"I'm not tryna fit it, I just wanna fit...out." Von Vargas
I had the pleasure of attending the Press Play USA listening party featuring Baltimore artists Von Vargas and Greenspan at the Gibson Guitar Showroom. I was humbled to receive an invite to this exclusive event. I previously had visited the space for the iProduce Producers' Showcase back in May, so I knew for sure I was in for a treat.
DJ Trelly Trell set a tone for the evening that would please any Cusp Millennial. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a sucker for a great DJ, and tonight I was not disappointed. The Gibson Guitar Showroom is an ideal space for anything music related. The sound system is so good it hits to the chest. That coupled with catering provided by Love Lust Food, all of my of senses were satisfied.
The evening was hosted by Tracey Lee (traceyleemusic.com) who's "been in the game since Biggie". He was energetic and engaging and definitely a great fit for this event. The introductions were made, and it was time for what we all came for: the music.
Von Vargas "Metropolis Binocular"
The bass heavy and almost nostalgia-inducing beat was accompanied by inspirational and metaphorical bars that were quite relatable. Von gives us a glimpse into how he maneuvered his way through negative influences to make a way out. "I be high off victory/this vision got me faded" is one of the many memorable lines from the song. Inspired by a rose that grows from the concrete, he paints a picture of a reality that so many face and what it took for him to triumph. This is where I like my hip-hop: aspirational. The uptempo nature of the song was a perfect introduction into the world of a rapper that describes himself as "passionate about creating music that highlights solutions to social ills that plague our communities."-pressplayusa.com
"Fit Out" was easily my favorite track of his on the night. For someone who has been featured in Hip Hop DX, Fusicology, Jukebox DC, Hip Hop TV Japan, and numerous times in The Baltimore City Paper as well as other media outlets, it was comforting to hear him say that it took him years to realize that he didn't fit in and to accept it. That is exactly where I am on my own personal journey, so to say I was inspired is an understatement. The entire album is self produced which only underscores his resume and achievements.
We were also treated to "Good Day" in which he says "just another good day around the way/if you make a little change that mean it was good day." Literally inspired by a good day, Tracey Lee captures what we were all thinking that this one is the perfect joint to ride out to with the windows down. Von Vargas also gave a live performance of "Frozen Cups" where he shows his irreverence to following the trends and bucking the "wave". His personality shines through while reminding women of their beauty and warning of the trappings of street life and materialism. He got me!
For more information about Von Vargas visit www.vonvargas.com
Greenspan "Never Gon Die"
"In the Key of Green"
Greenspan says he was listening to a lot of Stevie Wonder at the time, hence the title of the the first song. "To live your life and lose your soul/that's such a price to pay" is so real. And so was the beat. Accompanied by Caroline Malachi, we are reminded that "everything ain't for everybody/I ain't everybody's cup of tea" in the hook and the bridge. With production by Michael J R, they have a banger on their hands.
"Cool or Whatever"
Less introspective and a lot more fun, "Cool or Whatever" nails the intersection between traditional hip-hop and Baltimore Club music. This is what I've been waiting for. As a South Florida native and someone who grew up on Miami bass, I easily relate to the Baltimore Club sound. With the same feel but at a slower tempo, the mashup of sound was definitely a success. He croons "you got the body of a crime seen/I mean you killin' em". It's a nod 90s-era hip-hop, yet, to me, sounds extremely fresh and intricate. With production again by Michael J R, it was mentioned that they are trying to implement the sound slowly. But to me it was evident, prominent and approachable. With an international appeal, Greenspan, or "Mr. Mid-Atlantic Baltimore" has seamlessly created a new wave in hip-hop while paying homage to his Baltimore roots.
"Never Gon Die"
With even more Baltimore club flavor, "Never Gon Die" is the current single, and I responded to it immediately. Featuring Tt the Artist, Greenspan makes it a point to highlight that there is more than one Baltimore music scene, so don't get it twisted. This is Baltimore sound. Michael J R again on the track shows how dynamic his hometown sound is, and I am looking forward to more from him as well. This is what I want to hear coming out of Baltimore: talent and commitment, accents included.
Greenspan also performed an acoustic version of "Letter to Cory". Described as his version on Nas' "One Love", this track is one long verse and a letter to his friend Cory in prison. "Wrote a letter to Cory/started around 11:40" outlines something that I have never experienced personally but could relate to based on the intention behind the record. The piano accompaniment was a gorgeous way to end the session.
For more about Greenspan visit www.gogreenspan.com.
All in all, this is the type of stuff we need to hear more of when it comes to Baltimore, MD. The wealth of talent is often overshadowed by the reports of poverty and violence that often plagues the city. Recent history and politics aside, Baltimore has so much to offer sonically, and I truly believe Von Vargas and Greenspan have what it takes to cut through. You have my support, and I encourage everyone to check them out now!