Two years ago, one of modern Baltimore club music’s brightest young stars turned 25. He marked the occasion with a rebirth of his own, setting aside the production alias that he used for battles in Charm City’s underground in favor of a blaxploitation-reminiscent cartoon superhero persona. Thus died Murder Mark, reborn as Mighty Mark with the release of the Mighty EP on Moveltraxx.
Or so we thought. The Party Starter XX, premiered exclusively at Blisspop, is a 12-track window back into the Murder Mark days. Back in 2010, Murder Mark, Mike-Mike, and TT the Artist collaborated on a release for ZOME also called “The Party Starter”. Party Starter XX even goes so far as to include three of the tracks from the original EP (In My Hood, Shake His Bush, Loop That Shit). The rest of the album might be newer material, but it follows the same formula: Mighty Mark’s productions hit like a Gervonta Davis left hook, while Mike-Mike and TT turn up everything from radio-friendly R&B goodness on I’m Ready to vocal chops so hard they could cut diamonds on I’m In My Hood and Shake His Bush.
This is Baltimore club music at its purest distilled essence. This record is more Baltimore than Terrell Suggs eating Old Bay crab cakes. It’s clear that Mark respects his history: the EP is peppered with throwback references, from Rod Lee-sparse arrangements to sample chops in the tradition of K-Swift. Mark and Mike-Mike expertly walk a thin line between playful and aggressive, in a way only other Baltimore club musicians have been able to do. Yet Party Starter also prominently features new production techniques, sound designs, and track structures that represent uncharted territory for Baltimore club.
At a cultural moment when many tastemakers, trendsetters, and shameless appropriators are checking for Jersey club music specifically, the Party Starter EP is a statement: You can’t do it like this. In fact, you can’t even do it like Mike-Mike and Murder Mark did seven years ago. The sound of Baltimore’s club music, then and now, is simply too raw to be imitated.