Words + Photos by Antonio.
Inside Baltimore’s Windup space, a huddle of partygoers amassed towards the stage. DDM, one-half of Bond St. District along with Paul Huston, kicks a verse acapella, before diving into “Matinee.” With the help of press photos and social media posts, I instantly recognized DJ/producer Schwarz who I found leaning on a pillar just a couple feet from the crowd, which had begun to reshape in order to accommodate the dance battle and performance from Team Squad Up (TSU) crew.
I first learned about Schwarz, a native of St. Louis, after being introduced to his work with Abdu Ali on their collaborative EP Already. I became enamored with his production, from the relentless “Motivation,” to the hypnotic “I, Exist” and aggressively sought out all I could find from him that was available online. I spent hours on his Soundcloud, which serves as a compendium of remixes, his own “Motivational Club” offerings, joint projects with other producers including 333 Boyz and mixes such as the “Ultimate Vine Compilation Mix” and links to his “Top 40 Bootlegs,” with re-imaginations of everyone from Beyoncé to Blink 182.
Unapologetically outspoken, Schwarz doesn’t use his music to solely incite ass-shaking. In solidarity with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri he sampled their indelible chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot!,” to create the club track “HANDS UP, DON’T SHOOT,” along with a set of articles that covered the situation on the ground. In response to the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, he created “FUCK THE POLICE END POLICE BRUTALITY END WHITE SUPREMACY END THE WAR ON DRUGS” mix of rap songs from local rappers Lor Chris and Dboi Da Dome, alongside Lil Boosie and Rage Against the Machine, in tribute to those slain at the hands of police.
Whether he’s screaming “U R Beautiful,” or an end to police brutality, Schwarz wants you to love yourself and the world around you.
After a politically-charged set at the Windup Space, Schwarz discusses the importance of Baltimore club music, the music scene in the city, and the collaborative process with Abdu Ali. You can listen to his brand new songs “Forever” and the Girl Crush assisted “Body Emotion” embedded below via his Soundcloud, and be sure to buy the 7″ from ARAÇÁ RECS on their Bandcamp page.
Q: Why does Baltimore club matter?
SCHWARZ: Baltimore club matters because it’s one of the most cathartic music that people have. It’s good as an emotional release for a lot of people. And it’s just good and influential in a lot of other music that’s important.
Q: What music genres, or specific songs, have you heard take the biggest influence from Baltimore club music?
SCHWARZ: It creeps up and there and there. For a little while, after Baltimore club kind-of had its moment, which was happening from the first half of the 2000s, almost to the second half of the 2000s. Now a lot of pop music is pretty close to it. With LMFAO or something like that, people would be like these are basically club tracks. But right now, Jersey club is the hip dance music, and that’s an obvious direct descendant of Baltimore club.
“Baltimore club matters because it’s one of the most cathartic music that people have”
Q: When did you start doing motivational club, and how did the concept for that come about?
SCHWARZ: Right from the start, even before I was really making club music seriously, I was trying to have my music be positive, and not have a lot of negative things attached to it. I didn’t want it to be violent or talk about doing drugs a lot or anything. After I made “U R Beautiful,” that took off, and narrowed the aesthetic a little bit more.
Q: How was it making the video for that song? You had folks like DDM and Abdu Ali in it, and a lot of people involved in the scene.
SCHWARZ: They are just the homies. My friend Lee [Heinemann], who goes to MICA, is really incredibly talented. That’s the video that I’ve done that I’m the most happiest with.
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Q: You mentioned before you have a complicated relationship with trap music, not as in T.I. and Gucci Mane, but to its electronic spinoff. Is that still true?
SCHWARZ: It’s mostly with the term. It’s something with the content of it too – it just feels kind of empty to me. Also, it’s problematic to say that this is trap music. It just has nothing to do with trap, and it’s fucked up to take from that.
“St. Louis is hard. There’s not a lot going on culturally. I was in that rap group, but we didn’t have support from anybody”
Q: What was it like growing up in St. Louis. I read that you had a group there, and that you were doing some hardcore rap shit.
SCHWARZ: St. Louis is hard. There’s not a lot going on culturally. I was in that rap group, but we didn’t have support from anybody, and we didn’t have anybody showing what to do. It was really just my friend Terrance, and he brought some people together that he met when he was working at Sonic’s. He was really charismatic so he had his little crew, but there was no larger scene or anybody helping each other out, which is really good about Baltimore. There’s a whole scene here, there’s a support system for artists and people doing stuff. St. Louis was a lot rougher in that aspect.
“There’s a whole scene here, there’s a support system for artists and people doing stuff”
Q: Are you surprised at what happened in Ferguson, and the reactions that people were having?
SCHWARZ: I was surprised how poorly the cops handled the protests – how much they let it blow up and how ignorant a lot of that stuff became. It’s good that it’s getting a lot of attention and people are starting to think about this more. I don’t think the rate for this type of thing is increasing, we’re becoming more aware of it.
Q: When you’re on the mic, and yell certain things like “Rest in Peace to Freddie Gray,” “Fuck that Cops.” Do you yourself being an activist in that way, or you’re just reacting to what’s happening?
SCHWARZ: I’m just going to always say stuff that’s important and let that be a part of what I do.
Q: Since you wanted to leave some of the bad things that were happening in St. Louis, the violence and drugs, was it hard to negotiate when you started making club music? There’s some club music that’s really rough and violent, as well.
SCHWARZ: I actually feel like club music for the most part is overwhelmingly positive. A lot of club stuff is about feeling good and escaping. There are a lot of gun shots and some violent stuff, and sometimes I felt weird. I went back-and-forth for a little while, like I’m not going to use any gunshot sounds in my tracks, and after a while, they don’t really mean gunshot sounds anymore; they’re just this percussive thing.
Q: How did you start working with Abdu Ali?
SCHWARZ: He met me the same way that I just met you. He saw me DJ and I did an interview with him for his blog at the time. A little bit later, we hung out a couple times, and he told me “I had been working on this poetry and I think I want to make a track.” And then that very first track became “Banjee Musick,” and it was incredible.
“Sometimes I felt weird. I went back-and-forth for a little while, like I’m not going to use any gunshot sounds in my tracks”
Q: And then you’ve also done some full-length projects. How is the collaborative process between you two?
SCHWARZ: Abdu, more than anybody else, really knows what he wants, and is good at pushing me. I have to give Abdu a lot of credit for his process when we’re working on music. He’ll be there when I’m working on something and he’ll be like “no, I need it to sound more like…” and he’ll say something that’s not even a musical term, but it’ll be more poetic. I’ll know what he’s saying and I’ll tweak the track.
Q: One of my favorite mixes is the Vine mix that you did. Are you planning to do any other concept mixes like that?
SCHWARZ: The next thing I want to do that will be an important mix, is that I need to capture the live show. I haven’t been able to get a good recording that’s of my vocals and me DJing live.
Q: Where will you be in 5 days, 5 months or 5 years?
SCHWARZ: Five days from now I’ll probably in my house just working on music. In five months I’ll be out in sunny Los Angeles trying to live the dream. In five years I have no idea, but I’m gonna keep doing me.