Top Ten Baltimore Singles of 2016

1. Dooley, Tlow, and Lor Roger, ‘CIT4DT’ (self-released)

The day after the election, when everyone was trying however they could to grapple with the reality that Donald Trump is evidently going to be our next President, it was important to remember that while some people were presented with the new reality that the state had suddenly become their enemy, for many in the country, especially Baltimore, Trump’s authoritarian ideas are already the norm and have been for generations. Put together by three smart satirists from the county, including Dooley, an internet-famous comedian (and Muslim, it’s important to note) and released right as Trump-mania was building up last spring, these satirists threaten that Trump will get “hit in the head with Moose’s shovel” if he comes to Baltimore (they also, as the hook goes, say they’ve got “a chopper in the trunk for Donald Trump”). A solid diss track from Baltimore—and an even rawer, uncooked song for the PEOTUS than YG’s ‘FDT’—’CIT4DT’ is catchy and hilarious, and shouts loudly for those Trump seeks to silence. (Karen Peltier)

2. Joy Postell, 'Consciousness’ (self-released)

In the video for ‘Consciousness’ (from her forthcoming EP “Diaspora”), singer Joy Postell poses as Angela Davis, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, and Celie Johnson from “The Color Purple”—four black women who represent different forms of self-knowledge, expression, and freedom here—using Abigail DeVille’s installation at the Peale Museum, “Only When It’s Dark Enough Can You See the Stars” as a set. That backdrop is fitting, in that it explores histories of knowledge and rebellion, which Postell reckons with in the song, along with the systemic oppression and divestment that black people face in white America: “Throw that fluoride in ya drink to censor everything you think/ Fuck up a third time and then they sentence you to life/ This ain’t no game baby, but you keep playin’ baby/ Same rope they throw you is the one you hang from baby.” This consciousness that Postell speaks of comes from paying homage to those who’ve dealt with struggle, too, and what that means for the future. (Rebekah Kirkman)

3. Mighty Mark and TT The Artist, ‘F Trump’ (self-released)

“Fuck Donald Trump” are the words of our time, and they’ve no doubt been said, in some form, thousands of times this year—to say nothing of Trump’s decades as a conniving real estate developer, self-important personality, and brand incarnate. Here, TT The Artist lays them down as a repeated hook over one of Mighty Mark’s patented Baltimore club beats, and adds the very necessary derivations of “Fuck Trump, old lame ass/ Fuck Trump, old lyin’ ass.” Released just days before the election, ‘F Trump’ was meant to be a head-bobbing banger to drive out the vote. Now, it will serve as the unifying, escapist song most of us will need over the next four years as we try to dance our pain away. (Brandon Weigel)

4. Lower Dens, ‘Real Thing’ (Ribbon Music)

On this dour torch song from Lower Dens, Jana Hunter is kind of uncanny valley’d Bryan Ferry, crooning about heteronormativity with arch sincerity one moment, then clamoring to kick and escape and fuck around the next, all over a bed of drowsy synths, produced by Ariel Rechtshaid (HAIM, Carly Rae Jepsen, Vampire Weekend). Todd Haynes could make a movie out of this song, and it has as much to do with, say, a short story from Jane Bowles or Christopher Isherwood as the lonely electronic soul of Luther Vandross on “Never Too Much” or Scott Walker on “Climate Of Hunter.” ‘Real Thing’ just feels that big and melancholy and full of life—or nearly full of life. It pivots often into ache and longing—a wry acknowledgment of how comfort offers up confidence and cool, but also a creeping desire to do wrong and get really reckless. (Brandon Soderberg)

5. Lor X, ‘Where You At’ (Austin Music Group)

A post-‘Panda’ piece of ringtone rap, Lor X’s catchy questioning of everybody else’s cred comes equipped with some dance moves, a hypnotic hook, and about 20 other very catchy parts. There is also the way Lor X creeps along in the parts that aren’t all enthusiastic, gregarious hook, rapping like his hands are outstretched and he’s precariously balancing on the shaky instrumental. ‘Where You At’ has two videos, an expressive communal video shot in Southwest Baltimore with seemingly everybody partying along—even some oh-so-Baltimore rednecks—and a sleeker, less interesting Lor X-focused video set in Federal Hill and elsewhere, all of which suggests its on its way to becoming a hit and a song to be up on early. (BS)

