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Back in the Day

DJ Mike Crosby's Fat Laces and Fades celebrates golden age hip-hop and Baltimore club

Rarah

By Jaye Hunnie | Posted 9/2/2009

Fat Laces and Fades II, featuring Big Daddy Kane, Reggie Reg, Terry T, and Total Kaos

Sonar, Sept. 4

For more information visit sonarbaltimore.com.

A nightclub pumping the sounds of beat-boxing and old-school scratching is packed with people wearing the freshest Run-DMC T-shirts, Adidas sneakers, Kangol hats, bamboo earrings, and thick rope chains. It could be a scene from a circa-1988 nightclub, but it was actually a breezy Friday night in April 2009 at Sonar. The occasion was Fat Laces and Fades, a celebration of '80s music, fashion, and good times--fat laces being the thick shoe laces usually worn in shell-toed Adidas or suede Pumas, fades the popular hair cuts that fellas rocked. The idea: Show up in your dopest '80s gear and show off your slickest dance steps to a soundtrack of classic hip-hop and Baltimore club cuts. And on the ones and twos is a DJ well-known and respected in the local mixtape and nightclub circuit since the late '80s and early '90s: Mike Crosby.

Back then, Crosby came correct. He made his name as a nightclub and mixtape DJ, became an on-air 92Q DJ, and was even personally chosen by Sisqo to be his tour DJ. And he certainly paid his dues in the Baltimore club circuit. And now, the thirtysomething Crosby is putting on a party to recall those early days, as Fat Laces and Fades 2 hits Sonar Sept. 4, featuring locals Reggie Reg, Terry T, Total Kaos, and a special tribute to the late MC Big Tony. The night's headliner is Big Daddy Kane, one of the most respected and gifted MCs from hip-hop's golden age.

It was during that era that Crosby first got turned on to DJing. Twenty years ago, a then 13-year old Crosby began DJing house parties for friends. After entering high school, he started DJing various school events and earned some local popularity. His high demand among high school kids led to him collaborating with and befriending Big Tony.

"My manager at the time, Neville Williams, scheduled me to do Woodlawn [High School]'s Pow-Wow," Crosby recalls as he reclines in a conference room at the 92Q studios. The mellow temperament of the light-brown-skinned, short-statured gentleman is a contrast to his giant charisma and sense of humor.

The school "wanted Tony to MC," he continues. "So Tony had to come to my house to record a commercial for the morning announcements. We rocked Woodlawn, and from there we started doing parties at Shake and Bake and all the local high schools."

Though his music career was starting to bubble, he wasn't sure DJing was the career path for him, so upon graduating from Randallstown High School in 1989 he enlisted in the armed services. "I thought I was going to give up mixing all together," he says. "The money wasn't coming in, so I joined the Navy. But anybody who knows me knows I'm a class clown. I went in the Navy and I acted a fool. After three months of being in the Navy, I got a medical discharge.

"Once I came home, I'll never forget, April Franklin called me to do Randallstown's Homecoming in '90," he continues. "I'd given away all my records and equipment, so I had to scrounge around to piece together a system. Everybody liked my set, and from then on I got gigs every single week. "

In 1991, the now more mature Crosby was approached by Shawn Marshall to spin at the most popular adult club in the city, Odell's. Crosby's name recognition was climbing with the young crowd, but he still had to prove himself to the veteran club DJs in town. "Mark Henry, Sean Caesar, and Scottie B were real influential in getting me started," Crosby says. "I would go to parties with them but I would have to wait 'til, like, 1:45 [a.m.] before they would let me spin--and you know the clubs close at 2. So for that last 15 minutes I had to try and burn the rest of the party. So I've paid my dues."

Crosby was soon nicknamed the "Youngest in Charge" by another well-known DJ, his friend and former radio personality DJ Reggie Reg. And it was through knowing Reg and Big Tony that helped him land a steady radio gig. "It was Summer Jam in 1994, Tony and Reggie was there, [and] one of the artists took forever to get there, and they needed a fill-in to kill time," he recalls. "Tony called me up on stage to mix while he rocked the mic. The program director at the time, Russ Allen, was there. He said he like my mixing style and wanted me at the station, and that's how I got my start at 92Q."

His daily 92Q "Old School Midday Mix," on air for over 10 years now, is what helped spawn the idea of Fat Laces and Fades. For years, random callers would periodically ask if he would do an old-school-themed party that featured the type of music he'd mix during his show. After putting it off, Crosby finally decided to plan a party that was originally more like a high-school reunion after joining Facebook and reconnecting with many former classmates. As the party plans formed, however, it evolved from a reunion to a full-on old-school-themed event.

The April event--coined Fat Laces and Fades by Crosby's little sister, Ebony--encouraged an '80s dress code, popular DJs, and a live performance by Special Ed because "I always want the women to be happy and every girl's baby father was Special Ed back in the day," Crosby jokes. The night also included appearances by honorees local crew the Numarx (sans Kevin Liles), as well as Sean Caesar and Scottie B of Unruly Records, the Doo Dew Kidz, and hip-hop legend Busy Bee.

The event successfully catered to lovers of old school hip-hop and old school club without a hitch. "The crowd that was there were music lovers," Crosby beams. "It wasn't just one genre, it was for music lovers! It was a mature, fun crowd that were there to have a good time."

That first party, originally planned as a one-off event, exceeded Crosby's expectations. Sonar was packed and the attendees raved about the party over the ensuing weeks after it. He decided not only to organize a second Fat Laces and Fades night, but also plans to make the party an annual event. In fact, he'd like to brand the Fat Laces and Fades night nationwide, maintaining the event's stylish spirit. Crosby says the old-school dress code is "desired but not required," but busting out those shell-heads and four-finger rings certainly enhances the party's attitude.

"I think the dress code works because it's fun to see what other people will come up with," Crosby says. "At Part I, people showed up with everything from the old cell phones, the Kangols . . . there was a guy in a lambskin coat. I want to keep that element of fun."

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