Al Shipley

Al Shipley is a Maryland-based music critic and journalist whose work has appeared in publications and websites such as the Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore City Paper, Scratch Magazine, XXL, The Village Voice, Pitchfork, and Idolator. His first book, Tough Breaks: The Story of Baltimore Club Music, will be published in 2013.



"Tough Breaks: The Story of Baltimore Club Music"

Baltimore, the mid-Atlantic rust belt city may have captured America’s imagination most recently with the true crime tales of HBO’s The Wire. But its legacy for dance music goes back decades, dating back to when it was the first city where Hank Ballard’s “The Twist” launched the biggest dance craze of the rock’n’roll era. And in the late 1980s, as hip hop was becoming the sound of black America, house music was taking hold of Baltimore’s clubs, and mutating into its own distinctive, gritty variant that nobody could see fit to call anything but simply Baltimore Club Music.

In the ‘90s, Baltimore Club Music slowly grew into a local cottage industry, with its own set of star DJs, producers and vocalists who could sell out clubs and record stores within city limits but were virtually unknown outside Maryland, including DJ Equalizer, DJ Booman, Miss Tony, Rod Lee and DJ Class. Chanted hooks, cheap synth horn riffs, and raw breakbeats like the ironic boom-bap of “Think (About It)” by Lyn Collins became the unacknowledged sound of Baltimore, slowly reaching internet tastemakers and infecting mainstream hip hop and dance music in the 21st century. The sudden 2008 death of Baltimore Club’s biggest rising star, Club Queen DJ K-Swift, casts a shadow over the contemporary scene, while the music continues to go new places and take odd new shapes.

My Speakers Sessions

Friday, March 23

4:00pm EDT