Local MC Height (government name: Dan Keech) is one of Baltimore's most established indie rappers, having steadily put out releases since 2000. Something that's been unwavering in that long stretch of time: Keech's love for old-school hip-hop beats and storytelling, as evidenced by his trilogy of albums paying homage to the earliest eras of rap. Parts one and two, "Versus Dynamic Sounds" and "Versus Electric Rockers," came out in August 2013 and January 2014, respectively. Now, we have part three, titled "Versus The Continental MC's."
This installment features production by Secret Weapon Dave and Height, along with guest vocal spots from Emily Slaughter of AK Slaughter and Eze Jackson. Jackson, who also performs in Soul Cannon, is also putting out a solo release, his first, called "L.I.V.E.N.O.W." The two rappers will be joined by DDm and Mickey Free this Friday at Metro Gallery for a release show.
You can stream "Versus The Continental MC's" below and read Keech's thoughts on each track.
"Versus The Continental MC's" is the final album in our period-piece trilogy. The first album took place in early Bronx park jams, circa 1979. The second one found us in a Los Angeles nightclub in 1982. This is designed to feel like a mixtape of NYC hip-hop/electro from 1983.
I wanted to open with something to make you feel like we've landed in a time where NYC hip-hop is no longer limited to breakbeats. I tried to sound like MC Johnski, who raps on 'Boogie Down Bronx' by Man Parrish. I love his calm, high-pitched rap style.
'CX On The Beat'
This is my homage to 'Flash It To The Beat' by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. The hook shouts out CX Kidtronik, who programmed the drums. We did our best to make it sound like a Vox Percussion King drum machine being played through a PA in a gymnasium.
'Star Dust Roller Rink '83 Part One'
I based this off a Fearless Tape, where they perform all their hits, and then change gears and do an endless rhyme over a break, to show the crowd that they aren't just "lemmings."
'Escapades (Smooth-talking jock)'
This is my stab at a doing a song in the style of DJ Hollywood or Eddie Cheeba. They were part of a scene that ran parallel to what was happening in the Bronx in the '70s and '80s. The crowds were sharply dressed adults who came to dance. The music was closer to disco and it didn't revolve around hard breakbeats. There were guys rapping on the mic, but it was more playful, and far from the raw rap that was evolving in the BX. When they got a chance to record, the results were usually light and happy-go-lucky, like this.
On this one, I was going for something like Kurtis Blow's 'AJ Scratch.' He exalts his DJ with so much focus and intesity that it makes it seem like DJ AJ is the only person on the earth.
'Magnetic Connection Radio'
This is my emulation of The World's Famous Supreme Team Show, a pioneering hip-hop radio show on WHBI. The episodes that have been archived online are both awesome and chaotic. There are endless shout-outs and dedications, people prank-calling the show, live performances with technical difficulties, etc. It's wild to see the artifacts of a time when one of the most important hip-hop radio shows was just two guys doing whatever they wanted.
This was my attempt at rapping like The Fearless Four. I love how much they rap about the amazing things that they can do, and who they can defeat with their powers. In this rhyme, I took down Jimmy Carter, Knight Rider, and The Clash (lyrically).
I wanted to do something like Fantasy Three's 'It's Your Rock' or Crash Crew's 'On The Radio' (which are basically the same song). I think those two songs are like a perfect marriage of lyrically heavy rap and '80s synth pop.
Dave and I were trying to channel Peter Brown and Spoonie Gee, respectively. I think of Spoonie Gee as the master of the smooth, never-ending rhyme. Some of his early songs sound like he didn't even stop rapping at the end, and they just pressed mute on his track or faded him out, to make it seem like the song has an ending.
'Co-op City Center Jam '82'
This was created to feature one of the legendary old-school MCs, who ended up not being able to meet our admittedly demanding deadlines. I hope someday we can release a remix, and people can hear this one as it was originally intended.
'Star Dust Roller Rink '83 Part Two (Dave and Height say goodbye)'
In this snippet, I tell everyone that is our last night performing, because Secret Weapon Dave is joining the Merchant Marines. This was to symbolize the ending of the live era, and the fact that a lot of the originators unceremoniously vanished after the live era ended.
Many hip-hop singles from the early '80s contain a fake crowd, recorded in a studio. Maybe they felt like the hip-hop experience couldn't be complete without the sound of a crowd? Those tracks sound very different from the hundreds of actual live recordings of hip-hop shows that were floating around at the time. That's the vibe we were going for with this final song.