DJ LIL JAY Operation: Playtime (Club Kingz/Morphius Urban) Beat lovers outside the Baltimore/D.C./Philly axis of evil have been given a gift. For the first time ever, Baltimore club tracks are readily available to any Tom, Dieter, or Harumi blessed with a cool-ass record store beyond the mid-Atlantic region. The Morphius Urban imprint (Morphius Records is home to such OG rap crews as Da Homosexuals and Pere Ubu) and Club Kingz Records have released for worldwide distribution two cracking new mix CDs by Rod Lee, one of the progenitors and star makers of the style known as Baltimore club music, and by Rod's 14-year-old protégé, DJ Lil Jay. The Baltimore club sound, a northern cousin to Miami bass that's heavy on kick drums, ancient breakbeats, and mind-alteringly repetitive vocal samples, and cross- pollinated with bounce, crunk, R&B, and anything else that will move a crowd, has always been localism incarnate—local clubs, labels, shops—for two reasons: One, if you sample the Dixie Cups and old Motown 45s in the forest, will anyone sue you? And two, what, exactly, is wrong with hangin' in Baltimore? On the Morphius mixes, most of the rampant sampling has been scrubbed, making a frequently minimal music even more bare-bones. Lil Jon is everywhere on both discs, though. Mickey Mouse will probably be enslaved in a Florida swamp for generations, but Jon's exhortations have already passed into the public domain. No offense to Rod Lee, who co-engineered the Baltimore club sound with DJ Technics and a handful of others, and whose Vol. 5 (featuring 30 tracks, 20 of them his own) is fierce, funny, and crushing and should push the sonic development of the Baltimore style up a notch. (In this case, that means everything old is new again—love the squelchy 303 acid sounds on K.W. Griff's "Your Hood.") But it's his teenage cohort Lil Jay—an infant when Frank Ski and the late Tony Boston (aka Ms. Tony) transformed deep house into their own raunchy and doo-doo-riffic hip-house B-More blend courtesy of cuts like "Whores in This House" and "Pull Ya Gunz Out"—who brings home the bacon with a near-perfect mix. Rod can be single-minded in his pursuit of the ultimate body slam, so Jay's mix does a better job of expressing the depth and breadth of the club sound at its best. Tracks like Samir's "Club Africa" and DJ Manny's "Down the Hill" (featuring Jay on vocals) are hypnotic, propulsive, addictive, and eerily beautiful in the least expected places. Jackhammer beats, Eamon homages, dusty breaks (man, Baltimore cats are in some kind of love with the drum break from Lyn Collins' "Think [About It]"—it would bring a tear to Rob Base's eye), block politics, and synth-horn stabs played in the key of dance your ass off. Hats off to Morphius for spreading the word that you don't have to import your rumptastic noize from Brazil. It's been right here all along. "What Chew Know About Down The Hill" - DJ Lil Jay, Lil Jay is a 14-year-old boy who DJs Baltimore club that Rod has taken under his wing and who does vocals on some of Rod's tracks. Rod seems to have big plans for him, like Lil Jay is gonna be the Lil Bow Wow of club music or something like that, I dunno. This song is one of my favorites, though. Pretty much every club track about being from down the hill and/or up the hill is great. Recently, Morphius Distribution – whose roster includes both punk band Bang! Bang! and metaphysical rapper Labtekwon – inked a deal to distribute for Lee's label Club Kingz. It's also working with teen prodigy and Lee protégé DJ Lil Jay (who is also Lee's best friend's son); distribution is forthcoming for "Club Queen" K-Swift. That makes Vol. 5 the first reliably mass-distributed Baltimore club mix – and in the Internet-music era, when booty beats from Brazil's favelas regularly land on American record stores' Top 10 lists, it's a significant development. Some of it has seeped through the invisible membrane of the Net, but it's also been a testament to the Internet as a falsely populist info stream. For instance, Reggie Reg, another pioneer who's DJed with Lee and on Baltimore radio station 92Q, has a Web site – but if you go there, it'll tell you his mix is only available at Dreamz, a store in the Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore. (If you happen to be traveling there, it's at 1200 Mondawmin Concourse.) Baltimore blogs, like writer Tom Breihan's (www.dipdipdive.blogspot.com
) and the incredibly thorough, MP3-posting Government Names (www.governmentnames.blogspot.com
) have offered something in the way of reportage. Outside the city, handfuls of vinyl scored at www.turntablelab.com
or elsewhere are tracked by resourceful DJs such as Philly's genre cherry-picker DJ Diplo/Hollertronix, Boston's DJ C, and Baltimore-to-New York transplant XXXChange, who also produces Baltimore-laced beats for Spankrock. In the Bay Area, Kid Kameleon mixes Baltimore club into his sets, and he says that "more and more of it is working itself into sets of eclectic DJs." DJ Lil’ Jay, “Jay’s Theme”: Lil’ Jay came out with his first mixtape at age 14, called Operation: Playtime. The cover had Jay on a swing set and the writing was in different colored crayons, and the whole thing was edited for content. This is his version of DJ Manny’s “Down The Hill,” which I guess refers to the Cherry Hill neighborhood; instead of east-side-west-side they’re talking about “up the hill” or “down the hill. .. ..