Swamp Boy (Basement Rap)
Long before his recent appearance in The New York Times, Butch Dawson was an underground Baltimore staple, carving out his own corner in the local rap canon. The 25-year-old is a master of DIY production and sharp, slow-burning rhymes, crafting a formidable brand of chill-wave hip-hop that lands somewhere between Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, and Tyler, the Creator. Swirling in a smoky haze, Dawson’s minimalist melodies maintain both a jazz-like flow, inspired by the heyday of his hometown Pennsylvania Avenue, and a grungy, punkish edge, fit with glitchy beats and hard-hitting drums. It’s tempting to get lost in his listless delivery, but pay attention, as his lyrics pack a punch. At the core, these eight tracks, be they day-dreamy (“Distances”) or mosh-ready (“Feel Nobody”), are about surviving the “swamps,” as he calls the West Baltimore streets where he grew up, and the fortitude that comes with it. He sums it up best on “Liberation”: “I’m from Baltimore City, you can’t program me.”
Crack The Sky
Living In Reverse (Loud & Proud Records)
In 1976, Rolling Stone called the debut record from this West Virginia-born, Baltimore-bred prog rock band “one of the year’s most impressive debuts.” Despite critical acclaim, the sextet largely skirted commercial success, but now, after 40 years, multiple tours with the likes of Frank Zappa and ZZ Top, and a career that was the purported inspiration behind parts of Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap, Crack The Sky is once again heralded by the iconic music mag, this time as “the best U.S. prog band you’ve never heard.” With a new record label, two end-of-summer albums, and the bandmates now in their 60s, the so-called “Beatles of Baltimore” might finally get their moment in the sun. Accompanying Crackology, which refreshes a dozen career-spanning classics, this all-new album features fresh electric anthems and innovative power ballads, showcasing their enduring strengths in endless experimentation and original songwriting.