xml:space="preserve">

Height With Friends

This week Baltimore rapper

dropped his fourth full-length,

Advertisement

Baltimore Highlands

, one of the first releases from the Wham City label. In light of the new record, the release party at Zodiac this Friday, and my review in

, I sat down with Height in his Hampden rowhouse to discuss his recording career, now in its tenth year, as well as some upcoming projects beyond

Baltimore Highlands

.

City Paper:

I was listening to your

recently, and you kind of explained there why you credited this album to Height With Friends instead of just Height, but do you want to expand on it a little bit?

Height:

Well, there's kind of general collaborations like getting someone on a track, and then there's what we did this time, which is, y'know, a team of producers makin' stuff together. I definitely feel like that, to me you can hear that the production is better.

CP:

Compared to previous albums?

Height:

To me, yeah, to me it's more what I wanted in terms of being more dynamic.

Advertisement

CP:

With previous albums, who did most of the production?

Height:

My very first [self-titled] album was four Shields beats, four Kid Icarus beats, which is Chris [Freeland] from Oxes, one Bow 'N Arrow beat, and one Jones beat. The second album [2004's

I Have A Gun

] was all Shields, and then

Winterize The Game

from 2007 was a similar mix, but also had production by Jackson from Grand Buffet.

CP:

So the new one is kinda the same old crew with a few new people?

Height:

Yeah, but to me the big difference is people actually making one beat as a team.

CP:

Were they sending files to each other, or actually sitting in a room and collaborating?

Height:

Both.

CP:

And you were in the room for a lot of those collaborations between producers?

Height:

Yeah.

CP:

It's been interesting to me to watch your progression over the past 6 or 7 years, because the first time I heard you was on Cex's album [2002's

Tall, Dark & Handcuffed

], and it seemed at the time that you guys had kind of a small scene of your own going with Bow 'N Arrow and out-of-town guys like Grand Buffet. And now Wham City is kind of a newer scene that has a lot of common ground with what you've been doing for years, so it seems appropriate that they're putting your record out now. Did that happen really organically or gradually?

Height:

Hmm . . . I don't know. I guess I don't feel that I've got to a point where the people that are really excited about Wham City are necessarily really excited about me.

CP:

So it's more that the artists in that circle know your work than that their audience does?

Height:

Yeah.

CP:

I guess it's hard to say where you fit in. I saw one night of the Baltimore Round Robin tour, but it wasn't the night you were on. Did that go well for you?

Height:

Yeah. I think, really I think the Round Robin shows are. . . . this might sound stupid, but I think they're good for almost everybody.

CP:

Right, like it's not like some artists connect with the artists and some don't, everyone's happy?

Height:

Yeah.

CP:

So what is your stage show going to be like to promote this album?

Height:

For 2009, I've got a new lineup, which is me, Bow 'N Arrow, Emily Slaughter, and Travis. Actually, the four of us have made a bunch of tracks as a four piece which are coming out soon, but not yet, our next album. That's kind of formed as our new live setup.

CP:

So are you performing a lot of stuff that hasn't been released yet or just focusing on the previous records?

Height:

We're gonna be doing everything. I know it's weird, but I think we're only doing four songs from [

Baltimore Highlands

], because I think we really wanna focus on, of everything we have, what works the best live.

CP:

Are you playing songs from older records, too?

Height:

Not the earliest stuff, but stuff from

Winterize The Game

.

CP:

One thing that struck me when I was reviewing the new album is that it's really hard to put your rapping style in a context, because you rap slow but it's not necessarily old-school. Is there any particular influence for where your style comes from?

Height:

It's definitely really old school-influenced. I saw your review, and yeah, if it wasn't for DMC I wouldn't rap the way I rap. Schoolly D, too, I think I kinda rap like him. I feel like I could name people that I like, but those are two people that I can hear.

CP:

Yeah, so many rappers now, it's so clear who they're trying to sound like, but with you it's definitely a little more organic, like your rapping is a really clear extension of your speaking voice. Were you rapping for a long time before you started making albums?

Height:

Yeah. I was actually just thinking the other day that my main group of friends that I've known forever, which is Mickey and Jones and Shields and Kid Icarus, we've kinda always grown up doing both rock and rap. Really, when Chris formed Oxes, [the rest of us] kind of decided to focus on rap. We were kinda like, "Well, he's got this covered," and he's a lot older than us, so we had to figure out our own thing.

CP:

That's interesting to hear, because like I said, I initially heard you on Cex's album, and he was pretty heavily into rapping for a couple years, and then he kind of went off and did different kinds of music, but you guys kept up with hip-hop.

Height:

Yeah. I couldn't see doing it any other way. It would be so corny, for me, to try to fool around a little bit [in other genres]. Like Rjyan [Kidwell], before he was even rapping, I think he made a serious dent in IDM, but I can't see myself doing the same thing, I just really wanna rap.

CP:

Do you do much instrumentation or production yourself?

Height:

I've really done more on this album than I have in the past. But even now, I feel like Mickey is kind of looking over my shoulder, in a way that I wanted him to, I definitely feel like he's got the best ear for mixing, and King Rhythm also.

CP:

I noticed that all your albums are pretty short, and that kind of reminded me of the way Grand Buffet's albums are all around a half hour, too. Is that something you have a real deliberate intention to make your albums short, or does that just kind of happen?

Height:

When I did my first album, that was short and I felt right about [it], but still a little bit self-conscious--like, "Is this just an EP or what?" And then when I did

I Have A Gun

, my second album, I was like, "This feels wrong."

Advertisement

CP:

That's the one I haven't heard, how long is that?

Height:

45 minutes. I know that's kinda like standard length, but I felt bored trying to get to the end of it.

CP:

Was it more songs or just longer songs?

Height:

Both. There's 18 tracks, and the songs themselves definitely were more three verses, three choruses. At that time, that album, I was a little confused, I think. I really had a giant Redman influence, I think, which I didn't mean to have, I just started having. That's my least favorite album.

CP:

I saw some EPs on your site that I hadn't heard about before, what are those?

Height:

Those are all self-released, they're called

Utility Fog

and they usually come out right before a tour. I'm actually really proud of all of them, and I wanna put out something called the complete

Utility Fog

.

CP:

Yeah, the songs from those that I heard on your podcasts sounded as good as anything from your proper albums.

Height:

I was definitely inspired by people in the more traditional underground rap scene like Sage Francis and a dude called Brzowski, a lot of them do [EPs] for every single tour.

CP:

Yeah, it seems like it's a good idea to do smaller releases and not save everything for a big album. So the new material from your quartet group, is that going to be part of the

Utility Fog

series or an album by itself?

Height:

No, that'll be out by the latest in the fall, and I hope that will be a relatively big deal release.

CP:

And that'll be credited to Height With Friends, too?

Height:

Yeah.

CP:

Will that be another Wham City release?

Height:

No, that album developed out of conversations with my friend Jacob Lodwick, who has a label called Normative, and he funded that. He's got a lot of ideas about how to put that out that I'm not sure what exactly we're gonna do.

CP:

And that quartet album is already recorded?

Height:

Oh yeah. It was really cool, because it was a lot of fun doing things a little different. A lot of times we started with just riffs or just words and built things that were a little un-hip-hop, I guess. I really hope it still feels like a rap album.

Height performs Friday, Jan. 16 with Nuclear Power Pants and Gavin Riley at Zodiac. 10 p.m. $5.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement