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Baltimore club music meets Pittsburgh this weekend

The limiting factors of a small city generate a vibrant underground scene in both places

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Though cutthroat sports rivals, Pittsburgh and Baltimore have gelled in a certain sense: as musical cohorts, and as cities leading parallel musical lives. Baltimore DJ .rar Kelly explains that the current Baltimore club scene mimics what he saw Pittsburgh exuding in 2008.

"Everybody works together," he says, reflecting on his own four years living in the Steel City. "They know one another in some capacity, because they're both small, blue-collar towns." The limiting factors of a small city generate a vibrant underground scene with a built-in support system — because there's no other way to survive.

Normaling, a duo consisting of Kelly and his musical partner Lemz, produces insanely palatable electro, hip-hop and techno beats. The duo is one of a slew of acts performing this Fri., Nov. 28, at Belvedere's as part of what's dubbed the Baltimore Club Takeover.

Kelly explains the upcoming showcase in one word: energy. "We know that the crowd has a good time when the musicians have a good time and ..."

"We have fun," finishes Lemz.

Representing Baltimore: DDm
  • Photo courtesy of Caly the Tiger
  • Representing Baltimore: DDm

The event, presented by local promoter Obvious, will give Pittsburgh an intense taste of the Baltimore club scene, featuring artists Scottie B, TT the Artist, Mighty Mark, DDm and other current staples.

Kelly is quick to compliment music fans in Pittsburgh, citing it as his favorite place to perform. "The listening audience in Pittsburgh is very open-minded," he notes, "and is genuinely interested in the music that you play. It still has that reputation." He and Lemz compare it to Baltimore, which is, perhaps, still learning to play well with others. Right now, they assert, "Baltimore loves Baltimore."

The goal of Normaling is to create something that's genuine and marries the members' unique interests. Kelly explains that their biggest influence in this regard is actually living in Baltimore. "I feel like Baltimore club music is one of the most authentic, regional sounds in America, period," he says. The collective unit of Baltimore artists casts a spirit that rubs off on all those working within it.   

Part of this unit is charismatic and outspoken DDm, one of the first openly gay rappers in Baltimore. He labels his personality as "authentically" Baltimore: "I'm raw, I'm rough around the edges, I get right to the chase. ... I don't negotiate that when it comes to my music." He posits that the small size of Baltimore has inadvertently caused the musicians there to make music that is true to their passions. He explains, "We're not holding our breath to be the next big pop sensation."

This new community is tight, but that's not to say it's insular. Born from a scene made of artists working independently, this new generation has banded together to support and collaborate with each other.

"We understand what we're up against," DDm admits, "and we have to stick together — we have to have that kind of camaraderie."

Even the old-school producers are in on it; legends like Scottie B and Rod Lee are actively working with the new generation of producers. Lemz explains: "Everyone is realizing that you shine brighter through it."

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