Tag Archives: baltimore club

DC Duos: Cam Jus and Billy the Gent

As Dave Nada’s accidental creation continues to grow, spurned on by a vibrant, global underground fan base, DJs and producers of all stripes are finding their voice with moombahton. Thanks to a simple formula and a rich palette of sounds, the genre is whatever you make of it. That seems to be the philosophy behind two of the biggest names in the scene, DC’s own Cam Jus and Billy the Gent.

Cam Jus has been DJing in DC for a few years now, and his trademarks continue to be his chilled-out personality and musical versatility. Depending on the crowd and venue, Cam is at ease spinning Top 40, electro, dancehall and all points in between. Appropriately, he’s also fluent in that fusing of hip-hop and house music from our neighbors up I-95, Baltimore club. His first remixes were Bmore versions of songs by DMV stalwarts Wale and Blaqstarr, and he’s continued to flip tracks into the frenetic style, like this breakbeat driven remix of R&B crooner Miguel’s “Sure Thing.”

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Miguel – Sure Thing (Cam Jus remix).mp3″ text=”Miguel – Sure Thing (Cam Jus remix)” dl=1]

For a DJ with such an expansive repertoire and diverse audience base, moombahton was a natural fit for Cam. Similarly, his remixes touch on everything from Jay-Z and Frank Ocean to MIA and Sleigh Bells. His knowledge of R&B, new and old, is paying off as the moombahton derivative moombahsoul takes off; he massaged Lisa Fischer’s classic ballad “How Can I Ease The Pain” into something for a new generation of party-goers.

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Cam Jus – Ease the Pain.mp3″ text=”Cam Jus – Ease the Pain” dl=1]

Cam is also coming into his own as a producer and songwriter, due in no small part to going back to school for audio engineering last fall. Combine his musical knowledge, ear for a hook, and technical skill and you get a moombahton anthem song that screams DC, “Metro Center (Step Back),” off his Nightvision EP.

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Cam Jus – Metro Center (Step Back).mp3″ text=”Cam Jus – Metro Center (Step Back)” dl=1]

As Cam Jus was making a name for himself in the DC DJ scene, Billy the Gent was doing the same in different sonic territory. A tattoo artist at Adams Morgan’s Tattoo Paradise, the heavily-inked Billy Bennett cuts an imposing figure that is immediately undermined by his laid back nature. Originally performing as DJ Billfold, Billy was throwing parties from Richmond to DC and dropping dubstep that owed more to its UK roots than its arena-filling ambitions.

But like all DC DJs, it was only a matter of time before Billfold started dabbling in moombahton. The transition was sudden and a bit surprising, but after seeing him man the decks at a few Yuh Sundays with Dave Nada at U Hall, it was clear he had the chops to handle bass from the tropics as well as that from the UK. His production work only reinforced this. His Fr33ky Moombahton EP dropped at a time when everything in the nascent scene was “fr33ky” (a leet-speak version of “freaky”). The highlight of the EP is his syrupy remix of Torro Torro’s electrohouse banger “Knockin’ Boots,” which seems better suited for knocking boots than the original ever did.

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Torro Torro – Knockin’ Boots (Bill’s fr33ky Moombahton Edit).mp3″ text=”Torro Torro – Knockin’ Boots (Bill’s fr33ky Moombahton Edit)” dl=1]

Somewhere along the way, Billfold became Billy the Gent, and began focusing almost exclusively on tropical bass. Moombahton’s no pretension, collaboration-heavy ethic is evident in his biggest contribution to the scene. Along with Virginia’s Long Jawns, Billy morphed a sexually charged Petey Pablo sample into a moombahton mating call, “Vibrate.” Then the two sent the track to Miami’s DJ JWLS – an inspiration for the original – who contributed his own remix.

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Vibrate 2.0.mp3″ text=”Billy the Gent / Long Jawns – Vibrate” dl=1]

When it comes to moombahton in DC, all roads lead to the Velvet Lounge. Dave Nada’s Moombahton Monday parties are already legendary, with their early adopter swagger and too-cheap tequilla shots. When Dave moved to LA, the party’s absence left a noticeable mark. A few months later, Cam approached Billy about doing a Sunday monthly at Velvet. With promoters Rookies and Nrdgsm in tow, Tropixxx was born (with three Xs, you know it’s fr33ky).

Since January, Tropixxx has quickly grown into a must-attend event. The video for “Pendejas” by Tittsworth and Alvin Risk – filmed at Tropixxx – is indicative of what to expect. Falling on the first Sunday of the month, it’s not for the average weekend warrior, and the pro-am nature of a Sunday night party keeps it packed with only true moombahtonistas.

