Khia "DJ K-Swift" Edgerton
Oct. 19, 1978 - July 21, 2008
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Last week, Baltimore club music lost its queen. Khia Edgerton, who in the course of a decade had risen from a teenage 92Q intern to the station's most popular DJ, passed away in the early hours of Monday, July 21, from neck injuries sustained in a swimming-pool accident at her home. Better known as DJ K-Swift the Club Queen, she was at the height of her career, months away from her 30th birthday.
"Nobody else could really throw a party like Swift," says Buck Jones, a popular local party MC who hosted countless club nights with Edgerton. But when he met her in the late 1990s, when they both were getting their start at the now-defunct club Twilight Zone, the young DJ still struggled for recognition. "People would somewhat get me and her confused for some reason. They'd see me up at the Twilight Zone, they'd out of the blue think that I was Swift and go, `Swift, Swift!' She didn't think that anybody knew who she was, and didn't know whether she was mixing or not."
But Edgerton would not remain overlooked for long, once she began mixing Baltimore club music live on 92Q with Reggie Reg, and later took on her own nightly show, Off da Hook Radio, in 2003. Since the late 1980s, when local DJs began making their own rougher, more aggressive version of the house music they heard from Chicago and New York, Baltimore club, like most DJ cultures, had been dominated by men. Aside from the occasional anonymous woman singing a hook, there were few female role models in Baltimore club--or any women at all who weren't on the dance floor--before her.
As a young DJ with an even younger fan base, but also as someone with ties to the long-running club label Unruly Records, DJ K-Swift helped to close the generation gap between club music's early fans--now referred to by local DJs as the "25 and older crew"--and its future. And after losing a substantial amount of weight in 2004, she seemed to embrace her status as a local celebrity. With distribution from the local chain Downtown Locker Room, she'd release new mix CDs several times a year, each edition selling in the thousands. Her catalog included six volumes of the Club Queen series, two volumes each of the Strictly for the Kids (featuring clean mixes of club songs) and Strictly For the Streets series (featuring especially explicit tracks), and a staggering 14 volumes of the popular Jumpoff series, the most recent of which was released in April.
"I can truthfully say she knew exactly what she would become," says rapper Kevin "Ogun" Beasley, who befriended Edgerton while attending Baltimore County Community College-Catonsville with her in 1997. "She knew that she could become the best female DJ in the city, and then the world. Now, you gotta think, this is before her major makeover and loss of weight. So the confidence that she projected was so obvious and contagious, and I just knew she was going to accomplish all of her dreams."
As an on-air presence, K-Swift always displayed a unique chemistry with her co-hosts. In her early radio days with Reggie Reg, she and the older DJ had a little sister/big brother dynamic. And later, on Off da Hook, she was a perfect foil to the more comical Squirrel Wyde--you could almost hear Swift roll her eyes or blush when Squirrel let out a particularly salacious remark.
K-Swift held a unique position within the Baltimore club music world. Beyond being its only prominent woman, she was also one of the only well-known DJs who was not also a producer. But it would be a mistake to assume she played no active role in the music itself. In a 2006 interview, producer Blaqstarr told City Paper how K-Swift had personally commissioned one of his biggest hits, "Ryda Gyrl," as a theme song for her clique, the Ryders. "One day we was at Hammerjacks, she was like, `Blaq, why don't you try to make a track for the Ryders for me?'" he said of the track, which name-drops K-Swift in its opening verse.
Increasingly, K-Swift was becoming the mainstream face of club music. In 2006, when MTV News arrived in Baltimore to shoot a segment on the city's music, it was K-Swift who led the cameras into Paradox and introduced the latest dance steps. Throughout her career, she was the recipient of several Best of Baltimore awards from City Paper--Best DJ in 2001 and Best Club DJ in '04, '05, and '06. And in the course of her career, she broke countless hit songs and helped shape the careers of nearly every club producer working.
And it appeared that K-Swift's popularity was only growing. The Friday before her death, she headlined a historic all-star bill at Paradox, and that Saturday she performed on two stages at Artscape, and later that night at Club Choices. At the end of one of her Artscape sets, she spoke about bringing Baltimore club to an international audience, and she was reportedly on the verge of booking her first shows overseas. Days after her passing, Unruly announced that a deal had been in the works with Koch Records, the country's largest independent label, to distribute K-Swift's music nationally for the first time. Those releases will still proceed, now posthumously.
As news of her passing spread, with a surprising amount of national media attention, Khia Edgerton was mourned by her friends and family, and by her workplace of 10 years, 92Q. For days, the station suspended regular programming and dedicated airtime to co-workers and fans speaking about K-Swift, and a vigil was staged outside the station during what would have been her next on-air shift. Khia Edgerton is survived by her mother and father, Juanita and Joseph Edgerton, and her sister Erika. She was 29 years old.