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Baltimore club banger urges listeners to wear face masks during coronavirus pandemic

Screenshot of (L to R) Chloe McLeod, Nahyah Pack and Bri'Asha Aldridge performing in the music video for "Put Your Mask On (Baltimore)."
Screenshot of (L to R) Chloe McLeod, Nahyah Pack and Bri'Asha Aldridge performing in the music video for "Put Your Mask On (Baltimore)."(Eli Kelley/Courtesy of Be More Open)

A new song and video draws on the signature sound of Baltimore club music to encourage that people wear face masks as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.

The track, called “Put Your Mask On (Baltimore),” samples the late Baltimore club music icon Miss Tony’s song “How U Wanna Carry It." Its heavy beat loops around the titular hook and calls out geographic locales like Cherry Hill and Liberty Heights. The accompanying video features three girls performing a dance routine that incorporates the crazy legs moves native to Baltimore club, as well as footage of people around the city practicing safety and wearing face masks. As of Wednesday morning, the views counter on YouTube says the 92-second video was seen over 15,000 times since its Friday debut.

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Credit for “Put Your Mask On” goes to the family operation behind Be More Open, a hyperlocal media company that local residential developer and writer Eli Kelley launched in December. Kelley, who co-produced the video with his music producer son Ezekiel Kelley, said he was inspired to write the song after seeing people congregating near a treatment facility in Old Goucher, close to a place that he said is known for open-air drug sales.

“This was Thursday, and they were close to each other, some had masks on and some didn’t,” the elder Kelley said. Thinking about how they should all don masks, lest they pass something on to family back at their homes, led to him repeating “Put your mask on” like the hook on the Miss Tony (also known as Big Tony) song.

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Inspired, Kelley went to his son Ezekiel, who hosts Be More Open’s “Just Talking” interview program, and asked him to create a song about it. The pair workshopped different versions over the course of a day before coming to the one featured in the video. The elder Kelley added that his son came up with the idea to involve another of Kelley’s children, 13-year-old Nahyah Pack, and ask her to choreograph the dance routine. Pack is in the center of the dance sequence, flanked by Chloe McLeod and Bri’Asha Aldridge — both of whom, like Pack, dance at Pack’s mother Darby Pack’s Maryland Academy of Dance in Owings Mills.

Nahyah Pack said that she has been dancing in the Baltimore club style for years, having studied with local dance luminary TSU Terry.

Dance sequences were shot in Owings Mills, while the scenes of people wearing masks were shot in Downtown Baltimore and other city neighborhoods. “Put Your Mask On (Baltimore)" went from idea to published video in barely a day.

Since its publication, “Put Your Mask On (Baltimore)" has put its creators on a bigger platform than before. Ezekiel Kelley said that people have approached him asking for the track, as well as encouraging him to do other Baltimore club mixes.

“Before this, I didn’t necessarily consider myself a Baltimore club producer...getting the reaction of people enjoying it, and it resonating with people and making people want to dance and share it, has been great for the city,” the younger Kelley said.

As fun as it is, Eli Kelley said that this track is ultimately borne of caution.

“This is a way that we’re expressing our concern, as opposed to someone, a bureaucrat that [people] are used to seeing on television telling them, ‘Hey, you should do this now,'" he said. “I think we’re embracing that hey, we have to encourage each other — and in a light way, as light as we possibly can, given the circumstances."

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