To say the legacy of Khia “K-Swift” Edgerton lives on is about as big an understatement as you can make in Baltimore.
Three years after her death, the 92Q DJ and radio host’s work has motivated a new wave of female artists, popularized a lasting genre of Baltimore club music, draws crowds to memorials and is the inspiration for scholarships and a new school of music and technology.
Hundreds gathered Sunday at Riverside Park Pool in South Baltimore to celebrate 92Q's annual K-Swift Day.
There, attendees said Swift’s legacy has spawned an upsurge of female DJs in an industry once dominated by men.
“There weren’t a lot of female DJs when Swift started,” says 92Q’s Pork Chop, a longtime friend and colleague. “But there are a lot female DJs now that I come across who feel if Swift could do it then I can do it. [K-Swift Day] is about growth. We want to let people know that we’re going to take her tragedy and turn it into a triumph.”
K-Swift joined 92Q in 1998 as an intern. The next decade would see Edgerton’s popularity explode on the local club and party scene. Her “Off Da Hook Radio” show co-hosted with Squirrel Wyde was No. 1 in the city for its time slot.
Local female artists such as Pamela Hampton (aka DJ P. Chris), 27, and Angel Carpenter (aka DJ Angel Baby), 25, heavily attribute K-Swift’s success with giving them the courage to pursue their own careers.
“I used to follow her to gigs and the radio station, seeing all the hard work that she put in,” says Chris. “She motivated me to learn and understand that DJing is a craft and a passion. But you can also build a brand and make a business from it. She was able to go to other cities and states and make it popular. People from other cities used to laugh and joke at [Baltimore] club music, saying ‘what kind of music is that? It sounds like firecrackers going off or something.’ But she was able to stand her ground, produce it, and take it outside of Baltimore and gain respect for it.”
K-Swift’s mother, Juanita Edgerton, walked about the Riverside Pool greeting local DJs and family members. Saying that her mother is proud with the day’s turnout is an obvious understatement. An educator with Baltimore City public schools for more than 30 years, Edgerton wasn’t initially thrilled with her daughter’s career choice to DJ.
“I came from a family of college graduates,” says Edgerton with a laugh. “Khia was telling me from sixth and seventh grade that she wanted to be a DJ. She was always toying around with that type of equipment. That was her gift. What she did was enter a male-dominated field and take it to another level. I learned from her that you don’t try and destroy someone’s vision.”
Swift was able to do more than just spin records, fellow musicians said. She was able to create the music. She was able to brand it. Her club mixes have entertained an entire young generation who still listen fondly recalling many a sweat-laden night of unique local dance moves and ringing earlobes.
“I grew up watching her do her thing,” says DJ Angel Baby, on-air talent and host of “Rap Attack” on 92Q. “As a teenager I would go to all the clubs that she played at and listen to her mix tapes and follow everything she would do on the radio and in the streets. Now that I’m at 92Q it’s kind of bittersweet because I’m actually there doing everything that [K-Swift] said that I would do, but she’s not here.”
What K-Swift saw in Baltimore club, explains Angel, is something raw, untapped and fresh sounding; something that could put Baltimore on the map.
“We have our own special sound and our own special movement here in Baltimore club. It’s something that can grab people and Swift saw that and just wanted to show it to the world,” she said. “She kind of is the reason I am who I am. Without her there would be no DJ Angel Baby or other females stepping to the plate here in Baltimore. She was that blueprint.”
Events like the one on Sunday will further entrench Swifts legacy beyond music, organizers say. Proceeds of K-Swift Day go directly to the DJ K-Swift Edgerton Memorial Scholarship Fund.
This year, three scholarships will be given to students aspiring to study in the communications field. A school of music and technology, to be placed in Edgerton’s name, is also in the works with the goal of opening in about a year.
“A school is big,” says Pork Chop. “It’s not about us anymore. It’s about these kids. The city needs us. I just got my GED in 2009 and now I’m in college. Education is very important. We’ve got to push education. If I can push education I’m going to put her name on it.”