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!!

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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.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Here's Bossman's new video for the Gov't Names favorite (haha) "All Over U."

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Monday, June 28, 2010

CJ Hilton - "We Can Get It In" (mp3)
I actually already posted this Don Cannon-produced track off The Package Mixtape back in March, but I thought it'd be a good time to post it again since CJ Hilton was just on the BET Awards last night performing this song, as part of the "Music Matters" showcase of new artists. I had no idea he was gonna be on there last night until he was listed in the opening credits, so that was a cool surprise, very proud of the dude. You can read my City Paper feature on CJ that I wrote a few months ago here.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mullyman - "Get Ya Life" (mp3)
Here's the new DJ Booman-produced single from the Harder Than Baltimore album, dropping soon. I've always thought that "get your life" is such a classic Baltimore phrase, has been used in so many club songs, that someone needs to build a whole song around it, glad Mully got the same idea.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Keys - Infiltration

One of my little traditions here is that after I review a CD for the City Paper, I'll come back and dedicate a post to it here on GN and post an mp3 and maybe some additional thoughts on the record. In this case, though, it feels a little odd to come back to this Keys mixtape after my review set off a shitstorm of comments section controversy a few weeks ago. And although it was all in all a lot of fun for me to kind of watch it all unfold, I have no desire to fan the flames or keep it going, because really it's silly out of all the hundreds of positive and negative reviews I've written for me to become the guy whose mission in life is to stop Keys. Contrary to all the speculation, I've never met her and knew nothing about her beyond her music before reading Jaye Hunnie's article, so the review was all just reacting to the mixtape, and that's not a personal bias.

So listening to it again in context of all that went down, was I wrong? I can't say I really regret anything I wrote. I asked people to download Infiltration and tell me what they think, and really nobody so far has rushed to her defense that didn't seem to come from Keys's own Facebook or Twitter, a lot of people who I know or are in the scene have been kinda laughing at it all with me behind the scenes. A lot of commenters seemed to think I don’t understand what mixtapes are because I pointed out the heavy use of industry beats, but, as I probably should’ve noted, the intro talks up Keys as bringing “creativity” and “real songs.” You can't say shit like that and namedrop KRS One everywhere, and then just come with the same old mixtape shit. What, you think you’re saving your real songs for the album? And what's with all this 'Spartan' shit? Nothing screams 'boring East coast mixtape rapper' more than constantly quoting a three-year-old movie like 300, get some new ideas. I mean, I do hope Keys gets the chance to show what her grand vision is and make a real album and prove me wrong. I give a lot of people a couple bad reviews before I give them a good one.

Keys - "I Am" (mp3)
This song is kind of obnoxious but I think it's still my favorite, kind of pulls off the tough angry vibe better than anywhere else on the mixtape.

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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)

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Friday, June 18, 2010

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

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.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mullyman's latest video, "Home To Stay" directed by The Grench for Sleepin Giant Media, is on the MTV website, song produced by DJ Booman and a lot of other familiar faces make appearances.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bossman - The Re-Up (1Up Entertainment)

Obviously, Bossman's second official album has been a long time coming, and as a big fan of his first, 2004's Law & Order, I'd been really looking forward to it. A few weeks ago, I sat down with Bossman and Nieze from One Up to listen to a rough cut of this album, and wrote a preview for Splice Today. But I didn't get to hear the full finished product until it was released this week, and it was interesting to hear. Some songs sound better now, some sound worse, and there are a few things that weren't there the first time I heard it -- in particular, I didn't hear the song "Dessert" in the preview, and it's probably the worst song on the album, so I could've lived without that addition.

Overall, though, I'm pretty happy with the album. I think Bossman at his best strikes a balance between brash, commercially minded hip hop and something a little more thoughtful and personal, and in the years since Law & Order a lot of his singles and mixtapes have tipped toward the former without as much of the latter. I still hate the first two singles off The Re-Up, "Break Me Off" and "All Over U" (the "Imma need pampers" song, haha), and it's not like I turn up my nose at all pop rap -- they're just not good pop rap, too obnoxious and not catchy enough. Like, the "So Fresh" record he did a few years ago, I loved that, wish those songs sounded more like that. But fans of "Off The Record" like me will find a lot to enjoy on this album, especially "Pain" and "2XLife." And as usual, the One Up production is really on point, those guys have really grown and continued to improve and diversify their sound. The Re-Up has a lot of Baltimore guests, including Smash, 100 Grandman, Keys, NOE, Dollars and Paula Campbell, and the album's out now on iTunes, and in Downtown Locker Room and other retail stores, although the place I got it where it seemed to have the best price is the Amazon mp3 store.

Bossman - "2morrow" (mp3)
Bossman had called this song "Today" during the preview, so I got the title wrong in my article, but this is really one of my favorites off the album.

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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.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Billo's new mixtape Falling Off Into 1st is coming soon, and here's a video for "Don't Ask Me" featuring Bear (who's going by Don Cornelius now, but that's a terrible idea, I can't call him that).

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Finesse - Gone To The Moon

Government Names is a pretty disorganized little one-man operation, but once upon a time I did keep up pretty well with all the music that was sent to me online and by mail, and posted about most of it. The amount I get has kept growing as the time I've had to keep up with it has shrunk, though, so a lot more stuff falls through the cracks. Sometimes I'll even download an album, and then totally forget to listen to it until I stumble upon it in my iTunes library a year later, which is what happened with this album. And it's pretty good! I'm glad I finally got around to it. I'd seen Finesse live a couple times, and had been impressed with his performances, so I'm glad that he has some good production and knows how to put together a decent album, although y'all who saw the Gabbo review know how I feel about rap that works the outer space angle too hard.

Finesse - "Sax 5th" (mp3)
This is probably my favorite track, fun uptempo song with a dope loop.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

DJ Pierre - "Watch How I Do It" (mp3)
DJ Pierre is dropping his first EP this summer, as well as a new mix CD, and this is my favorite of the new tracks I've heard.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Here is Rome Cee's new video for "No Other Way," from his excellent Tunnel Vision record.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Soul Cannon - "Fall In (whatchugondew???)" (mp3)
The hip hop band Soul Cannon has dramatically changed their live sound and lineup in the last year or two, and I've been really looking forward to finally getting some new recorded material from them. Their official site has a 4 track preview from The Mixed Ape (love that title) and this is I think my favorite cut, a real departure from their first album.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

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Friday, June 04, 2010

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

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!

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Mania Music Group f/ Dappa​!​!​! Dan Midas, Greenspan​,​And Rapman Ron G - "Study My Dreams" (mp3)
After some delays, the Mania Music Group album Welcome To The Audience is finally dropping on June 15th, and the second single that you can download and stream over on their Band Camp page features Greenspan and is really dope, looking forward to hearing the rest of the record.

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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)


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Get 'Em Mamis - "Party Like The New Year" (mp3)
The Get 'Em Mamis - "Tell Me" (mp3)
As I noted a few weeks ago, the Get Em Mamis are still previewing a new track every week from their upcoming Pop, Rocks & Soda mixtape on GetEmMamis.Net, these are a couple of my favorites of the latest additions.

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