-Bounge feat. Bekayo, ‘Endless’
Borderline twee, coffee-shop-type electro pop suddenly glitches and gets all inside-out and upside-down dubstep and that’s before a brief verse by rapper Bekayo, who brays out a whirl of cogent-enough curfew imagery (“Bring the National Guard to diminish the shit/ They’ll be giving their lives just to finish this shit/ They’ll be feeding us lies when we witness this shit”). Then vocalist/producer Bounge harmonizes with herself like Grimes, Rihanna, and some “American Idol” showoff all chilling out in the high school bathroom together smoking cigs and singing a Kate Bush song together.
-Dboi Da Dome feat. Baby, ‘Fuck 12’
Public Enemy’s Chuck D said rap is “the CNN that black people never had,” which probably sounds weird in 2015 because who wants to be associated with pseudo news-spewing fuckboys like Miguel Marquez in any way at all, but Mista Chuck’s point remains for the most part true: Rap is often a live transmission of unfettered feeling and a disseminator of not-ready-for-primetime real talk. ‘Fuck 12’ from West Baltimore’s Dboi Da Dome arrived in the midst of uprising chaos with a loaded, cathartic message (a slightly different way of saying “Fuck the police,” pretty much) and it’s the aural equivalent of that Sandtown resident swiping Marquez’s mic and saying, “Fuck CNN.” Meanwhile, guest rapper Baby spits, in a singular honk of a voice we hope to hear much more from, the scrappy details of the uprising: “We protesting till our fuckin’ feet hurt.”
-Matic808, ‘I Want You’
Jesus Christ music industry, Matic808 should be producing for rap and R&B’s big guns at this point, how many times do we have to say that? Here, Matic messes around with a lithe Marvin Gaye classic until it sounds like a stoned Tinashe album cut three to five years from now—a blur of porno sounds and Giorgio Moroder in reverse arpeggiations and finally, when it’s all over, the warbled chipmunked voice of Marvin himself chirping sweet somethings. Off Matic’s new “She Belongs To The World” EP.
-Mr. Mottz & King Tutt, ‘Selfie’
Last month, Kim Kardashian West released a selfie photobook titled “Selfish,” which, typically, got people all upset about celebrity and narcissism and all that even though #whocares and self-portraits, a touchstone of expressive art, isn’t all that different from a selfie if you think about it for more than five seconds. Either way, selfie fans and haters alike can find something to grab onto and feel self-righteous about with this King Tutt production, which mixes Atari Teenage Riot drums of death with ‘Sing Sing’ plop-plop percussion as vocalist Mr. Mottz screams “Take a selfie with me!,” capturing the explosive pride one has in taken dumb empowering photos of one’s self and the gnawing desperation of that whole endeavor as well.
-Noisem, ‘Another Night Sleeping In The Cold’
Speedy metal so manic and precise that it sounds like a Merzbow CD skipping. Growled over the thing are some overwritten though poignantly poetic lyrics detailing a life of addiction and living on the streets that’ll draw tears once you read the recent Decibel cover story about Noisem, particularly the experiences of the brothers Carnes. Here’s some metal with something at stake because it is caught up in the very real horrors of personal turmoil, clearly informed by the group’s crumby Baltimore County working-class milieu rather than metal’s often more abstract and platitudinous pain and suffering. Empathetic without being sentimental.
-Old Lines, ‘Midnight In Baltimore’
The art for this explosive protest song features a cop throwing a rock and the Bandcamp description is fitted with the declaration, “This song was recorded in solidarity with the cry for justice in the murder of Freddie Gray by the Baltimore Police Dept.” and all proceeds go to Bmore United For Change, so there’s that. The song itself is booming, doom riffs conversing with grindcore feedback underneath familiar audio of “No Justice, No Peace.” It’s the sort of spleen-vent that could be over and out in a minute or so if it felt like it, but ‘Midnight In Baltimore’ intentionally overstays its welcome and agitates, pushing its chops-heavy hardcore past the four-minute mark.
-PulseWidthmod, ‘An Awakening’
Jammy John Carpenter synths matched with a vocal declaring, “There has been an awakening, have you felt it?” swiped from the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” teaser. A subtle protest song made clear only by the tags on Soundcloud like “#BaltimoreUprising,” which is nice because we prefer our protest songs brutally obvious or really subtle, because this is not a time for moderate emotions. Give me some Adderall and a week and I could surely construct some kind of bugged-out think piece about Star Wars, a wildly popular corporate product which co-opted rebellion, being sampled on a small, smart song in support of genuine rebellion.
-Schwarz, ‘Forever’ b/w ‘Body Emotion’ feat. Gurl Crush
More motivational yell-pop full of free-associative quotables from Schwarz: “Yeah we got it made, they sipping haterade, we sipping lemonade/ Lemon pepper wings and a freeze cup/ Sit back and watch my whole team just blow up/ Am I going to keep doing what I do?/ Yeah duh dude, is the fuckin’ sky blue?” Later on he quotes John Donne to counter the Drake-driven trend of self-absorbed crew anthems: “I’m bright like a diamond/ And I’m with my crew/ Because no man is an island.” Look out for the video which features a very stoned cameo by yours truly, and don’t sleep on B-side ‘Body Emotion,’ which sounds like ’80s freestyle by way of that Vengaboys song from the Six Flags commercials.
The third release from Baltimore label Dog Belly Records is dark joke folkie slugqueen’s “uncle no one,” which is like Springsteen’s “Nebraska” but twice as honest and half as shticky, or Liz Phair if only her first record wasn’t saddled with the rather annoying byproduct of giving white-boy music critics a big boner back in 1993. Over discomfiting strumming and plucking—imagine The Frogs and Derek Bailey and the Microphones playing together all at once—slugqueen declares: “I don’t like giving head because I’m gay as shit/ And I’m tired of sucking cis white dick/ I don’t even know what I want from this but I’m telling you now I’m not your bitch.”
-yng vapor, ‘my fone dead hmu on facebook’
Whatever-bro, DGAF-core chopped and slopped then slopped some more that ostensibly speeds up and slows down Rene & Angelo’s ‘Love You More,’ a trippy late disco track from 1981 for two and a half minutes and nothing more—save for possibly adding some some synths so thick and resonant that they’re less “fart-y” and more “diarrhea-y.” But hey, now that the radio is in its po-faced nu-nu disco phase thanks to leisurely lite funk from Bruno Mars, Pharrell Williams, and Daft Punk, this kind of remorselessly-in-poor-taste disco fuckery is much appreciated.
-Young Moose feat. Martina Lynch, ‘No SunShine’
Two weeks ago, much-loved and oft-troubled East Baltimore rapper Young Moose released this stand-out protest song complete with a music video shot in front of Nether’s Freddie Gray mural and intercut with images of police brutality. In the past Moose has rapped about his problems with the police, specifically Det. Daniel Hersl and generally police harassment in the community, but the cogent verses here (and a standout guest verse from spoken word artist and MC Martina Lynch) positions the street rapper—and frequent target of police—in the realm of political artist proper. “When we gonna wake up and realize it’s real/ They did the same thing to Rodney King and Emmett Till,” Moose raps. An encouraging expression of solidarity from an artist who really has the ears of Baltimore’s teens whether you like it or not.