February 9th, 2019
Every second Saturday of the month, the Baltimore Boom Bap Society hosts a show at the Windup Space on North Avenue. The event is a presentation of live, improvised hip hop, and it is hosted by DJ Dubble8 and Wendel Patrick. Session 72 on Saturday, February 9th featured a handful of emcees, a few instruments, and several people manipulating electronics to produce a continuous groove from start to finish.
The evening began with an opening act by a producer who is only twelve years of age. When I arrived, I caught the tail end of his set and he was joined by the emcee Eze Jackson for some improvised vocals on top of the electronics. The twelve-year-old producer (who goes by the name of ENTERPRIZE) is a current student of DJ Dubble8, and is a tribute to the work that the Boom Bap Society is doing to cultivate interest in music beyond simply performing. The audience enjoyed the opening act and the vibe was heavy on the high pitched electronic timbres – the kind of sound that squeaks at the top of a given range. Although I like electronic music, there is always the chance that levels will peak or become unbalanced and create a painful moment that feels too loud. Even though the sound in the venue was predominantly loud, it was rarely painful due to mitigation by an audio engineer on hand to monitor the levels.
After the opening act, there was about an hour before the Boom Bap Session 72 began at 10:30pm. If you are used to staying out late on Saturday night, this is probably not a big deal, but it goes without saying that a show beginning at 10:30 is not going to attract audiences of all ages. Session 72 featured Brandon Woody on trumpet, Salem Mattaniah Kammalu on keys, McWavy on electronics, and Paul Hutson on electronics. The first emcee on the microphone was Eze Jackson – an emcee who has been with Boom Bap Society since the beginning. The first set was highlighted by some creative trumpet solos and thoughtful lyrics by Eze. His ability to create cohesive statements on the spot while delivering a powerful message and staying tight with the music was impressive. The audience was also fairly relaxed and attentive. There was definitely some head nodding and dancing going on, but most people seemed truly engaged in the music making. The changes in rhythm from the electronics were fluid but always funky, and as the soundscape evolved, it always inspired Eze to find new words to fit the mood. Or was it Eze’s words that inspired the musicians to adjust their sounds in order to fit a new mood? I think that is the question that struck me the most: who was being influenced by whom? The answer, of course, is that the relationship was symbiotic and all the musicians were actively listening and responding to each other. That is the beauty of improvisation: it can go in any direction and take on different forms.
Emcee Chaz West came forth during the second set and the whole ensemble found new energy. The music became more active and articulate, while West was, at times, rapping at warp speed. The power in the room became palpable as the ensemble kept pace with equal enthusiasm. The third set was highlighted by Olu Butterfly who’s spoken words began calm and relaxed but became heavy and serious towards the end. The urgency behind her words almost sounded like a plea for action or understanding. These changes highlighted the emotional roller coaster that listeners were riding over the course of the night.
At the conclusion of the third set, anyone was welcome to approach the stage and join the ensemble as a guest emcee. One woman did so, and she was confident and impressive. The evening concluded when the musicians decided it was time to end the jam.
Whether you like improvised hip hop, electronic music, or spoken word, Boom Bap Society is going to put on a show that satisfies your interests. I would actually go a little further and suggest that you don’t have to specifically like any of those artistic genres to still enjoy a Boom Bap session. Great musicianship and creativity are on display during these sessions, and I both enjoyed the show and was enlightened by the process.
Jeremy Lyons is a guitarist, composer, and writer living in Baltimore City. He is an artistic director of the contemporary music ensemble, Pique Collective, a performing member of the music cooperative, Mind on Fire, and he collaborates with artists of all kinds working in a variety of mediums. If you want to get in touch with him or suggest an event for him to experience, use his contact page.