They might have taken very different paths to get there, but Cam Jus and Billy the Gent are carrying the flame for the moombahton movement, finding their voices just as the city finds its own.

The next Tropixxx is October 2. Before then, the guys will be opening for London house producer Jesse Rose at U Hall on Thursday, September 29. They’re also on the bill for The Rave at the Warehouse Loft (411 NY Ave) on October 8, with special guests Nina Sky.

Review: Blaqstarr – The Mixtape

After The Divine comes The Mixtape, Blaqstarr’s follow-up to the transcendent EP released earlier this year. At 25 tracks and just over an hour, the singularly titled mixtape is a definitive look at Blaq’s past, present and future.

Classic collaborations, like “Get Off” with Diplo and “Tween Me and You” with Nadastrom, are reminders of how far Blaqstarr’s sound has come. Compare those with ones with Steve Aoki (the nu-disco “Control Freak”), Will.i.am (the wavering, La Bouche-referencing “Meet Me Halfway”), and Akon (the auto-tuned ballad “Teardrop Shorty”). Gone are the Baltimore club beats; these new tracks are four-on-the-floor crowd pleasers, not the slick and sexy songs he built his name on.

But for fans of Blaqstarr’s old school material, not all is lost. His team-up with DJ Excel, “Rain Came Into My House,” is pure Bmore swagger. “Handstand,” with production by Switch and VIIXIIV (aka Sugu Arulpragasam, M.I.A.’s younger brother), is raw and sludgy. And one of the tape’s finest moments is a remix of the gunshot banger “Tote It,” featuring Lil Wayne (which has been floating around as “Told Y’all” for a while).

In an ironic turn, Blaqstarr teams up with the members of Black Star. “War of Roses” features Talib Kweli, and sounds like Steppenwolf with a club beat, and the moody, hip-hop infused “Kiss Me On My Lips” with Mos Def would fit in on The Divine.

Blaqstarr is a man stuck multiple worlds: the club sounds of his Baltimore home, the shimmering dance music of his LA residence, and the future funk of his boundless imagination all loom large in his work. The Mixtape, while straining under these pressures, does an admirable job of finding the common thread between varied genres and lets Blaqstarr shine.

Download: Blaqstarr – The Mixtape

Keeping club music alive: DJ Sega's Sixer Series

Forget what club music charlatans say: Baltimore club moving up I-95 to Philadelphia and Newark (and out to Chicago) is and was a beneficial development for the sound.

Exhibit A in the Brick Bandits dominance of club music is DJ Sega. Sega just wrapped up his Sixer Series Collection with its third volume of twenty minute workout plans.

Each volume has featured a mix of Sega’s originals and remixes. Touching on hip-hop (“Runaway”), R&B (Beyonce, R. Kelly), progressive house (Pryda’s “MIA to ATL”), and even dance classics (“Everybody Dance Now”), Sega’s steady hand supercharges the familiar into something much more fierce. As for originals, tracks like “Rock Dem Hornz” and “Bitch Right Now” are instant club classics.

Baltimore club has a knack for capturing the zeitgeist; Jonny Blaze’s “SpongeBob” remix is the chief example of this. DJ Sega continues the tradition by crafting “The Angry Birdz Theme” out of samples from the ubiquitous iPhone/iPad sensation.

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After a club slaying turn at last month’s Clockwork party, Sega returns to DC for this month’s edition. If you missed this last time (and even if you were there), see the future of club music first hand this Friday. To hold you over, grab all three volumes of the Sixer Series.

Download: Vol. I – The First 6-pack

1. riot music – (donaeo + skream x dj sega remix)
2. mia to atl to phl – (pryda x dj sega remix)
3. music sounds better with you – (stardust x dj sega remix)
4. why don’t you love me – (beyonce x dj sega remix)
5. runaway – (kanye west x dj sega remix)
6. u don’t like me – (diplo + lil jon x dj sega remix)
7. rock dem hornz sega – (dj sega) – Bonus

Download: Vol. II – The Second Batch

1. rock dem hornz sega – (dj sega)
2. K-swift’s hold up 2011 – (dj sega)
3. Shiftee (onyx x dj sega remix)
4. Next To You (dj class + rose royce x dj sega)
5. everybody fuck now (sissy penis factory + c&c music factory xdj sega)
6. down low (r kelly x dj sega)

Download: Vol. III – Closer to Home

1. bitch right now – (dj sega)
2. body bag remix (johnny Nelson x dj sega)
3. look at me now part 2 (chris brown + busta rhymes + lil wayne x dj sega)
4. philly shit remix (young chris x dj sega)
5. wall-e 2012 (gimmie a wallie) (ybe x dj sega)
6. the angry birdz theme (dj sega)

Clockwork celebrates one year anniversary

Last fall, Will Eastman’s Bliss Dance Party hit the decade mark. Tomorrow night, the Nouveau Riche crew celebrates their fifth anniversary, at U Hall. And tonight, a burgeoning DC dance night turns one year old.

