On stage at the Crown
, Glittoris is wrapped in a red cape, her head covered by a hood. Sara Autrey created her rap alter ego a few weeks earlier when she'd overbooked Which Magic, one of her other musical endeavors.
"Dan Keech from Height asked me to play a show as Which Magic months and months in advance," she says later, at a Station North cafe. "I'd forgot about it and booked a show like three days before it as Which Magic, and I didn't want to drop off the bill or screw him over. I was,
like, it's an all-rap bill, I'm going to write a rap set so that I can play the show and not wear people out on Which Magic and not screw my friend over
, so I wrote the
Glittoris Under tha Hood
EP in two days, literally just pounded it out."
She put together some simple, old- school beats and asked herself what rappers rap about and then wrote a boasting song, a sex song, a nostalgia song, and a just-fucking-around song and had an EP and a set to play at the Height show.
"I was like,
Oh my god, I'm going to rap like a fool to these people
," she says, but she had some early encouragement from Jimmy MacMillan of Friends Records.*
"Sara and I were at my house assembling the Celebration
Tomorrow's Here Today
7"s and she told me that she was recording a rap record," he recalls. "She played me really rough demos through her phone. The first one I heard was the sex rhymes. Then she played me the track that's all bragging. I was sold. It immediately stood out as empowered female hip- hop, which is pretty rare nowadays. It used to be a big thing in the '80s, and that seemed to be where she was coming from, both with her beats and her rhymes."
Old-school "empowered female hip- hop" is not a bad description for this act, which Autrey, whose first band was called Bitch Cave, jokingly refers to as "vag core" or "pants trance."
"I'm a really loudly sexual person," Autrey says. "I feel like being a girl in the music scene-it's not a pity thing, but it's kind of hard to get a little attention sometimes, so I was just like,
vagina, everybody likes the clitoris, but I sparkle-Glittoris
. I like puns, like Which Magic, and Bitch Cave, which is vagina, you know. It's a reoccurring theme."
It also gave Autrey the chance to have some fun. "It's nice because playing rock music, it's serious, you're like,
I take this seriously and I'm not being a different person
, and it's nice to become a different person with Glittoris and be like, 'What the fuck is up!'"
It's not a cynical, inauthentic ploy for attention, however, but a sincere, if goofy, attempt to turn up the volume.
"It's exactly who I am but amplified, glittered, and really just like me saturating this one aspect of me and really beating the hell out of it. It's really fun to just get flamboyant with this part of me that I don't show to the public. It's nice to just let loose."
And people responded. MacMillan, for his part, was as impressed by her live show with Height as he was by the initial recordings. He asked her if he could release the EP and if she would play his birthday bash and Friends' anniversary celebration at the Crown. That was when, according to Autrey, "It blew up and people freaked out about it. I got a ton of hits on Bandcamp."
Autrey didn't grow up listening to much hip-hop, though the pop station in Newport News, Va. played some rap. She describes the town as a "suburban hell, nowhere, no scene, no nothin.'" So she moved to West Virginia when she met a "super hot art dude on vacation." While in West Virginia she met Lizz King and ultimately Baltimore's Wham City crew. "I was like,
I've gotta get some of that
," she says. So, despite the relative success of Bitch Cave, she moved to Baltimore, where she began to record solo soul-sounding songs under the name Which Magic.
Eventually, she and the art dude broke up and she began to date Austin Tally, with whom she had been friends. "When I helped him shave off these big mutton chops one day, I said, 'Oh, he's got a face.'"
Tally and Abe Sanders were playing as Wing Dam and they asked Autrey if she wanted to play bass on that band's first album, which she describes as being made up of folk-influenced songs written by Tally. "The last album was more based off folkier songs that Austin had written, but on this album I wrote a third of the songs," she says, a day before the band leaves town for a short tour. "It's different. We wrote songs together; me, Austin, and Abe Sanders, the drummer, would just smoke some weed and make up a riff and play on it and make up a vocal melody and write riffs later. It developed out of our chemistry."
The trio just spent two days in Mobtown Studios recording, and the result, Autrey says, is "a total summer rocker. Every song on it is a bumper, like crank it up. I'm so proud of it. I've never felt so good about something I've put out. We listened to it and it was like,
It's so beautiful.
It's a total different direction, heavier, louder, more rock than the last album."
In many ways, Autrey is the embodiment of a scene that values diversity and creativity-and one where every side project has a side project. "I love all of her projects, and I think she is one of the most wonderful people that I have had the pleasure to work with," MacMillan says. "She is one of the many youthful, creative fountains around this city that just won't seem to shut off. These ideas and projects flow out of her in a way that makes most musicians jealous, because it can become so difficult to be creative and prolific, whereas with her it seems almost carefree and happening whether she wants it to or not."
This is clear on the stage at MacMillan's party at the Crown, where she is seamlessly able to switch gears between the sincere heavy rocking of Wing Dam and the fun braggadoccio of Glittoris. Toward the end of her set, the hood and robe come off, dropping to the floor to reveal a royal blue cheerleader outfit and her thick head of red hair, flailing in the air as she raps, "Y'all might not know my face/ cause I'm usually not in the rap game race/ Like a virgin out on prom night/ I'm nervous, but my shit's mad tight."
Wing Dam plays Baltimore Hit Parade on April 3, Glittoris plays Ottobar April 6, and Which magic plays The Crown on April 10
*An earlier version of this story misspelled MacMillan's name.
regrets the error.