Under Sound Music: Breaking Ground Vol. 1
One of the benefits of Baltimore hip-hop remaining a small and somewhat diffuse scene is that styles and factions that remain divided—and often opposed—in bigger markets end up rubbing elbows here. At least, that’s how things such as Breaking Ground Vol. 1—the first compilation from local independent label Under Sound Music—appear to happen. Under Sound, whose roster predominantly consists of white backpacker MCs like label founder Eyekon, fills out this collection with mostly artists from the Baltimore-Washington metro area, with others representing Chicago and New York. But what’s most surprising are the contributions from predominantly black members of the more street-oriented flip side of B-more’s hip-hop underground, including PX (Parts Unknown), Bigg Patch, and Style Warz battle champ Ab Rock, who are just as likely to pop up on the city’s gullier mix tapes.
For the most part, though, Breaking Ground feels like a throwback to late-’90s Rawkus Records releases, right down to the earth tone-heavy artwork, a track from Lyricist Lounge vet Wordsworth, and DJ Impulse’s often tedious scratch-heavy segues, which could’ve come straight out of a Soundbombing compilation. It may be a sound that hasn’t been hot for about five years, but as an aesthetic it holds up better than the emo rap currently in vogue in undie hip-hop. Still, for every declaration about sellouts and real hip-hop that is rousing and convincing—check “Simple Logic” by Bigg Patch featuring Wu-Tang’s Cappadonna—there are several that come off preachy or straight-up dull.
Truth is, rhymes about rhyming and being “in love with this hip-hop shit” are about as tiring and monomaniacal as whoever’s going platinum rapping about crack this week. Maybe all this talk about loving hip-hop is meant to inspire the same feeling in the listener, but sometimes it ends up having the opposite effect. Still, it’s refreshing to hear some hip-hop out of Baltimore that is proud to be underground and won’t bend over backward to make 92Q’s playlist. H