Arts and Entertainment

  • Best Album: JPEGMAFIA,“Black Ben Carson”

    Best Album: JPEGMAFIA,“Black Ben Carson”

    JPEGMAFIA’s 2015 albums exploded like hand grenades in the ears of listeners. Here was a producer and MC whose beats matched his lyrics’ political agitation and unfettered intelligence. But neither of those albums prepared us for “Black Ben Carson,” a staggering marriage of fearless social commentary...

  • Best Song: YBS Skola, ‘Whole Lotta Money’

    Best Song: YBS Skola, ‘Whole Lotta Money’

    Among the many sort-of-scientific ways in which we gauge what the city’s listening to is the car windows test: What songs do you hear hopping out of car windows driving by? Another is when a local song can sneak onto local radio, which is a rarity. Also important: that the song is good. Well, ‘Whole...

  • Best Band: Post Pink

    Best Band: Post Pink

    On their latest release, “I Believe You, OK,” poetic punks Post Pink shove us around and we really like it, OK. The eight-song/13-minute album, released earlier this year by D.C.’s Sister Polygon Records (a follow-up to last year’s self-released demo, “Too Pooped to Pip”) contains a couple re-recorded,...

  • Best New Band: Bidet

    Best New Band: Bidet

    The trio of Lyla Shlon, Merm, and Ben Martin make, in their own words, “RAW ASS CLEANING PUNK READY TO CLEAN UP YOUR BULLSHIT.” It’s an accurate description of the band’s speedy, messy punk for sure and it’s kind of the name of their recent EP (“Raw Ass Cleaning Punk,” released in July), a calloused...

  • Best Rapper: President Davo

    Best Rapper: President Davo

    Baltimore knows all about pain and perseverance, but no one else rapping right now quite captures that tragic optimism like President Davo, one of the most talented MCs around. He can get lost in a whirling freestyle like a backpacker but is just as apt to sing or moan as he is to spit—usually...

  • Best Music Video: Dooley, Lor Roger, and T-Low, “Cit4DT”

    Best Music Video: Dooley, Lor Roger, and T-Low, “Cit4DT”

    The clip for ‘CIT4DT’ (“Chopper In The Trunk For Donald Trump”) is both the perfection and a parody of a certain kind of Baltimore rap video, where one or several rappers stand in a larger group that sings the chorus, makes hand gestures, or makes threats on some distinctly Baltimore street. Think...

  • Best Label: Friends Records

    Best Label: Friends Records

    The record label Friends, co-founded by Brett Yale and Jimmy MacMillan in 2009, has been a great ambassador for Baltimore music since day one. So it was a bit surprising when MacMillan, who now heads the label by himself, told The Sun’s Wesley Case in July that he recently thought Friends had run...

  • Best Live Act: Abdu Ali

    Best Live Act: Abdu Ali

    Just a few years ago, Abdu Ali was a fringe queer noise-rap act and everybody who saw him perform wondered aloud why he wasn’t bigger or shutting down shows across the country. These days, Ali is doing exactly that as one of the most notable performers in the city and as a storm of energy tearing...

  • Best Summer Jam: Lor Scoota, ‘Panda (G-Mix)’

    Best Summer Jam: Lor Scoota, ‘Panda (G-Mix)’

    While New York-based Future sound-alike Desiigner’s original ‘Panda’ track afforded him national acclaim and a number one hit, it was Lor Scoota’s ‘Panda (G-Mix)’ that steadily started replacing the original here in Baltimore—on 92Q, even. And after Scoota’s murder in June, the song played over...

  • Best Supergroup: Scroll Downers

    Best Supergroup: Scroll Downers

    Not long after ruckus-causing noise punks Dope Body announced they would be calling it quits in April did two of the band’s members, Zachary Utz and David Jacober, who also perform as Holy Ghost Party, release a new, fantastic album. They were joined by veteran singer and CP contributor Lexie Mountain,...

  • Best Jazz Night: Jazz Jam Session at Homeslyce

    Best Jazz Night: Jazz Jam Session at Homeslyce

    336 N. Charles, (443) 501-4000, homeslyce.com The Mount Vernon pizzeria is not the obvious choice for jazz. There is no bandstand, much less a stage, and often the oversized TVs are broadcasting sporting events. But on Wednesday night, thanks to former “Best Do-Gooder” Todd Marcus, the bar has...

