Ultra Nate | Image by Bart Everly 2009 was a big year for Baltimore club music to mutate and combine with other sounds, whether it was indie-rock duo Wye Oak's tender take on Rod Lee's club classic "Dance My Pain Away," Cex's IDM dissection of club breakbeats on his Battaille Royale, or Debonair Samir and Aaron Lacrate getting Jamaica's Mr. Vegas to put a dancehall spin on club for the single "Oh My Gosh." But it was still a great year for good old-fashioned, no frills club, so as in 2007 and 2008, here's my top 10 club tracks of 2009:
1) K.W. Griff "Swift's Revenge" In the months following DJ K-Swift's tragic 2008 death, there was a flurry of tribute tracks, all of them heartfelt but few of them had as much musical as sentimental value. K.W. Griff, however, knew exactly how to honor her memory without losing sight of the dancefloor. Last year he chopped up vocal samples of her and 92Q co-host Pork Chop for the great "Pork and Swift." And this year he followed it up with "Swift's Revenge," another track that'll bring a smile to the face of anyone who misses hearing the late, great DJ's voice on the radio every day, laying her trademark "yeah!" ad libs over a sample of one of the songs she was fond of spinning in her final months of DJing, M.I.A.'s "Boyz."
2) DJ Pierre "Let Me Get That" Up-and-comer DJ Pierre had a very good year, and this track from his Vol. 7 mix amply displays why it was well deserved, in the best Baltimore club tradition of being minimal while at the same time full of interesting rhythmic and textural ideas.
3) DJ Class "Dance Like A Freak" While his 2008 smash "I'm The Ish" spent most of the year continuing to break doors down that Baltimore club songs had never passed through before, DJ Class kept dropping killer songs. And none was more irresistible than the follow-up single "Dance Like A Freak," which may have not been as big a hit as its predecessor, but upped the ante of AutoTune hooks and endlessly inventive production.
4) Da Yo Boyz "I'm The Shit RMX" "I'm The Ish" inspired a huge wave of remixes, mostly from rappers both mainstream (Kanye West, Pitbull, Jermaine Dupri) and local (Mullyman, PenDragon). But newcomers Da Yo Boyz also provided a new club version, cleverly mashing Class's anthem together with Gucci Mane's vocals from his similarly themed "I'm The Shit."
5) The Doo Dew Kidz featuring Mullyman "Step Aside" DJ Booman and Jimmy Jones have floated out a ton of new music in 2009, but perhaps their biggest club track was under the banner of their longtime group, with a guest rap from frequent Booman collaborator Mullyman. And since a video for the track was just shot at Paradox, it looks like the Kidz are going to be pushing "Step Aside" well into 2010.
6) DJ Excel "Raven Stomp (The Underdog Mix)" A Baltimore club battle cry for the home team is such an obvious idea that it's a wonder nobody thought of it earlier. But to DJ Excel's credit, he took it beyond merely a great premise to a great track, with warped synths and harsh vocal chants mixing into an awesomely aggressive anthem.
7) DJ Mic Marvelous & DJ Twikks "Zombie Nation Bmore Club Remix" Speaking of tracks built for sporting events, few songs have been heard more in stadiums over the past decade than Zombie Nation's fist-pumping techno jam "Kernkraft 400," and it was just a matter of time before the frequently remixed track got a Baltimore makeover from Mic Marvelous and Twikks, with some "Think" drums under that massive chant.
8) Rod Lee "Let's Start This Shit Off" "They said there's no reason for the Baltimore club music, they said there's no reason for the beats to be rockin' the way they do," Rod Lee announces in the middle of his best production showcase of 2009, before a brief rap and a minimal bridge featuring a "where the handclaps" chant accompanied by, of course, nothing but a handclap beat.
9) Ultra Naté featuring King Tutt "Faster Faster Pussycat (Let's Go!)" One of the most interesting and long overdue club crossovers this year was the occasion of Ultra Naté, Baltimore's biggest traditional house music star of the past 20 years, hooking up with Unruly Records and its stable of producers for the Things Happen At Night EP, and the lead single featured her house diva vocals over a new version of King Tutt's 2008 dancefloor killer "Let's Go."
10) Say Wut "Streets of Baltimore" So much of Say Wut's signature sound revolves around rubbery synth horns that when he grabs some real brass—in this case from the theme song to the ''70s cop show The Streets of San Francisco—it's enough of a departure that it brings a whole new feel to his now-familiar formula.