Friday, 13 August 2010



When The Wire soundtrack was first released it was entitled “All The Pieces Matter” and was a dense double disc affair featuring tracks from all five seasons in addition to fresh, urban sounds from Baltimore.  Then suddenly cheekily someone figured to separate and split the release into two and thus this Beyond Hamsterdam compilation of local dance and hip hop tracks was born from subtle greed.  Was this an idea of Avon Barksdale?

In the television series Hamsterdam referred to the section of town set aside for the drug addicts and drug dealers to cohabit alike, a concerted effort to keep the undesirable aspects of Baltimore away from the more delicate and respectable parts of the city.

The compilation begins with the season four version of “Way Down In The Hole”, the Tom Waits song used for the opening credits.  For each season the show employed a new arrangement and this version came from Domaje, a group specifically formed by Baltimore teenagers to record for the show.  As far as the five takes on the theme goes, this is one of the best.

As to be expected there is a fair amount of hip hop on the record and representing acts include Tyree Colion (“the hardest working rapper in Baltimore”) and Mullyman (“the most recognised MC in Baltimore”).  They’re OK but you can hear why they have not broken out.  Somewhat more impressive is Ogun who with the unnerving shouting samples unleashes a stuttering beat akin to Wu-Tang while exhibiting an impressive amount of civic pride.  Later Dirty Hartz turn up with “That’s Da Sound” who with the great modernised siren sample smack like a modernised Public Enemy/NWA covering KRS-One.

For me the most fun track was always “Dance My Pain Away” by Baltimore club DJ Rod Lee.  It’s a bouncing and energetic track that proves genuinely pleasing and catchy.  Of the songs on the CD this always proved my most listened.

The record ends with a jazz outro as local pianist Lafayette Gilchrist delivers a big band number entitled “Assume The Position”.  As players enter the track and exit he maintains an Andrew Hill-esqe line of operation.  Its not for the faint hearted.

Is this really what drug dealers listen to?

Thesaurus moment: community.

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