  • Best Free Jazz: Jamal Moore

    Best Free Jazz: Jamal Moore

    More so than anybody else in the experimental music scene over the past year, saxophonist, woodwind player, and electronic noisemaker Jamal Moore has reified the thrill of free jazz, releasing Organix Trio’s illuminating “Ancestral Communion” and frequently performing studied-yet-roughshod jazz...

  • Best DJ in the Club: Trillnatured

    Best DJ in the Club: Trillnatured

    Since winning last year’s “Best New DJ” award, Jessica Hyman, better known as Trillnatured, has grown to be one of Baltimore’s most sought-after DJs.  Rocking underground venues from Baltimore to D.C. to New York, and now her own fourth Friday residency at Ottobar called All Good, Trillnatured...

  • Best Beatmaker: Jumbled

    Best Beatmaker: Jumbled

    It’s hard to imagine a Hampden-based schoolteacher would be producing some of the most imaginative beats coming out of Baltimore, but that’s what makes Jumbled a dark horse in the local beat-making scene. Also known as John Bachman, Jumbled perfectly personifies Baltimore’s beloved, raw DIY culture...

  • Best Hip-Hop Album: Al Rogers Jr. and Drew Scott, “Luvadocious”

    Best Hip-Hop Album: Al Rogers Jr. and Drew Scott, “Luvadocious”

    Ranging from delightfully sensual to playfully assertive, Al Rogers Jr. has a flow that sometimes resembles that of Andre 3000, fully displayed on his latest album, “Luvadocious.” Rogers and his producer, Drew Scott of Blacksage, are clearly kindred spirits on the “Luvadocious” voyage as Scott...

  • Best Club Song: James Nasty, ‘Dynamite’

    Best Club Song: James Nasty, ‘Dynamite’

    Driven by boisterous percussion, aggressive gunshots, and a creatively chopped sample of Beenie Man’s ‘Dancehall Queen,’ James Nasty’s ‘Dynamite’ reinvigorated the homegrown Baltimore club music effort this year. Released via European club label Top Billin’ on a collaborative compilation with the...

  • Best Renaissance Man: Antonio Hernandez

    Best Renaissance Man: Antonio Hernandez

    From Baltimore club music to rowdy DIY parties to a thriving arts scene, Baltimore is rich with cultural contributions and Antonio Hernandez has brilliantly utilized his many talents to celebrate and document them for the world to see. Through his creative hub Electric Llama, Hernandez produces...

  • Best Club DJ: DJ Juwan

    Best Club DJ: DJ Juwan

    Over the past year, DJ Juwan has shed his semi-mysterious online identity in favor of live DJ gigs. While most club DJs are focused on experimental, futuristic sounds, Juwan satisfies Baltimore’s deeply rooted nostalgia for classic club music with sets that channel the electrifying energy of a...

  • Best Crew: Llamadon

    Best Crew: Llamadon

    llamadon.tumblr.com Founded by Dylan Sullivan-Ubaldo and Andrew McClymont in 2013, Llamadon has garnered a celebrated omnipresence in the Baltimore arts community. As a tight-knit and sprawling family of independent, multi-disciplinary artists ranging from DJs to producers to emcees, Llamadon focuses...

  • Best Punk: Imaginary Hockey League

    Best Punk: Imaginary Hockey League

    For many, identifying as LGBTQ in 2016 meant digging deep into your own personal relationship to trauma. Finding resilience and strength in community feels more important than ever, and the members of Imaginary Hockey League, an ambitious trans punk four-piece, get it. Their earnest pop-punk and...

  • Best Couple: Matmos

    Best Couple: Matmos

    Everyone has a hot take on why millennials aren’t buying houses or “growing up,” but given the uprising, the continual gentrification of areas like Station North and Remington, and the planning stages of the Ozymandian undertaking of Port Covington, there’s little reason to see any hope in the...

  • Best Words Fail: Horse Lords

    Best Words Fail: Horse Lords

    At long last, this local quartet found a way to capture and spotlight the ass-moving calamity of its live shows on recording. With “Interventions,” Horse Lords’ third album and first for New York’s Northern Spy Records, the band’s ability to hotwire West African guitar ecstasy with the hallucinogenic...

