I witness a moment of tension between members of improvisational hip-hop group Baltimore Boom Bap Society during their warmup jam. The drummer sets his sticks down, and begins talking in a soft-serious tone to Boom Bap co-creator DJ Dubble8. This strikes me as odd— why stop? After all, isn’t improv all about saying yes, and running with whatever your partners throw at you? Why haven’t they already established a rapport? When speaking with Dubble8 later, I find my answer—although some of the musicians have worked together in the past, this is the first time that this group of people is performing on the same stage at the same time. “[The issue during the warmup] probably had to do with sound check and trying to hear everything in our monitors.” he tells me. “But there’s nothing but good vibes between us.” This is evident twenty minutes later, when the group is perfectly in sync, as if they have been playing together for years.
“The thing that I love about Baltimore is that you can start out with nothing more an idea, and make it happen,” Dubble8 says, moments before he goes on stage. And that is exactly what Baltimore Boom Bap Society is—the Baltimore-born brainchild of Erik Sprangler (Dubble8), and Wendell Patrick, who found inspiration while strolling through the city in the hours after Artscape. Although both men come from classical backgrounds, this genre made perfect sense to them. “The thing about hip hop,” Dubble8 reveals, “is that it combines so many different elements of music forms.”
The group explodes with novelty and creative energy, welcoming artists of all varieties– poets, saxophonists, DJs, beat-boxers, and pianists, take to the stage all at once, meshing together to form a simultaneously discordant and dulcet sound. Scott Paddox steals the show with his sexy sax playing, and when local icon Love The Poet identifies herself as the offspring of a slave, and the Caucasians in the audience as the descendants of her oppressors, I shudder with a sense of shame. Jacqueline Lung and Dubble8 perform a pleasantly sedating piece composed for the turntable and electric piano—a rare occurrence for a group characterized by their spontaneity and ad-libbing.
Some things work, others don’t. Within one set, a woman raps about “dropping a deuce” and her dead seven-year-old cousin. But that’s the thing about improvisation- sometimes you luck out with spontaneous brilliance, other times you fall flat. Although the Baltimore Boom Bap Society plays at the Windup Space every first Wednesday of the month, there is nothing routine about them.
Baltimore Boom Bap Society
12 W. North Ave, Baltimore, MD, 21218
Julianne Wilson is a writer, filmmaker, and beach bum from Rowayton, Connecticut.