For the uninitiated, the definition of Baltimore club music can be a hazy one. Hard-dance beats underneath equally hard raps peppered with hip-hop and R&B loops, Baltimore's inner-city sound is serious about making you dance.
"It goes back, back before Baltimore club records were even being made," remembers DJ/producer Aaron LaCrate of his hometown's nightlife history. He's fresh from supporting UK pop queen Lily Allen on her first American tour and in a reflective mood. "In the early '80s, Baltimore's nightclub scene was flourishing," he says. "There were a lot of different options. DJs were playing a mix of Chicago house, New York house, Miami bass and a lot of UK breakbeat records. That's what was big in the ghettos of Baltimore. That's kind of the genesis of the Baltimore club scene, that weird blend of crazy hard-dance records for a really diverse crowd."
Having been a part of that scene since age 13, LaCrate carved himself an enviable position in the DJ scene. He's regularly spinning high-profile parties from London to Japan while scoring remixing gigs for pals like Allen. Meanwhile, he maintains a fierce allegiance to his hometown, personified in his patented "gutter music" sound.
"I've always kept in touch with the original guys like Scottie B," he says of the Baltimore club first-wave elite. "I was the one kid much younger than them who was traveling all of the time while they would stay home. I would report back to them how much people in London loved their music. It started with Scottie and I putting out a record, and then me getting involved with people like Spank Rock, Amanda Blank and DJ Low Budget from Hollertronix. The whole idea was just my way to bridge the gap between the old school and the younger generation."
In regard to his own productions, LaCrate hooked up with Baltimore producer Debonair Samir to make his signature single "Blow," which came together in record time: "From beginning to end, that song took about 15 minutes to make. Samir and I wrote and recorded the track in Reason and then laid everything out in Pro Tools. The vocal parts were chopped up in Cool Edit. I ended up signing Samir to be the in-house producer for my label, Milkcrate Records. I'm a DJ, and I know how I want things to sound. He's got the more technical aspects covered."
For 2007, LaCrate wants to "take the Baltimore sound even further," he says. (Look for LaCrate's hip-hop comp this February on Koch, B-More Club Crack.) "I'm not just about looping up breaks. There's a whole new genre of uptempo dance music happening all over the world, and this city is a large part of that. "—Scott T. Sterling