Khia Edgerton, a pioneering DJ who as "K-Swift" became one of Baltimore's top radio personalties and a major player in the local music scene, died early yesterday morning after a pool accident at her home. She was 29.
Through her popular radio show, which attracted thousands of listeners each night, and frequent live performances, Ms. Edgerton helped reinvigorate and reintroduce the aging genre of Baltimore Club music to a younger generation of listeners. For local artists, a spin on K-Swift's 92Q radio show meant instant recognition.
Known as the "Club Queen," Ms. Edgerton brought a distinct style of music known as Baltimore Club to cities up and down the East Coast through her live shows. Driven but modest, she excelled in a scene traditionally dominated by men.
"She pushed the Baltimore Club scene on her own," said Ultra Nate, a Baltimore-based dance artist and international DJ. "You don't find that kind of confidence in a lot of women DJs."
Defined by abrasive beats and vulgar vocal tracks, Baltimore Club surfaced in the late '80s. It has never found mainstream success, but it has a sizable fan base in Europe, where Ms. Edgerton planned to tour later this year.
"She had an enormous following and meant a lot to the people of Baltimore," said Howard Mazer, 92Q's general manager. "People just gravitated to her. ... When she threw parties, thousands of people would come."
Yesterday, station managers replaced the usual on-air DJ banter with a recording urging listeners to phone the station and leave memories of Ms. Edgerton. By the end of business hours, the station had received thousands of calls, e-mails and message board posts on its Web site.
"It's like a nightmare ... It's like she's part of my family," one caller told the station. "Your memory will live on. We'll never let it die," read another message.
The cause of death has not been determined, but Baltimore police spokesman Donny Moses said alcohol may have been a factor in the accident.
According to police, Ms. Edgerton hosted a party at her northeast Baltimore house from Sunday evening and into early yesterday morning.
Sometime during the party, Ms. Edgerton jumped into a shallow above-ground pool, but she didn't resurface. Her friends later pulled her onto a metal-frame deck that adjoined the pool and called 911. She was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. An autopsy is pending.
Ms. Edgerton first became seriously interested in Baltimore Club in the mid-90s while she attended Randallstown High School. After a brief stint at community college, she went to work as an intern at WERQ-FM 92.3 and started spinning in city clubs.
At first, her mother, Juanita Edgerton, thought Ms. Edgerton's interest was a passing phase. But when she realized Ms. Edgerton's passion for club music and commitment to DJing, she encouraged her and marveled at her daughter's progress.
"She mastered those wheels," Juanita Edgerton said. "When she would put her fingers on that turntable, you knew DJ K-Swift had arrived. She perfected that."
When not performing, Ms. Edgerton was recording, or vice versa, her mother said. Ms. Edgerton spent almost all of her free time on her music.
"That was her life," Juanita Edgerton said. "That was it."
After roughly five years at 92Q, Ms. Edgerton was promoted to host of the evening show Off the Hook Radio. Through it, she cultivated a widespread fan base in and around Baltimore and helped shape the sound of Baltimore's club scene. The show had an average quarter hour audience of about 28,000 - impressive numbers for local radio.
"When [Ms. Edgerton] played a producer's song on the radio, that would make that person's career, as far as the Baltimore scene goes," said Al Shipley, a local writer who follows the city's hip-hop scene.
Unlike some other club music DJs, Ms. Edgerton wouldn't shout over songs, Mr. Shipley said.
"She wasn't an overbearing person," Mr. Shipley said. "She was the center of attention without seeming to try."
As her radio show grew in popularity, Ms. Edgerton signed to local label Unruly Records and began releasing CDs through them. Her records often outsold albums by major label artists like Jay-Z in stores such as the Downtown Locker Room, said Unruly co-founder Shawn Caesar.
"She was an ambassador," he said. "She was a much better person than a DJ, and she was a legendary DJ. That speaks volumes on the type of person she really was."
Ms. Edgerton was a motivated but humble woman who could easily make others feel comfortable in her presence, said longtime friend Eric Randall.
"Her talent was her ability to make you feel like she had your back," he said. "She never made you feel like she was too good."
Ms. Edgerton owned a graphics and production company and was the city's only female record pool director. Her last public performance was at Artscape Saturday evening. Later this year, she planned to travel overseas to help further spread the sound of Baltimore Club music, Mazer said.
"It's a terrible loss to all of us and the City of Baltimore," Mr. Mazer said.
Ms. Edgerton is survived by her mother, her father, Joseph, and her younger sister, Erika. As of yesterday, no funeral arrangements had been made.
Sun reporter Gus G. Sentementes and Sun pop music critic Rashod D. Ollison contributed to this article.
As K-Swift, Khia Edgerton never got a chance to become a mainstream celebrity. But for a certain audience in the city, she was a big name. Here's why:
* Her evening radio show, "Off the Hook," brought in quarter hour ratings of about 28,000, making it one of the city's most listened-to shows.
* Her CDs outsold mainstream artists such as Jay-Z in stores like the Downtown Locker Room.
* She brought large audiences to local clubs such as the Paradox in South Baltimore.
* Play on her local radio show could give a big career boost for local artists.
* Considered an ambassador for Baltimore Club music, when MTV came to town, she hosted the special.