The novel coronavirus pandemic raises some questions about the passage of time. Questions like, “Is time moving slowly or quickly?” and “How have I spent three days in the same pants, not leaving the house?” and “Do I really need to wear pants on this hour-long Zoom call?”
In any case, the summer’s nearly over, the pandemic’s still around and most public activities you used to do for fun, including concerts, are mostly off-limits. In the absence of shows, several noteworthy Baltimore and Maryland musicians instead released singles, EPs and albums. We’ll forgive you for missing them in the cavalcade of new television shows and other media coming out seemingly every week, so long as you take a listen now.
Logic, “No Pressure”
Gaithersburg-bred rapper and former Preakness InfieldFest headliner Logic surprise announced his so-called final album in mid-July, releasing it soon after. His last hurrah before dedicating himself to fatherhood knocks with classic hip hop references, introspective lyrics and electrifying production, courtesy of superproducer No I.D.
If you read music blogs in the mid-‘00s, you probably came across Naeem under a different name: Spank Rock. On “Startisha,” his first album under Naeem (also his real first name) which dropped in June, he breaks out of the mold he set for a genre-bending adventure into his personal passions and convictions. Pay special attention to “Simulation,” which features Swamp Dogg and previous collaborator Justin Vernon of indie sensation Bon Iver.
The release of Baltimore singer/songwriter’s smooth and soulful “Vacants” on Juneteenth sums up its ethos of Black liberation and love for Black Baltimore. The title references the thousands of vacant properties around the city, and collaborators like Devin Allen and Al Rogers Jr. give it a local family feel. So did the string of intimate sidewalk shows she did around East Baltimore on one Sunday this summer, with Rogers and other Baltimore musicians in tow.
Sharptooth, “Transitional Forms”
If you like your music heavy and politicized, look no further than Baltimore’s own hardcore heroes Sharptooth. “Transitional Forms,” the band’s sophmore album, runs with the fury of a caged animal unleashed. Vocalist Lauren Kashan’s rageful lyrics about feminism, political apathy and more urgent issues are perfectly scored by her bandmates’ instrumental battering ram of breakdowns and roaring guitars.
Dan Deacon, “‘Well Groomed’ Original Score”
Veteran Baltimore electronic artist Dan Deacon’s ethereal soundscapes of blippy noise perfectly score a documentary as full of absurdist wonder as “Well Groomed,” HBO’s look at the world of competitive dog grooming. But you needn’t even like dogs to enjoy the atmosphere Deacon’s score conjures.
Bandhunta Izzy, “Invite Only,”
He might reside in Atlanta now, but Bandhunta Izzy’s dark trap/drill beats and street life-level lyrics are 100% full of Baltimore. Check out this mixtape he dropped in the spring, with features from Yella Beezy, YFN Lucci and other rising rap stars.
Shordie Shordie, “>Music”
Still hot off the platinum-level success of “Bitchuary”—a rare feat for any Baltimore artist—Baltimore rapper Shordie Shordie dropped more heat with his spring mixtape, “>Music” (pronounced “more than music”). Tracks like “Save a Little” put his singing-rapping flow in conversation with any number of today’s top trap stars.
Kondwani Fidel, “The Mud Was Made For Us”
Kondwani Fidel is technically a poet, not a musician. That doesn’t stop his album, “The Mud Was Made For Us,” from landing with an impact. His trademark incisive poetics are set to heartrending jazz, paying tribute to the everyday tragedy, resilience and joy of life in his beloved Baltimore.
DDm, “The Ballad of Omar”
The latest record from DDm, a.ka. Dapper Dan Midas, channels the titular “The Wire” character as a way of exploring the rapper’s own journey with Black and queer identity in Baltimore. It’s one of his most somber and strongest releases yet, and showcases his talents as an MC with agility and gut-punching intensity.