  • Best Cover Song: Black Lung and Eze Jackson, ‘Inner City Blues’

    Best Cover Song: Black Lung and Eze Jackson, ‘Inner City Blues’

    White bands covering R&B songs can be pretty dodgy given, you know, that whole history of rock ‘n’ roll being a story of theft thing. Beyond that, the chutzpah it takes for anybody to tackle Marvin Gaye is kinda flabbergasting: You really think you can do justice to a song off one of the most profound...

  • Best Comeback: Ama Chandra

    Best Comeback: Ama Chandra

    Soul singer Ama Chandra almost didn’t see 2016. In July 2015, an intruder assaulted her in her home. She had the presence of mind to grab an iron and fight him off, but not before he stabbed her in the chest. Open-heart surgery and recovery in the ICU followed and, months later, she was feeling...

  • Best Sequel: Fields Festival

    Best Sequel: Fields Festival

    It was not a certainty after the first Fields, in 2014, that the music and arts scene’s festival in the Harford County forest would return again. But after a one-year hiatus organizers Amanda Schmidt and Stewart Mostofsky decided the idea deserved a second round. And they made it bigger and better,...

  • Best Holiday Soundtrack: Terence Hannum

    Best Holiday Soundtrack: Terence Hannum

    We hate holidays and the insipid music that comes with it. We’d rather pass on the millionth version of ‘Silent Night’ or Adam Sandler’s stupid Hanukkah song, but we’re bombarded with that junk from November to January. Instead we look forward to October every year when Stevenson professor, Locrian...

  • Best Video Game Band: Rare Candy

    Best Video Game Band: Rare Candy

    With members of the first video game generation approaching their 40s, it’s no suprise major orchestras such as the BSO have reimagined video game music for performances. The group Rare Candy, featuring bassist Chris Baines, keyboardists Matt Baros and Dominic Cerquetti, drummer John DeCampos,...

  • Best Music Nerd: Councilman Brandon Scott

    Best Music Nerd: Councilman Brandon Scott

    If you follow Councilman Scott on Instagram, you’ll find out that he has a pretty serious obsession with music. He often posts snippets of songs he loves when they show up on his car radio (‘Ether’ by Nas, ‘Soul Power’ by James Brown, to name two) and even some live music from various trips and...

  • Best Artist: Joyce J. Scott

    Best Artist: Joyce J. Scott

    We gave Joyce J. Scott this award three years ago, but there’s no denying that once again, she has left her mark on a year full of notable artists. The Baltimore-born and -raised artist not only continues to push boundaries and buttons as she approaches 70, she’s having a banner year: The inimitable...

  • Best New Face On Scene: Lighthole

    Best New Face On Scene: Lighthole

    lightholebaltimore.com Since fall 2015, this fourth-floor Copycat space has not only become a welcome dose of interdisciplinary and performance art during the monthly Alloverstreet art walks, but it’s also a welcome hub of documentation. Started by artist and UMBC MFA grad Victor F. de M. Torres...

  • Best Community Artist: Katie Bachler

    Best Community Artist: Katie Bachler

    Through her fellowship with the Baltimore Museum of Art, Katie Bachler has been bringing her BMA Outpost, a “mobile museum,” to neighborhoods, community centers, schools, public markets, career centers, cafes—you name it—all across the city. At the Outpost, Bachler invites visitors to make something,...

  • Best Optimistic Emergence: Jerrell Gibbs

    Best Optimistic Emergence: Jerrell Gibbs

    We occasionally find ourselves falling down a well of cynicism and hopelessness regarding the so-called “art world” and the notion of artists “making it” in a financially secure, non-exploitative sense (see also: “Best Continuation of Baltimore’s Failed Arts Economic Development Model”). So it’s...

  • Best Museum Show: Abigail DeVille, “Only When It’s Dark Enough Can You See the Stars” via The Contemporary at the Peale Museum

    Best Museum Show: Abigail DeVille, “Only When It’s Dark Enough Can You See the Stars” via The Contemporary at the Peale Museum

    contemporary.org This immersive and overwhelming installation in the former Peale Museum came together as a concert of collaboration, months-long research, and tireless ambition from the artist, the Contemporary, the city, and dozens of other groups and individuals. DeVille excavated and memorialized...

