Introducing: Aaron La Crate
The lifelong Baltimore innovator’s star has risen dramatically in the past two years, moving from making mixtapes to remixing Madonna. Despite the success, he’s still got one foot firmly in the gutter, as Bodytonic’s Shortie found out.
You’ve been DJing since you were 10. Were you always into that ‘gutter’ sound or was it something that evolved over time?
“Well I grew up in Baltimore in the late 80s early 90s, we loved hip-hop and all NYC stuff, but Baltimore club was our own version of hip-hop, that’s what got played in the clubs. Hip-hop very rarely got played in Baltimore in the clubs, so as a super-young DJ, I was on the scene making a name for myself, the same time the first Baltimore records were being pressed up by DJ Equalizer - who is actually the creator of the genre, a little known fact - he is the true godfather. I was down with all the original Baltimore club producers, as it was a small scene and I was the youngest around. All of that lead up to the gutter sound.
Baltimore producers are not just confined to Baltimore anymore, has this diluted the sound?
“I do. It’s watered down the sound and taken the focus off of the city because none of the actual Baltimore producers have watered down the sound - it’s more of the newer European dance or indie rock guys. In a true B’more club you don’t hear anything like that. You can’t have Baltimore with out the rawness.”
What’s your opinion on the new guys coming through, the likes of Sega and Blaqstarr?
“I appreciate everyone that keeps the focus on city and music of Baltimore city. We’ve put in 15 years developing this genre and we deserve to get ours first.”
There was some minor ‘beef’ with fellow B’More spinner DJ Technics recently. What was that all about?
“I’m still not really sure! I’ve known Glen since I was 10 years old. I bought a lot of my club collection from him personally when he worked at Sound of Baltimore and Music Liberated from ‘90–‘93. I think my B’more Gutter mix was a far bigger success than anyone ever anticipated. It kinda created a new era for B’more and I guess he was shocked that little Aaron from back in the day was able to do that.”
The Delicious Vinyl label has been home to some of hip-hop’s biggest names and tracks. How did you end up remixing some of their impressive back catalogue?
“They loved B’more Gutter and saw that I was able blend hip-hop and dance successfully and make great club records, something that Delicious did extremely well. Also I come from a hip-hop street background and we just hit it off from the jump. They asked me to co-A&R and market the project as well as re-create whatever tracks we wanted. We loved a lot of the catalogue so it was a perfect fit.
What’s the deal with the Madonna/’Hard Candy’ remix?
“As I understand it, Pharrell told Madonna that ‘Hard Candy’ was produced in a B’more style, so Warner Brothers wanted to give us the chance do a legit real Baltimore Gutter mix. They played it for her personally and she loved it. She has defined what’s hot in dance/pop music for the past 20 years, so were very excited as our production sound is definitely some next level future of B’more.
You remixed Dizzee Rascal, and did some US dates with him. How did the US crowd react to his sound? Do you think there’s a market there for grime?
“The crowds love Dizzee. He’s an amazing performer, and delivers a high energy show ala Run DMC. Not sure if I’d call Dizzee grime any more though. He’s transcended that genre. A #1 record in the UK for 4 weeks is a huge accomplishment, especially now that he is not on XL any more. So it’s a huge success in every imaginable way possible. Dizzee is only getting started in the US in my opinion, big things to come!”
Any more plans for the B’more Gutter Mix series?
“Yes! Big plans! We have a big album coming out on Koch this year in March. Not Koch distribution, but officially Koch records, the same people who run modern day street hip-hop, home of (rapper) Jim Jones etc. called B’more Club Crack. It’s produced entirely by myself and (production partner_ Samir and features all the dopest MCs in Baltimore. It’s entirely home grown and features our Milkcrate Records artists; Verb, Mz Streamz, Slixta and many more famous B’more MCs over both fast and slow club beats. Koch and everyone involved is super excited and the tracks are all club hits – it’s definitely going to plant a flag for us and all the work we have been putting in.”
You were recently said you wanted to concentrate on more ‘artist driven projects’. After exposing the world to the likes of Amanda Blank, Spank Rock and working with Lily Allen and Mark Ronson, how much more artist-driven can you get?
“Thanks I appreciate that. I was referring to all the Milkcrate Records artists, with Verb, Mz Streamz, Debonair Samir, and King Slixta who are all in the studio working on solo albums, right now.”
Grab a mix by La Crate right here.