In the past few years, Height, aka Dan Keech, has become the biggest white rapper in Baltimore — both musically and physically (he's a pretty large guy, hence the name). He has a plodding, deliberate cadence that begs a closer listen. You might call him the anti-Busta Rhymes.
Height is the centerpiece of Height With Friends, a group that combines the sharp guitar hooks of rock 'n' roll with rap's heavy beats. The production on their new album, "Rock and Roll," released last month on the Baltimore label Friends Records, is remarkably crisp. The arrangements often recall '60s pop and R&B/soul; the track "Hard Work" even has backup singers gingerly cooing "Ahh-oop."
Two of the album's nine tracks rise above the rest. On the opener, "I Can't Stand to be Refused," Height raps, "You gotta move so fast/ to lose/ these salesman blues" along over pounding drums. It's a banger. The other standout is Height With Friends' cover of fellow Baltimore musician Ed Schrader's song "I Can't Stop Eating Sugar." Height's voice throws sinister shade on Schrader's lyrics: "I see what it does/ I feel what it does."
While Height has his moments, he can, at times, struggle as a lyricist. His song "Dead Motor," about being stranded after a car accident, is an interesting concept, but the story lacks urgency.
"Rock and Roll" is good enough to put Height With Friends on the radar of many indie music fans. He's touring with experimental Baltimore musician Dan Deacon this fall — another huge boost. Height With Friends is flirting with the indie mainstream, and "Rock and Roll" is a step in the right direction.
'Rock and Roll'
Height With Friends
Rating: (out of 4)