Even if he hadn't made a single other song in the last 10 months, DJ Class has had this category locked up since the moment he dropped "I'm the Ish" last November. As one of Baltimore club's hottest producers from 1991-2001, the release of a new single from Class was automatically one of the biggest comebacks club has ever witnessed, taking over local DJ sets seemingly overnight. But more than that, it has and continues to be fascinating to watch the song grow and go places that club music rarely has, if ever.
"I'm the Ish" quickly spread to radio stations outside Baltimore, and in December, Jermaine Dupri and Trey Songz became the first of many stars to remix the endlessly catchy track. By the end of January, DJ Class and his longtime label Unruly Records signed a deal with Universal Records, and he went to Atlanta in January to remix the song with Lil' Jon. Then, he flew to Hawaii in March to remix it once again, this time with Kanye West. Since then, Texas rapper Tino Cochino sampled Class' voice for the single "Diamonds and Patron," and more mainstream acts such as Pitbull and Estelle have dropped verses on "I'm the Ish." Even a few Baltimore artists got in the act, including R&B singer Paula Campbell and rappers Mullyman and PenDragon.
In April, Universal released "I'm the Ish" on iTunes, and it became the first Baltimore club song to appear on a Billboard chart since "Doo Doo Brown" in 1991. In June, Class did one more remix, "Lakers is the Ish," to celebrate the NBA team's championship run, which, admittedly, was a little corny (and at the very least, a Baltimore team could've been the ish, too). All summer, he performed on a tour sponsored by Zune, while popping up in the pages of publications ranging from Murder Dog to The New York Times. And most importantly, the song was absolutely ubiquitous in Baltimore, at any hip-hop show whether at Sonar or a rec center in Reservoir Hill, and at nightclubs such as Bourbon Street, where young professionals and college kids danced to it just like it was any Justin Timberlake song.
But then, of course, "I'm the Ish" wasn't the only track Class made in the past year. His follow-up single, "Dance Like a Freak," expands on his recent melodic Auto-Tune style with its own monster hook, while "I Don't Give a Fuck," with its synth horns and chopped-up vocal samples, confirms that the old DJ Class of gritty club classics like "Tear the Club Up" is still alive and well. He provided the official remix of the Mims hit "Move," and hooked up with local rap star Bossman for "Back It Up." And most intriguingly of all, Class produced several tracks, including the single "Hey DJ," for the veteran Baltimore dance diva Ultra Naté's new album Things Happen at Night, due out in October via Unruly Records. Class's own Universal debut, Alameda and Coldspring, is still waiting on a release date, but more and more it feels like when it does come, the world will be ready for it.