In a moment when socializing has moved almost completely online, the music emerging from hyper-local contexts is a refuge. Recently, much of the post-COVID-19 discourse has revolved around livestreaming, tip jars, and mutual aid—with tech platforms (from Bandcamp waiving its revenue share to Spotify tacitly accepting the inequity of its royalty scheme) either affirming or rejecting these concepts. This discourse around the speculative political economy of the music industry moving forward is a positive change from the blind optimism that usually underpins conversations around the future, but it can also ignore the existing models practiced by marginalized artists around the world.
Artists who live outside of major music industry hubs have been de facto organized for years, forced to share time and resources as a necessary means of survival. Instead of looking to new tech innovations, we can instead look to artists in cities like Baltimore, Lisbon, and Sao Paulo. Each of these communities have made a habit of cooperative practices, sharing equipment and space and knowledge, well before our current crisis. Instead of expanding and homogenizing our efforts onto these tech platforms, our best bet for survival might be scaling down to a local level and relying on IRL social bonds.
This is why the sounds of ballroom, Bmore and Jersey club, and footwork have felt so vital over these past several months. These scenes have not only survived, but have maintained their integrity, turning out generation after generation of artists in spite of the institutional racism and classism they face in both the music industry and society at large. They’ve existed autonomously from major industry organs—parties hosted in school gymnasiums, music shared on bluetooth and legally ambiguous file sharing platforms, family structures instituted and maintained over decades—riding the waves of technological development without losing their key ethos of performance and history. They also represent what Kodwo Eshun referred to as the “discontinuum of AfroDiasporic Futurism,” representing a break in history with their reinvention and demolition of age-old rhythmic forms.
From Chicago, Crossfire and DJ Elmoe (whose Bandcamp page features a wealth of banging footwork) contribute two intoxicating takes on the 160 sound, juxtaposing dreamy pop and video game music with drum programming that pushes against all conceivable rhythmic thresholds. Tracks from B. Ames, DJ Delish and Koppi Mizrahi represent the latest iterations and mutations in the ballroom sound, showing off an ability to maintain drama and ferocity through a range of structural and tonal innovations.
From the world of club music, always nimble in its relation and response to pop and social media, DJ Diamond Kuts, Kayy Drizz and GUTTA contribute lush original works while CalvoMusic continues in the tradition of Diamond K and Big Ria’s “Hey U Knuckleheads” with the brash, celebratory “Bitch We From Baltimore”. Newcomer Acidattck also stars here, flipping a familiar Trina sample into a raucous, stripped down anthem.
Stepping away from the hyper-local to close out, AYYA returns from a year’s absence with a cleansing datamosh, invoking an intimate physicality and emitting a raw scream. Anyone claiming that any sort of cohesive sonic movement will emerge from the current crisis is kidding themselves, but this sort of incendiary cry is the most relevant thing we have.
- Acidattck – I Want (Trina Edit)
- AYYA – `·. L4 (R) (QQQsQ + 66.9 M + 125P + RD.T + 1E GGHFGFF-5) (+ S.19 M- T) (b. SM S) (Edit) `·. ©®™
- B. Ames – Soft Like Asia
- CalvoMusic – Bitch We From Baltimore (ft. Charles)
- Crossfire – Get Away (Take Me Higher)
- DJ 2F – RAVE IMENSIDÃO (ft. MC GW)
- Dj Diamond Kuts – Rock It
- DJ Elmoe – Onorhc Reggirt Vs Chrono Trigger
- DJ Erika Kayne – APHEX TWIN x BRITNEY SPEARS – ACRID AVID TOUCH OF MY HAND
- Dj Kolt – Tarrafoda
- DJ NEOSONIC – Welcome To SummerLand
- DJ Wawa – What It Means (DJ Delish’s West Philly Dub)
- DON TOLIVER – NO IDEA (KELMAN DURAN EDIT)
- Elysia Crampton Chuquimia – Josh w/ Leo & Elly DJ edit 
- GUTTA – CFML (ft. SJAYY)
- KAYY DRiZZ – CLUBTRONICA INSTRUMENTAL
- Koppi Mizrahi – Wash Your Hands Wash Your Mouth
- Lechuga Zafiro – Oração (Pense & Dance) (ft. Linn Da Quebrada)
- TAYHANA – Amarte Azul
- Uninamise – Welcome To Da Modd
Additional graphic design by Ekaterina Kachavina.
Published April 30, 2020. Words by Gabe Meier.