No Trivia

DJ Blaqstarr’s King of Roq

one comment

There’s a lot of talk about DJ Blaqstarr lately, especially amongst people not in the Baltimore area. Because of the fairly recent interest in Baltimore club amongst so-called hipsters and other music afficianados, I’ve heard one can stumble into places in Philadelphia or New York and hear Baltimore Club mixes and that’s sort of great and a little surreal to think about because the music so many people are treating as new and interesting is something I’ve heard ever since I started listening to 92.3 “the Q” in like 3rd grade! The weird beats, filthy lyrics and samples, the high BPMs, the A.D.D of it all just kinda of makes sense to me but yeah…it’s weird, regional music that people are finally latching onto and that’s pretty exciting. For awhile, the Baltimore club semi-craze kinda irked me because it felt more like co-opting, with Diplo and friends taking it or making B-more club-ish tracks and then hearing people in fucking Baltimore referring to Spank Rock as “Baltimore Club” but what are you gonna do? That’s what it takes for music to become popular and more easily available and all that junk so yeah…don’t quote me on this, but I think it’s Baltimore Club week at No Trivia.

Blaqstarr’s reputation is growing even faster than other real Baltimore Club producers because of his interest in going outside of Baltimore- he recently produced ‘The Turn’ on M.I.A’s ‘Kala’- and his tendency to be a little more experimental than his B-More club peers and influences. I don’t say this to disregard his creativity and artistry but I think a part of Blaqstarr’s interest in stuff other than classic club breaks and super-fast beats is his age (22). Most of the Baltimore Club legends (Rod Lee, Scottie B, KW Griff, Technics) are significantly older and come from a more purist generation, one that sees their music as theirs and is more interested in finding freedom- or apparent freedom- in super-regulated patterns of music-making, while Blaqstarr, especially on ‘King of Roq’ his release from this summer (now unavailable, sorry) pretty much breaks from the Baltimore Club traditions…kind of. Okay, it totally does but it’s not completely successful, Baltimore City Paper’s Al Shipley (who runs Baltimore Rap & Club blog Government Names) called ‘King of Roq’ “invigoratingly weird” in his review and that’s pretty fucking accurate because the album is genuinely bizarre, not bizarre when compared to other Baltimore Club records but just ‘Stankonia’ weird. I think it will end up being the album that inspires Baltimore Club experiments and not you know, the experimental Baltimore Club album.

Starting with the first track, uh, ‘Intro’, full of space-sounds and wheezes and bloops and Blaq Starr announcing in a drop that pops-up a little too often (“I’m the king of rock…”), you get an appropriate introduction to the weirder aspects of the disc and to Blaqstarr’s voice, which is kinda high-pitched and more modern R & B than hip-hop and it often sounds flanged or reverbed a bit; it’s the sort of idiosyncracy that I guess Akon or T-Pain were going for when they starting using vocoder and auto-tune on their tracks but Blaqstarr just sounds weird because that’s his voice and also, it hasn’t become ubiquitous like those T-Pain isms. That Lil Wayne track on ‘Da Drought is Over 4′- the one that samples YES- sounds a lot like Blaqstarr and I’d venture to guess that Wayne, who seems to be ingesting every fucking sound and genre out there, has stumbled upon some tracks by Blaqstarr at some point in the past six months and ran with it. On ‘Allday’, Blaqstarr croons “and I will love you all day” and he’s not saying anything more than T-Pain and maybe even less, he’s hardly the crooner everyman T-Pain has evolved into, but he’s not this super-distant R & B perfectionist robot either. He takes the repetitive aspects of Baltimore Club and then sings instead of screams the hooks and because his voice is just plain bizarre, the repetition doesn’t as much gain energy as it does get increasingly obsessive-sounding and creepy and by the time you’re halfway through the album you’re sort of in this weird drunken trance of mid-paced B-More club weirdness that throws in lots of super-clean heavy metal-ish guitars, descending keyboard riffs, and only the occasional super-obvious club break.

-‘Yea I’ Track 2 off ‘King of Roq’: Like most Baltimore Club, there’s plenty of graphic sex lyrics on ‘King of Roq’, but Blaqstarr starts the album off with this light-rap full of well-worn Southern rap-ish threats (“I’ma blow this whole fuckin’ place to the ground”) and some classic bragging in a delivery that sort of sounds like the stuff you hear on popular rap radio but it’s just a bit more strange and homemade. His flow has a little of say, MIMs or Yung Joc in it, but way more interesting. The last few songs on the album are pretty much explicitly from this Southern kid-rap mold, ‘Swagga Back’ could be a Yung Joc track and ‘I’m So Fly’ owes a lot to ‘This Is Why I’m Hot’ but it also has these Pharrell-ian drums and waaayyy more personality…

-‘Rock Wit Me’ Track 6 off ‘King of Roq’: I can’t imagine ‘King of Roq’ was made as some kind of actual reaction to the fun-but-ultimately retarded concept behind ‘Party Like a Rockstar’ but it certainly took some of that strange rock/rap crossover-ness to a way more interesting end. The references and shouts to being a “rock star” are the right kind of nonsense but 53 seconds in, these really bad-ass guitars come in and are later accompanied by some programmed drums that approximate live rock drumming- especially the sort of epic 80s metal the song tries to invoke- and still puts this looped hook of “rock” and stuff under it, so it’s still basically a club song. Those sound-like-they-were-played drums segue into the next track ‘Let’s Play’ and just become that song’s drums too!

-Shake It To The Ground’ off ‘King of Roq’ & ‘Supastarr EP’ which is available on iTunes:

This song falls onto ‘King of Roq’ at a kind of perfect place, exactly when the creepy-obsessive sound of it all first starts to get a little boring, the girl-rap greatness of ‘Shake It To The Ground’ shows up. I really like the tinny sorta-regal horns in the background and the double-tracking of her vocals for the lengthy chorus. The reverse of typical tough-girl rap swagger is interesting as well, where action is almost irrelevant: “Real girls talk/Fake girls walk”. This song’s been making it’s way around the blogs, especially because of the video which is really just a great video…the horror movie posters on the wall, the live club footage…the Biggie-Shortie dance in front of the water fountains…the television static that interrupts…the fountains happen to be one of my favorite things in Baltimore ever since I was a little kid and would visit the Inner Harbor with my grandparents. The cemetary that you see in the background of the bike stunts, the rowhouses, a cameo by Scottie B, it’s all pretty exciting on a nerdy local level…

-D.O.G’s ‘Ryda Gyrl’: I don’t have an mp3 of this song on my new laptop and my old computer is busted so I had to settle for this link, but you can still hear the song. It was all over local radio a few years ago, produced by Blaq Starr and Blaq Starr on the chorus. Still my favorite Blaq Starr production.

Written by Brandon

November 20th, 2007 at 12:06 am

One Response to 'DJ Blaqstarr’s King of Roq'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'DJ Blaqstarr’s King of Roq'.

  1. Just wondering: why not all names are resolved at template instantiation time?

    Margene Murton

    19 Aug 13 at 6:25 pm

Leave a Reply