  • Best Group Show: “Consumption: Food as Paradox” at Galerie Myrtis

    Best Group Show: “Consumption: Food as Paradox” at Galerie Myrtis

    2224 N. Charles St., galeriemyrtis.net Sometimes group shows give us a headache—conceptually incongruous, visually disorganized—but this one kept feeding us the more we visited. Approaching the rather open-ended idea of consumption, curator Aden Weisel brought together work by artists who use food...

  • Best Film Series: Balti Gurls

    Best Film Series: Balti Gurls

    baltigurls.com The Balti Gurls, a curatorial powerhouse for art by women of color, or “your favorite brown-girl art squad,” had a film residency at The Crown that was a breath of fresh air amid nationwide programming now built around 4k restorations and Blu-Ray releases. Among others films, they...

  • Best Development: Repertory Cinema

    Best Development: Repertory Cinema

    The Charles Revival Series is a treasure for cinephiles across the city, bringing classics such as “Rear Window,” “The Conversation,” and “Carrie,” as well as lesser known gems “Mauvais Sang” and “House,” to the big screen. That said, we weren’t disappointed when The Senator Theatre, which is also...

  • Best Experimental Film Curation: The Red Room

    Best Experimental Film Curation: The Red Room

    425 E. 31st St., (410) 243-6888, redroom.org With a name suggesting a Lynchian nightclub on another plane of existence, The Red Room sits at the back of Normals like some unlocked part of the unconscious. Baltimore filmmaker/curator Margaret Rorison programs some genuinely experimental films with...

  • Best Documentary: “Not About A Riot”

    Best Documentary: “Not About A Riot”

    While national media came to town to capture viral footage to play on loop during the Baltimore Uprising, Malaika Aminata Clements was somewhere off to the side recording her own footage of the protests, art-activist marches and shows, jubilant rap battles on stoops after curfew, and reflections...

  • Best Memoir: “The Cook-Up” by D. Watkins

    Best Memoir: “The Cook-Up” by D. Watkins

    This stunning discursive memoir from D. Watkins (who, full disclosure, is a City Paper contributor and friend to the paper) kicks off with the murder of D’s brother Bip and wraps up when Watkins decides to give up dealing and, in that sense, is a grounded, rakish story of a young man in transition....

  • Best Poem: ‘Do The Right Thing’ by Mohamed Tall

    Best Poem: ‘Do The Right Thing’ by Mohamed Tall

    Although poet Mohamed Tall’s ‘Do The Right Thing’ isn’t from this year, it has, over the past year or so, become a powerful protest poem (think of it as our own ‘Alright’) and perhaps the most accessible example of the city’s burgeoning poetry scene. Tall performed the polysyllabic anti-police...

  • Best Nonfiction Book: “Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics” by Lester Spence

    Best Nonfiction Book: “Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics” by Lester Spence

    The effects of neoliberalism are ever present: the fetishization of the free market, rewarding people for maximizing their “human capital” and, in turn, encouraging self-exploitation. Its consequences are insidious; they have crept up on society so slyly that we don’t even know they’re there—in...

  • Best Fiction Book: “A Curious Land” by Susan Muaddi Darraj

    Best Fiction Book: “A Curious Land” by Susan Muaddi Darraj

    Susan Muaddi Darraj’s “A Curious Land: Stories from Home” is a collection of nine linked short stories about the Palestinian West Bank villagers of Tel al-Hilou. (Full disclosure: Muaddi Darraj guest edited our recent “Fiction and Poetry” issue.) Spanning from 1916 to 1998, each story is set in...

  • Best Poetry Book: “Black Seeds” by Tariq Touré

    Best Poetry Book: “Black Seeds” by Tariq Touré

    Good political poems ought to be, as Lawrence Ferlinghetti named them, “living newspapers.” From Amiri Baraka to Adrienne Rich, the political poetry that sticks is the stuff that sings with an unwavering voice about the truth of its time. “Black Seeds,” from City Paper contributor Tariq Touré,...

  • Best Photo Book: “Features” by Micah E. Wood

    Best Photo Book: “Features” by Micah E. Wood

    With his beautifully designed book “Features,” musician and photographer Micah E. Wood captures Baltimore’s music scene right as it continues to graudate artists toward the national stage—a creative moment that should be documented for future generations. Wood’s portraits of artists such as  Dan...

