In Baltimore, my beautiful burned-out wasteland of a hometown, things don’t change too quickly. The last time I filled up my minivan in town, a couple of weeks ago, the car next to mine was blasting Young Jeezy’s 2005 Gucci Mane dis “Stay Strapped,” a song that was in heavy mixtape rotation when I left town almost eight years ago. 98 Rock, the city’s AOR station, still plays the same Slaughter songs they played when I was in middle school. And in the rare occasions in the past few years when I’ve been around other people and hearing Baltimore club music, the city’s great jacked-up house music offshoot, they’ve been the club anthems of the short moment in the early- and mid-’00s when it looked like the rest of the world might start paying attention to that fiercely local scene (“You Big Dummy,” “Watch Out For The Big Girl,” “Don’t Make Me Kill” — some of my favorite pieces of wild-out music ever). Admittedly, it’s not like I’ve been logging weekends at the Paradox; my last time dancing to club music around other people was at my brother’s wedding, in an Iowa cornfield. But when you’re not in town, going out and paying attention, you can forget that club music is kids’ music, and that kids are always pushing it forward. Beyond the brief out-of-nowhere 2009 moment where DJ Class’s near-perfect “I’m The Shit” became a minor national hit, the music has had barely any profile outside of a few northeastern pockets in the last few years. But it’s still relentlessly moving forward, and that’s something you can hear all over DJ Angelbaby’s great new scene-survey mix Get Pumped Vol. 1.
I hadn’t heard anything about this mix before Brandon Soderberg Tumblred about it the other day, but I’ve been diving in since, and the effect is something like visiting your old high school and noticing where they put in new windows or painted over old murals. DJ Angelbaby is a young presence on 92Q, Baltimore’s great rap station, which always devotes big chunks of its weekend nights to club music sets, usually straight from the club. The producers she includes on her mix are mostly young, in their teens or early ’20s. She makes a bit of room for producers from the emerging club scenes in Philly and Newark, and you can’t really tell who’s from where unless you start Googling producer names; it all sounds like Baltimore. As ever, club music producers shamelessly pilfer hooks and vocal samples from whatever rap songs are big at any given moments, and certain voices are all over this mix: Meek Mill, Nicki Minaj. A couple of 2 Chainz verses get to play out relatively unmolested, which is practically unherad of. Lil Jon yayuuuhs — a crucial part of club tracks for way longer than you might expect, have finally mostly disappered; Waka Flocka bows, it turns out, make a more-than-adequate substitute. But the changes aren’t all superficial like those. The synthed-up sound of recent pop and rap has trickled through to club music, and tracks like the one that hijacks Rihanna’s “Diamonds” sound positively lush compared to what you’d hear a few years ago.
Still, this is still club music, and it still serves the same function it always did. Even at its smoothest, this is still insanely propulsive and rudimentary dance music. That Rihanna remix sounds like someone welded her voice onto the exhaust pipe of a backfiring car. Get Pumped moves through 39 tracks in 53 minutes; only one non-outro/non-bonus track gets to break the two-minute barrier. The tempo never varies; it pounds away consistently and turns your brain into jelly five minutes in. And for all its intensity, this is still euphoric, celebratory music — music created expressly to help kids from a hopeless place lose their minds with joy. The horror-movie bell-chimes of Kanye West’s remix of Chief Keef’s “Don’t Like” become cartoonish bubble-pops. The chilly synth-stabs of Kanye’s “Mercy” work in club music almost too perfectly, and the squeaky-bed sound-effect on Big Sean’s “Marvin Gaye And Chardonnay” somehow stops being the most annoying thing ever. My favorite track on the mix is probably DJ Pierre’s “End Of Time” remix, which turns an Afrobeat-jacking Beyonce album track into something even warmer and more ebullient than it already was. I can’t remember the last time I heard a DJ mix that crammed in the grin-per-minute ratio I’m getting from this thing.
This isn’t a classically constructed DJ set, with peaks and valleys and buildups and releases. It doesn’t tell a story. Instead, it’s all one seamless unceasing burst of adrenaline. Its 39 tracks, which Angelbaby expertly syncs up and sequences, find about 39 different ways to make your brain explode. Plenty of people can’t stand club music, and I get that; it’s about as mechanistic and single-minded as dance music gets. But if you’ve found yourself enjoying it before, you owe it to yourself to check out Get Pumped; it’s the sort of thing that gives me new hope for a scene I should’ve never stopped paying attention to.
Download Get Pumped, Vol. 1 for free here.