6. Dan Deacon - ‘Change Your Life (You Can Do It)’ (Domino)

Part misattributed Gandhi quote, part motivational pep talk, ‘Change Your Life (You Can Do It)’ is the ecstatic kick in the pants we all need as 2017 gets underway. I don’t really need to tell you why. The mantra is simple: “Tonight’s the night you’re gonna change your life.” And it’s repeated over and over again, as if to drill the idea into your head—yes, tonight is really the night. There’s been so many times we’ve all said something like that to ourselves, only to not see it through. “I’ll send in that application tomorrow, promise.” “I’ll call that person I’ve been meaning to reach out to.” “I’ll take this chance.” When we miss these opportunities, all we’re left with is regret. Deacon, over these four minutes, builds up the listener’s confidence to get back on the horse, like an assuring best friend. He’s willing us all to be our better selves. (BW)

7. Lor Scoota, ‘Panda (G-Mix)’ (YBS)

Lor Scoota’s ‘Panda (G-Mix)’ not only became the slain rapper’s memorial track this year, but also the city’s officially unofficial anthem. Scoota’s remix made Baltimoreans forget that Desiigner’s version even existed—even 92Q took to mixing Scoota’s version into Desiigner’s original. The song was and is still played everywhere from high school football games to music festivals like Trillectro. It embodies the spirit of Baltimore: defiant if joyous. The Poly men’s varsity basketball team—featured on City Paper’s cover a few weeks ago—listens to the song regularly in the locker room. They used it as a battle cry on the bus to Washington D.C. before beating perennial powerhouse H.D. Woodson on Dec. 9—a team that was ranked 9th in the country last season by MaxPreps. (Reginald Thomas II)

8. Kotic Couture, ‘Get Ya Life’ (Unknowne Landes)

The leadoff track from the “Abstract” EP contains everything that makes producer/emcee Kotic Couture such an intoxicating genre-straddling good time. The beat moves at the overheated jiggle of Baltimore club’s sweatier-than-hot-yoga pace. The melodic line sounds like the sort of kiss-off attitude that leaps from underground dance club to Parisian fashion runway without ever having to explain itself to the great American middlebrow. And the vocal bridge to the first singing of the celebrating-yourself chorus—“I put my middle finger up don’t give a fuck”—is all net. (Bret McCabe)

9. Hands Up!, ‘Free’ (Space Is The Place Records)

Unwavering confidence and palpable self-love guide Baltimore-based vocalist Miz Jaxxxn as she coolly croons her way through ‘Free,’ Hands Up!’s breezy summer anthem about letting go of half-hearted lovers and bossing up regardless. Miz Jaxxxn is remarkably commanding as she asserts, “Can’t make you love me, I don’t even care/ I act like I don’t see you anywhere/ Stay gettin’ money, I’m about that change/ This love is over so I’m on my way/ Now you’re free.” Hands Up!, a collaboration between veteran club producer Mighty Mark and scene-newcomer Michael J.R., elevated Baltimore’s music scene this summer with a fresh wave of radio-ready club music. But ‘Free,’ a minimal R&B exploration punctuated with a steady percussive heartbeat and anchored by a catchy melody that mimics a slowed version of Black Box’s 1989 club hit ‘Everybody Everybody’ proves that Hands Up! isn’t a one-trick pony when it comes to dance music. (Casey Embert)

10. Blue Benjamin Sleepy feat. Easy, ‘On The Run’ (BBB)

Blue Benjamin Sleepy, formerly known as Lil Sleepy, picked up buzz quickly and reached what seemed like Young Moose-like levels of hype this year with ‘On The Run,’ an upbeat track that arrived with a Shawty Lo-esque (R.I.P.) running man dance. Matching Migos-like triplets with a defiant lyrics (“Fuck a P.O. bitch I’m on the run, all this weed in my system she want me done”), ‘On The Run’ chronicles the rapper’s troubles with the law enforcement and adds Baltimore-style back-against-the-wall desperation: “No I ain’t got no choice to rap/ I did some shit I can’t take back.” The song operates as an introduction to Sleepy, along with the Blue Benjamin Bois in general and their entire aesthetic and worldview: a reporter-like approach to the streets mixed with the infectious joy of youth. (RT)

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