Baltimore’s Height With Friends has grown, expanded, simplified, and matured a great deal since I first heard the magnificent LP Baltimore Highlands back in 2009. That album, featuring Daniel Keech aka Height and his group of friends including Mickey Free, King Rhythm, Wye Oak, Emily Slaughter, PT Burnem and more, really showed me a different direction hip hop could head. The style of Height wasn’t about flash and beats and image—it was about the power and rhythm of his words. On the next album, Bed of Seeds, the sound became more polished, and the sense of a full band shined through in a beautiful way. Next came Rock and Roll—probably the cleanest and most refined thing they had produced. It was beautiful, well written, and deserving of all the praise it has received. But where do they go from there? Well, the answer appears to be backwards, waaaaaay back to when hip hop was a few emcees and a chopped up disco beat killing it in a local rec center. Versus Dynamic Sounds is Height With Friends’ newest adventure and it’s a throwback of throwbacks.
Here are a few words on the album from Height With Friends themselves:
Height With Friends Versus Dynamic Sounds is a period piece. The record aims to emulate the earliest sonic documents of hip-hop, when rap was a live art form not yet captured in a studio. The rhymes, the DJing and the recording quality all pay tribute to the early live tapes of The Cold Crush Brothers, The L Brothers and every group that was there from the jump.
We used many of the original sure shots, and we dug up an equal amount of unknown breaks. The new breaks allowed us to enter this world as unique contributors, and not as mimics trying to trigger a nostalgia trip.
The album’s pacing is meant to fit a time when rap had yet to conform to standard song structures. The first hip-hop was not about songs but about a stream of rhymes, shoutouts and routines over a morphing bed of b-beats. We wanted to capture the moment when hip-hop felt less like walking back and forth between your house and the store, and more like speeding through a city on a motorcycle.
This record was made with love and respect towards the pioneers. It’s meant not as a nod toward an antiquated style of music, but as an homage to what I consider to be the highest, most far-out form of rap that can ever exist.
I wrote all the words on the album, which were performed with help from Eze Jackson, Emily Slaughter, Lord Grunge, PT Burnem and more. Mickey Free mixed the record. Secret Weapon Dave and CX Kidtronik were on the wheels of steel.
“Pinecone Park ’79″ is the second jam on the LP and also the moment I began cranking it to the next level. It’s the moment my windows rolled down and my head went into full bop. It took me back to the days of working in a hot warehouse where my boss would play nothing but Cold Crush Brothers, Boogie Down Productions, and Ultramagnetic MCs cassettes. Those songs were such a chill joy that you forgot about the awful heat and humidity of Baltimore. That’s the effect of “Pinecone Park ’79.” So if your AC is on the fritz, crank this baby and chill.