The first time I sat down to interview Samir Singletary, better known as Baltimore club producer Debonair Samir, it was for City Paper's 2006 Big Music Issue. At the time, he had just begun a fruitful business relationship with Aaron Lacrate, the Baltimore native and streetwear fashion designer who'd spent the last few years DJing in New York and abroad, spreading the club music gospel. Together, they cooked up the idea for B-More Club Crack, an album full of local artists performing over Samir's club and hip-hop beats, and Koch Records, the country's largest independent label, signed on to release it. But, as the original release date came and went, the album seemed to fall by the wayside, neglected by the whims of a big label with other priorities.
Fast forward to November 2008, by which point everyone, including Samir, had just about forgotten about the project, Lacrate got word from Koch (which has since been renamed E1 Music) about renewed interest in the album. "I was shocked when he got the call like 'we wanna release it,'" Samir told me earlier this week. So nearly three years after the album was originally due out, E1 recently announced that Aaron Lacrate & Debonair Samir Present B-More Club Crack will be released nationally on March 10. Apparently E1, which also recently began distributing Baltimore club label Unruly Records, remembered they'd already been sitting on a club music gem for years. "They had a meeting," Samir says, "and all the people in the meeting thought it was still a raw sound, because it's new to them." So he returned to the studio, and added some fresh new tracks to the ones that had been completed in 2006.
Among the new tracks on B-More Club Crack are two advance singles already making the rounds. Samir and company are already at work on a video for "Everybody On It" by female rapper Mz Streamz. The the other one, "Oh My Gosh," is a collaboration between Baltimore battle rap legend Verb and Jamaican dance hall star Mr. Vegas. "It's the first official Baltimore [club]/reggae collaboration," Samir proudly says of the track, which features Vegas over a new version of the producer's signature beat, the blaring synth horn riff of "Samir's Theme."
Aside from "Oh My Gosh" and one other uptempo club track, however, Club Crack is primarily a hip-hop album, featuring local MCs like Mullyman, B. Rich, and Tim Trees over beats that are slower but still influenced by club music, in the style Lacrate has dubbed "gutter music" or "club crack." And Samir says that the featured artists ended up on the album specifically because they were ahead of the curve enough to want to make that kind of music, while many in the local rap scene were resistant. But now that the entire hip-hop world has come to embrace house and dance music influences, and hipster-friendly artists like M.I.A., Samir now finds many more local MCs eager to jump on the bandwagon. "Since the whole M.I.A. explosion with 'Paper Planes,' that means people, as far as the urban crowd, started listening to it. Now they call me like 'Yo, I wanna do that kind of stuff now.' I was trying to get y'all to do that two [or] three years ago!" he laughs.
Samir is still making straightforward Baltimore club tracks as well, remixing popular singles. But thanks to Lacrate's industry savvy, they've been scoring opportunities to provide official remixes to major label artists from Lily Allen to Madonna. "Aaron is a good guy, he has a lot of connects," Samir says. He and LaCrate hope that other Baltimore producers start getting similar opportunities thanks to the doors they've opened. "I always tell people, we do make alright money for these remixes. And Madonna herself wanted the Batlimore [sound], because she loved 'Samir's Theme,'" Samir says. Their reworking of the pop icon's latest hit, "Miles Away (Aaron LaCrate & Samir B-More Gutter Mix)" appeared on both the domestic and European CD singles for the song in December.
With the Club Crack release fast approaching, Debonair Samir already has his eyes on the next project, and plans on following it up with a new solo record, Samir's Revenge later in the spring, once he decides what label to release it through. "I just wanna make the ultimate party record for all DJs," he says. Having spent much of the last 2 years in Atlanta, Samir recently returned to living full-time in Baltimore, and is eager to once again set up home base in the city that he's long called home. "I'm really just happy to be back, I know I'm in the right place."