In July 2008, Angel Carpenter, better known as DJ AngelBaby, fulfilled her lifelong dream of earning an on-air position at 92Q, the city's hip-hop radio station. On one of her first days at the job, Carpenter spotted the source of her inspiration — Khia Edgerton, the beloved and ubiquitous queen of Baltimore Club music known as K-Swift.
"There's a window right there, where you could see her on-air," remembered Carpenter, now 28 and a lover of Club music her entire life. "I was so weird and so scared. I was looking into the little fishbowl glass like, 'I'm going to speak to her. I'm going to speak to her.'
"And I didn't speak to her that day."
Timidity took over, and Carpenter, who had been hired for the station's overnight Friday shift, would not see Swift again. Three weeks later, Edgerton died at 29 after suffering neck injuries from a swimming pool-related incident. Carpenter says it still hurts that she never told Edgerton how important she was to her, face to face.
"She put the idea in my head that a girl, a woman can be successful and just as bad and slick as the guys," Carpenter said. "I don't know. That's the only female [in radio] that I've seen from Baltimore that was actually successful. ... Her legacy set the blueprint."
Since 2010, Carpenter has taken what she's learned from the K-Swift blueprint, and forged her own path to Club prominence. Since the release of her first Club mixtape, January's "Get Pumped Vol. 1," DJ AngelBaby has become the new face and leader of the city's unique brand of kinetic, house-meets-hip-hop music. And she's using her rising local influence for charity work, including a motivational "Get Pumped High School Tour," which kicks off April 25 at Baltimore's Talent Development High School.
"She has the ability to make Club music cool again," said Baltimore Club producer Murder Mark, born Marquis Gasque. He watched Carpenter emerge in the Club scene during a time when no one else took the lead. He says Carpenter could be at the front of Club's future.
"I'm not working with her for me, but for Club music in general," Murder Mark said.
Growing up in Lafayette Courts, a public housing development just east of downtown, Carpenter looked beyond her family for sources of motivation. Her father wasn't around and her mother, now clean, once suffered from a cocaine addiction ("Baltimore junkie, you know?", she said).
So for Carpenter, women such as Edgerton and her Dunbar High School guidance counselor inspired her to prosper. At the latter's encouragement, Carpenter went on to Howard University, where she worked at the student radio station and interned at WorldSpace satellite radio. She worked her way up, first doing behind-the-scenes production at Washington hip-hop station WPGC and then landing her first on-air gig for Radio One's AM gospel station.
"I was on-air, just being Angel," she said. "I'd barely speak about the music. I'd talk about whatever I wanted to talk about and they grew to love me."
Perhaps more than anything else, it is Carpenter's innate ability to make strangers like her that has made her a local celebrity. It also explains how she ditched the weekend night shift to co-host 92Q's Rap Attack show (Sundays from 7 to 10 p.m. with partner AJ) and the graveyard shift from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. Monday-Friday. She says the late hours fit her.
"I don't wake up early really well," she said. "I'm so not cute or pleasant in the morning."
That's hard to believe, as Carpenter — who resembles R&B singer Kelly Rowland — is a natural people person, with enough charisma and warmth to spare. She hugs hello and goodbye. And although she clutches a white iPhone for our entire interview, Carpenter engages with ease, even as her phone buzzes with constant messages.
While Carpenter praises Edgerton often during our hour-long talk, she's smart enough to deflect direct comparisons, which began to pile up after the release of "Get Pumped Vol. 1" on New Year's Day. She grew up listening to Edgerton's mixes and attending her DJ sets at the Paradox, so the power of K-Swift is not lost on Carpenter.
"People started comparing me to Swift, which was totally unfair to her legacy," she said. "This is my first mixtape. I'm nobody right now. .... I've got people saying, 'Oh, you're the Princess of Club music!' and I'm like, 'No, no, no.' I don't want that. I just want everybody to get back on [Club] and love it like I do."
While the two DJs never met, it's hard to ignore their similarities. Both are from the area and established their names on 92Q. As of now, DJ AngelBaby lacks K-Swift's clout and name-recognition, but she's regarded well in the Club scene. Perhaps most importantly to Carpenter, she and Swift are respected women in a male-dominated industry.
"Who knew a woman could be that successful and do what she did?" Carpenter, a Roland Park resident now, said. "She gave me that mindset like, 'Yeah, I could be that.' "
Gasque says any comparisons Carpenter receives to Edgerton are gender-based and unfair. He's quick to point out their different mixing styles: "K-Swift CDs fade in and backspins [before] it goes to the next track."