  • Best Up-and-Coming Poet: Hannah Sawyerr

    Best Up-and-Coming Poet: Hannah Sawyerr

    Morgan State University junior Hannah Sawyerr must have learned early the old poetic trick of luring in listeners before springing the trap of poetry that leaves a mark. The Baltimore Youth Poet Laureate became the first woman to take on the position this winter at a competition in which she delivered...

  • Best Poetry Series: Tender FM at The Crown

    Best Poetry Series: Tender FM at The Crown

    We look forward to the last Sunday of every month because that means we’ll head down to The Crown and hear some folks read their writing (or perform it, as it were), watching them get real vulnerable (or calculatedly not, and that’s cool, too) on stage, and we also get swept up in it a little bit,...

  • Best Scene: Poetry

    Best Scene: Poetry

    It is hard to find an art scene that’s more democratic and seemingly accessible than the poetry scene in Baltimore. Writers and performers who are published and unpublished, experienced and less so, come together and share stages at the growing number of reading series and open mics (there must...

  • Best Reading Series: Writers and Words at Charmington’s

    Best Reading Series: Writers and Words at Charmington’s

    writersandwords.net The brainchild of a handful of alumni from the creative writing graduate program at University of Baltimore, Writers and Words is a Goldilocks of a reading series. It isn’t avant-garde—the sort of series only folks with fine arts degrees could appreciate—but it isn’t a parade...

  • Best Poet: Janea Kelly

    Best Poet: Janea Kelly

    We’ve seen Janea Kelly on the bill for poetry readings more and more over the last year—most recently at Fields Fest and a couple of house shows, and then of course there’s Tender FM which she co-hosts with Anna K. Crooks (see Best Poetry Series). Kelly contains multitudes as a poet and performer,...

  • Best Activist Art Series: Bmore On Fire

    Best Activist Art Series: Bmore On Fire

    facebook.com/firebrandrecords Even in Baltimore’s collaborative arts environment, it’s rare to see a spoken word poet opening for a musician opening for a Black Panther. This sort of miscellany is what vaults Firebrand Records’ relatively new Bmore On Fire series to the top. Every few months, Baltimore...

  • Best Play: “Insurrection: Holding History” by Annex Theater

    Best Play: “Insurrection: Holding History” by Annex Theater

    baltimoreannextheatre.org Annex Theater deftly unleashed the comic rage powering playwright Robert O’Hara’s American satire, in which a gay African-American graduate student and his 200-year-old grandfather get “Wizard of Oz”-ed back to 1831 Virginia right before Nat Turner leads a slave rebellion....

  • Best Musical: “Assassins” by Stillpointe Theatre and Spotlight UB

    Best Musical: “Assassins” by Stillpointe Theatre and Spotlight UB

    stillpointetheatre.com The cast and creative team of “Assassins,” last fall’s collaboration between Stillpointe Theatre and Spotlight UB, killed it in every way, so to speak. Directors Ryan Michael Haase and Kimberley Lynne and a talented cast presented an exceptional production of Stephen Sondheim’s...

  • Best Company: Annex Theater

    Best Company: Annex Theater

    baltimoreannextheater.org Experimental theater championed by companies like Annex often veers toward niche audiences, but this year, Annex reached new viewers and projected a range of compelling voices. After moving from Station North to the Psychic Readings space in the Bromo Arts District last...

  • Best Director: Alice Stanley

    Best Director: Alice Stanley

    To celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Alice Stanley, a founding director of Cohesion Theatre, came up with a trio of (extra) gender-bending interpretations of works by the Bard, co-directing an action-packed “Complete Deaths of William Shakespeare” and playing Feste in the...

  • Best Actor: Lauren Erica Jackson

    Best Actor: Lauren Erica Jackson

    Lauren Erica Jackson lodged herself in our memory the moment she appeared brandishing a machine gun in Single Carrot Theatre’s “Phoebe in Winter.” Playwright Jen Silverman’s absurdist dissection of the childish macho energy that oversees war, family, and revolutions often threatened to drift into...

