On the day I talk with Scottie B, the 38-year-old pioneer of the scene, he tells me he woke up at 6 a.m. to go buy a new pair of Air Force Ones. This, he sheepishly says over the phone, is the reason he missed my call in the morning. B-more Club music prides itself on being rough, rugged. It’s nothing if not unpretentious.

“Pussy records or fighting records,” Scottie B describes the early “Baltimore Club” sound. It was music made strictly for the clubs, inspired by the people who inhabit them.

“The DJ was an extension of the crowd,” Scottie B says, “and there was a lot of nonsense going on at these clubs, from fist fights to cheating, so the sound was made as a reflection of that.”

This is the kind of primal music that makes you either want to dance or punch someone in the face. It exists off emotion, in the way that punk rock aimed to before it became nothing more than a fashion statement.

The sound was developed in the early 1990s by DJs such as Scottie B, Frank-Ski, Miss Tony and DJ Spen. The city’s DJs were known for their ability to mix any style of music, and out of this developed a hybrid of hip-hop, house, club and hip-house. The sound is exemplified by an 8/4 beat structure, a tempo that ranges from 126 to 130 beats per minute. There might be sampled break beats of the songs “Sing Sing” by Gaz and “Think” by Lyn Collins and James Brown, repetitive hooks of well known hip-hop and R&B songs, as well as the use of weird pop culture references—anything from “South Park” to the theme song from “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Of course, most notably, there’s the kind of raw sex talk that would make Luke from 2 Live Crew blush and Bill O’Reilly’s head explode.

Scottie B himself could be described as the king of B-more Club, or maybe the dad of the scene, a man who always deserves respect and, of course, the biggest piece of steak at the dinner table. “It was about 1989-90 when it really started to start, and people started looping shit,” he says. “Frank-Ski did the same thing with ‘Doo Doo Brown’ (the 2 Live Crew booty bass song), we just started looping our favorite songs, and that’s how it started.”

Besides being one of the pioneers of the scene and a top-notch DJ and producer, Scottie B runs one of the most successful B-more Club record labels, Unruly Records (, with his partner, Shawn Caesar. Since 1994, they have been putting out the best releases in B-more Club, and their label roster now reads like a Who’s Who of the scene, with artists such as Rod Lee, Blaqsarr, KW Griff, and K-Swiftt. Unruly is also leading the genre into the next generation and influencing a new throng of B-more Club listeners with releases from newcomers Say Whut and Debonair Samir. Samir made noise this year with his extremely clever remake of “South Park”’s Cartman singing a song about how his friend’s Kyle’s mom is a “big fat bitch.” When asked to name some of the best up-and-coming B-more producers, Scottie B was quick to name Say Whut first as someone to watch out for.

The genre itself is an oddity. It’s so popular in Baltimore that it could be considered that region’s pop music, enjoyed by everyone from suburban white girls driving Volvos to dudes so hard they make Omar from HBO’s “The Wire” look soft. But Scottie B says that New York originally wanted nothing to do with the music, and it was actually Philly DJs who first started incorporating the B-more Club sound into their sets. Although the music transcends race, it’s also interesting to note Scottie B had never played for a white crowd until a recent first-time gig in New York City, and this is a man who’s been DJing since 1986. He admitted he couldn’t figure out what the crowd wanted to hear for the first 30 minutes of his set.
“They didn’t react to the same songs that a Baltimore crowd would have,” he says. Like any good DJ, he figured it out and showed the crowd what he was all about.

This leads to another interesting point. No matter how popular B-more Club was in Baltimore, the sound was essentially ignored by the rest of the country throughout the 1990s. It was not until the Hollertronix DJs of Diplo and Low Budget used B-more club in their all-dance-music genre mixes—everything from crunk, electro, B-more Club and ’80s—that New York finally jumped onto the bandwagon.

Major labels have fnally taken notice of the sound, too, most notably with release of the Gwen Stefani “Hollaback Girl” remix 12-inch by Diplo, which is in done in B-more club style. Scottie B himself sees the future of B-more Club as being the brightest it ever has.

“I see it being more universal instead of just regional,” he says, “ I see the sound as a kaleidoscope now. I don’t want to say these new DJs are imitating, but it is rather (a) reinterpretation (of) what they want the sound to be, and that is just a progression of our sound, which we started as a reinterpretation of the music we were listening to at the time.”

As for his place in B-more Club, he is humble about it. “I don’t need to be the best anymore,” he says, “but I want people to at least recognize my place within the scene.”

His place? Scottie B has accomplished what every other DJ aspires to: he’ll forever be known as the innovator of a musical genre that transformed a regional sound into a style that now influences countless DJs worldwide.


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