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City Paper

Brenmar’s dance music exists in a world where R&B and rap rests on top of the regional club beats from his hometown of Chicago’s juke/footwork scene to Baltimore club music. Although the producer has been crafting club-friendly tracks for years, he first got national attention after he worked with Brooklyn rapper Mykki Blanco on the sneering single ‘Wavvy’ back in 2012.

In February Brenmar released his “High End Times Vol. 1” mixtape, a collection of original productions that features Blanco, R&B balladeer Ian Isaiah, rising Jersey club queen UNiiQU3, and others. Meanwhile, a remixed version of the EP, released in June, included a contribution from Baltimore producer Matic. 

From his home in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy, Brenmar discussed his new label (also called High End Times), helping regional beatmakers and Baltimore talents like Matic and TT The Artist raise their profiles. Brenmar plays The Metro Gallery on Friday, Aug. 15 with Matic, Schwarz, and Uncle Jesse.

City Paper: For someone who may not know you, how would you describe your sound? Also, how did Bill Salas become Brenmar?

Brenmar: I was born and raised in Chicago but I’ve been living in New York for over six years now. I make hip-hop, R&B, and club music informed by UK bass, Chicago ghetto house, and Jersey and Baltimore club. Brenmar was a name given to me by then-2-year-old brother when I was 18.

CP: Tell me about growing up in Chicago. How did the city influence your own style?

B: Growing up as a teenager in the late ’90s and early ’00s there was no escaping hip-hop and R&B. That was our pop music. What we had that was special though was ghetto house like DJ Funk, DJ Deeon, and all of Dance Mania. Those records would get play late night and weekends on all the commercial hip-hop radio stations in the city back then. Then the early ’00s hit and with it, the tempos sped up and the beats got more complicated and thus, juke was born. It was the new ghetto house, the new party music of choice for teenage Latino and black kids. Back then I thought the whole world knew what juke was. I mean, it was everywhere in Chicago. Like, the first time a girl ever grinded up on me was to juke music! Growing up in a city that cultivates its own dance scene/culture/sound is a beautiful thing. It’s an outlet of expression and art for the youth and in some cases the only thing keeping kids alive and off the streets in many of these cities. I’m trying to bridge that gap between commercial hip-hop and R&B and regional urban dance music in a way that pays respect to both equally.

CP: Appropriation is commonplace in underground and mainstream pop production. How do you remain sensitive to the musical subcultures from which you draw inspiration?

B: I try to work with those who don’t know how to be anything other than themselves. DJ Rashad followed his own muse and was directly influenced by the footworking culture and battles in Chicago. I would get a lot of “footwork” beats and demos from the UK and other parts of Europe and America and Asia but something was missing. The feeling was just a bit “off.” They would sit down to make a “footwork” track inspired by Rashad and the Chicago scene, which most probably only really experienced via the internet. A lot of these guys out in Jersey making club music have been listening to and making it since they were teenagers. If you found out about Jersey club two years ago through the internet, there’s no way you are going to make Jersey club that’s on the same level. Knowing that, as an artist/producer you have to ask yourself, “So how can I add to the conversation?” There’s nothing wrong with being influenced by something or someone, but unless you are making these influences your own, then you are diluting the scene/sound and making it harder for the “real” stuff to shine and get the respect it deserves.

CP: Is your label High End Times a way of adding to the conversation?

B: The label was born out of necessity: a desire to unite what me and my friends are doing. I was initially hesitant because everyone and their mom has a label nowadays but I either wait around looking for the perfect home for what I’m doing or I take matters into my own hands. If it’s on High End Times then it has my cosign, it meets my high standards. I have an upcoming five-song project with [vogue-inspired vocalist] Calore that I’m producing. Two of the songs, ‘BEADS’ and ‘Payroll,’ are already out. That will be the release that will probably launch the label and will be followed by EPs from UNiiQU3 and Matic.

CP: How did you hear about Matic?

B: I found Matic on SoundCloud! His beats are some of the best right now. He’s taking Baltimore club into 2014. I don’t think the people realize what they have in Baltimore.

CP: Why is that?

B: The old heads don’t fuck with some of the younger folks.

CP: I spoke with TT the Artist a couple weeks ago and she seemed super confident about bridging the new and old divide. Scottie B and some of the other veterans are supportive.

B: TT’s great. She’s going to be on the DJ Sliink EP on High End Times. Older guys stay relevant by working with the younger generation. That’s just how it works. That’s why T.I. just did a song with Young Thug. Why don’t the kids know the older generation? It’s not the kids’ fault, it’s their fault. The kids would love the older generation to show them love. It was the same in Chicago. The new ghetto-house dudes didn’t get love from the classic-house dudes. Where is New York rap nowadays? The older generation didn’t care or try to inspire and bring up the youth. Everyone is on their own trying to protect what name or recognition they got. Atlanta and Los Angeles are winning because they work together. Personally I’m excited by what the youth are doing, not threatened. 

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