  • Best Performance Artist: Naoko Maeshiba

    Best Performance Artist: Naoko Maeshiba

    “Performance artist” is an elastic term, but it might still be too restricting to accurately describe Naoko Maeshiba. With her latest full-length show in Baltimore, an intoxicating solo performance titled “Subject/Object” held at the Baltimore Theatre Project, Maeshiba added comedy and vocal manipulation...

  • Best Character Actor: Dave Iden

    Best Character Actor: Dave Iden

    Just think of this Annex company member as underground Baltimore theater’s Jesse Plemons. The compact, red-headed Iden never portrayed a main character over the 2015-16 season but what he did with his small parts was even better. It didn’t matter if he was a nervous scientist in “The Lord of Flies,”...

  • Best Alternative to Late Night TV: The Psychic Readings Late Night Theater

    Best Alternative to Late Night TV: The Psychic Readings Late Night Theater

    psychicreadings.church Some eyeballs need something less lobotomizing than talk shows after prime time. Thankfully Ric Royer’s Late Night Theater series at Psychic Readings came along to provide the best dose of late-night viewing since NBC’s short-lived “Michelob presents Night Music” weekly dose...

  • Best Theater Experience: “The Mesmeric Revelations! of Edgar Allan Poe”

    Best Theater Experience: “The Mesmeric Revelations! of Edgar Allan Poe”

    myedgarallanpoe.com Even though Edgar Allan Poe was born elsewhere, Baltimore owns the juicier part of his life—the tragic, tortured part. Last year’s immersive “The Mesmeric Revelations! Of Edgar Allan Poe” plucked characters from the darkest corners of the poet’s psyche—including his mother,...

  • Best Stage Series: The Trans* Voices Workshop Series by Cohesion Theatre and Iron Crow Theatre

    Best Stage Series: The Trans* Voices Workshop Series by Cohesion Theatre and Iron Crow Theatre

    Last year, we gave Highlandtown’s Cohesion Theatre Company our Best New Theatre award in part for its keen social justice bent and commitment to collaboration with other local theater groups. This year, Cohesion kept that roll going by working with Iron Crown Theater (“Baltimore’s only queer theatre”)...

  • Best Play For Bored Husbands: 'X’s and O’s' by Center Stage

    Best Play For Bored Husbands: 'X’s and O’s' by Center Stage

    So it’s a bit stereotypical to be like “every man at the theater is dragged there by his wife,” but let’s not pretend it doesn’t happen at all, either. In November of last year, Center Stage extended an olive branch to these manly men with a play dedicated entirely to football. [Insert Tim Allen...

  • Best Bloody Spectacle: 'The Swan: A Serial Killer Ballet' by Alexander D’Agostino

    Best Bloody Spectacle: 'The Swan: A Serial Killer Ballet' by Alexander D’Agostino

    As a narrative, performance artist and dancer D’Agostino’s “The Swan,” performed at E.M.P. Collective and later at LabBodies’ Performance Art Review, at times felt clumsy, its text a rushed attempt to wed the dramatic choreography of “The Dying Swan” ballet to the transgressive universe of Dennis...

  • Best Puppets: Black Cherry Puppet Theater

    Best Puppets: Black Cherry Puppet Theater

    1115 Hollins St., (410) 752-7272, blackcherrypuppettheater.weebly.com We’re never too old for childlike joy, and Black Cherry Puppet Theater totally has our number. It has been doing its thing since 1980, offering workshops for kids to learn learn the craft and throwing Puppet Slamwich shows regularly....

  • Best Luther: Tamba Giles in 'Luther' by Arena Players

    Best Luther: Tamba Giles in 'Luther' by Arena Players

    In Randolph Smith’s “Luther,” which premiered at Arena Players in the spring, actor/vocalist Tamba Giles had the challenge of not only singing those inviolable Luther Vandross classics such as ‘Ain’t Nobody’ and ‘A House Is Not A Home,’ but he has to essentially carry the whole play, which focuses...

  • Best Podcast: Baltimore: The Rise of Charm City

    Best Podcast: Baltimore: The Rise of Charm City

    riseofcharmcity.com If you’ve ever heard even one episode of this totally engaging audio documentary series, you already know why we named it the best. The show focuses on the past, present, and future of well-known Baltimore landmarks. Stacia Brown, along with her production team, have done episodes...

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