Clockwork, the monthly dance party thrown by DJs Ratt Moze, Chris Nitti and Philip Goyette at the Rock and Roll Hotel, hosts an all-star cast of DJs, including Brick Bandits DJ Sega and Tim Dolla. Rounding out the line-up are DJs Blastercase (Baltimore), Will Power (LA), and Cold Case (DC) for what should be a great night at the H Street anchor. I’ve been to quite a few Clockworks (including a false start at the Red & Black), so I took this opportunity to speak with Ratt Moze (government name Matt Rose) about tonight’s party.

Clockwork has a symbiotic relationship with the Rock and Roll Hotel’s growth as a weekend dance party destination. Rose credits this, in part, to the Hotel’s upstairs renovations, including a more accessible and visible DJ booth: “I think any DJ would agree seeing your crowd face to face makes a huge difference in how you play out your set.” The party has also benefited from its hosts settling into their musical grooves, putting a premium on diversity of songs and styles. Still, while the H Street explosion has been a net positive, he’s weary of it turning into Adams Morgan: “There are only so many times I can handle being asked to play Rihanna in one night.”

While a live performance from Libby of Baltimore’s Lazerbitch was stellar, Rock and Roll is moving away from live performances upstairs. The Clockwork boys will have to settle for guest DJs, including the Dirty Sweaty Nasty kids from Virginia (in April) and Jerome Baker III & Stereofaith (in May). Rose would love to see Scottie B on the bill, as well.

Tonight’s club music centric bill is a step towards that goal, but the lack of Baltimore club nights in DC is a sore subject for Rose: “I love Baltimore Club music so much, and to see the way it has been tossed to the side locally is disappointing.” He thinks it will take more than club music masters like Dave Nada and DJ Sega to keep it alive; the return of Low Budget and Jonny Blaze are bright signs on the landscape. But Rose puts the genre on the back of one man: “The beating heart of Baltimore Club music’s survival is James Nasty,” says Rose, who finds Nasty’s production and touring “unmatched” by his peers.

There is a lot going on tonight (and every Friday night), but meme-fanatic Rose has an elevator pitch for tonight’s Clockwork: “the atmosphere and music will make you feel like this.”

EP Review: Blaqstarr – The Divine

Blaqstarr’s Divine EP is a dedication to feminine perfection and an offering to Gaia. But this is still a Blaqstarr record; like previous offerings, it’s hyperactive and sex-charged, albeit built more for the bedroom than the club. Over just six songs, Blaqstarr moves further down the rabbit hole, continuing to push and pull at the confines of Baltimore club music, crafting something more soulful and dramatic than ever before.

Serving as an introduction to the bizarre trip that follows, “All the World” kicks off the EP. Chopped vocal loops and frenetic live drums build to a crescendo under Blaqstarr’s off-time (and ocassionally off-key) crooning. The title track picks up where “All the World” left off, focusing those Neptunesque live drums and bouncy melody. It builds predictably until the mid-song breakdown. Over droning guitars and an underlying Bmore beat, Blaq freaks out with a call-and-response refrain of “Can I lick your ice cream?” Bringing both strands back together is the kind of chaos for which he’s known.

One of the strongest songs on the EP is actually a reworking of a track that has been around since at least 2007. “Rider Girl” is a poignant tribute to deceased Baltimore legend K Swift. Falling somewhere between “Supastarr” and “Automatic Lover” in Blaqstarr’s body of work, the song serves as a bridge between the club music that Swift championed and the new school that Blaqstarr owns and operates.

The strength of the EP is Blaqstarr’s skill in digging deeper into the roots and relatives of Baltimore club, refreshing a sound that is starting to stagnate. “Wonder Woman” is a bluesy jam steeped in P-funk, conjuring images of Blaq armed with just an acoustic guitar. His off-kilter line “she licked the gun / when she done / and said revenge is sweet” and the ghost of a club beat just below the surface are both unnerving and enticing. “Oh My Darlin” is Blaqstarr at his most minimal, featuring only haunting synth lines, wistful vocals, and a Prince meets Kanye rhythm. The EP closes with the even-more melancholy “Turning Out,” a true 808 heartbreaker.

While The Divine might not feature a breakthrough single like “Shake It to the Ground,” it does more to cement Blaqstarr as an essential voice in music – someone unafraid to confront expectations and worship in his own way.