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A definitive oral history of Baltimore club music, tracing its unique and influential fusion of hip hop and house music over two decades.
A definitive oral history of Baltimore club music, tracing its unique and influential fusion of hip hop and house music over two decades.
44 backers pledged $5,218 to help bring this project to life.

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Baltimore club music is a loud, fast, idiosyncratic style of dance music that grew out of both hip hop and house music in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, combining urgent breakbeats with X-rated hooks and a diverse array samples, from Motown to cartoon characters. Steadily growing in local popularity via DJs and producers like DJ Technics, DJ Equalizer, Scottie B,, Shawn Caesar, Rod Lee, DJ Booman, Debonair Samir, Blaq Starr and the late DJ K-Swift among many others over the past two decades, Baltimore club is now an international phenomenon, invading dancefloors all over the world and influencing mainstream hitmakers like Kanye West, Lil Jon, the Neptunes.

Until just a few years ago, Baltimore club music was almost completely off the radar of the music industry and the mainstream press, winning fans up and down the east coast and gradually across the globe before gaining notice in publications like Spin Magazine and the New York Times. But after years of virtually undocumented existence, in local clubs and on white label 12”s, the bigger picture of Baltimore club’s rich history and social and musical context has remained largely an untold story, only hinted at by the media coverage to date.

As a contributing writer for the Baltimore City Paper and the proprieter of the Baltimore music blog Government Names, Al Shipley has contributed significantly to the public documentation and understanding of Baltimore club music in the past five years, interviewing dozens of club music producers for the monthly column The Club Beat. In 2010, he’ll embark on the task of tracking down and interviewing every major living figure of Baltimore club’s past and present, allowing the musicians that created the genre to help document its history in their own words, and weaving their stories into a coherent narrative.
Tough Breaks: The Story of Baltimore Club Music will include a detailed timeline, photos, discographies, and thorough critical examinations of the music, the dances, the culture, the samples, and the city of Baltimore itself. As the book is researched and written, the official website ToughBreaksBaltimore.com will serve as a hub for constant updates and progress reports, including exclusive audio, video, and previews and outtakes of interviews conducted for the project, and will continue to operate after the book's publication as a source for coverage of Baltimore club's past, present and future.

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Get your name printed in the Thank You page of the book.

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    Get a limited edition zine-style Tough Breaks scrapbook of stories, pictures and quotes that didn't fit into the book and won't be available commercially anywhere.

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    Get a copy of the book signed by the author and many of the musicians featured in the book.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Get a personalized mp3 mixtape of Baltimore club music, assembled by the author and tailored to your own requests.

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    Get a loop of your choice (your favorite song, your own voice, anything) turned into a Baltimore club track by a professional club music producer.

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Funding period

- (35 days)