BARONHAWK POITIER: “93 95 92Q,” AN AFROPUNK DJ MIX
By Sound Check
March 27, 2020
One of the elements that built dance music was the greatness of local cultures — which means, the greatness of local Black cultures. When AFROPUNK kicked off its DJ mix series, personally important Black and local music was one of the things we asked for selectors to think about, when they wanted to participate. Baronhawk Poitier is a great young Washington, D.C.-based DJ, and a member of the city’s The Needle Exchange collective, which focuses on house and techno and more global strains of dance music. But first and foremost, he is a son of the Black D.C./Baltimore ‘burbs, and that’s where his magnificent AFROPUNK mix, titled “93 95 92Q” (read on to see why), comes in.
Though Baronhawk has a new EP dropping next month, that was not where he went here. Instead, the mix is basically a great primer of Black D.C. and B’more music culture, stocked with local vinyl-only classics (Rare Essence and Ms. Kim covering Sade) and surprise national hits (DJ Kool). Compiled before the pandemic, the quarantine did not escape the interview we did with Baronhawk earlier this week; but we did try to speak on the beauty of Poitier’s musical past, and on our collective future.
This mix is so wonderfully resonant of Washington DC and Baltimore vibes. Is that where you’re from — or where you had your “musical upbringing”? Tell us a little bit about that, and about putting the mix together?
This mix is totally a nostalgia trip through my upbringing in PG [Prince George’s] County [Maryland] suburbs, just off of I-95, between Baltimore and DC. My mom’s house geographically was able to catch the DJ sets of regional music being spun on DC and Baltimore radio stations — 93.9 [WKYS], 95.5 [WPGC] and 92.3 [92Q] — hence the title of the mix, which is reminiscent of Friday nights when all three stations were having their “power-hour” DJ sets (either before you go to, or at the club). I used to cycle between them to catch allllll the latest Baltimore Breaks/Club and Go-Go joints!
How did you get into DJing? Any mentors or people you looked up to? Or any specific memories of hearing somebody play and saying, “Yes, I want to do that.”
As my grade school friends and I got into b-boying (breakdance) and popping, I found myself amassing quite the collection of tracks for our practice sessions. My bro, DJ Mate Masie had incredible passion, which is how I realized DJing was something I could pursue, too. He, like most (if not all) DC-area DJs, was influenced by our local legend, Sam “The Man” Burns (may he rest peacefully). Encouragement from them and collaborating on cultural projects with Urban Artistry gave me endless opportunities to hone my craft. In 2015, I got to apprentice with Karizma/Kaytronik in Baltimore and that was when I learned how to make my dream a reality.
The mix is a great mini survey of both the DC Go-Go and B’more Club sounds. Are you a part of these communities? Talk a little about their importance in local culture.
Baltimore and Washington DC are two very different cities, with their own distinct sound, but in close proximity to one another. Although I live in DC proper currently, and most of my gigs are here (such as my residency’s with TNX and Urban Artistry), I also have close ties to Baltimore including family members in the music industry.
Talk a little bit about how those cultures have influenced your productions, and especially if they have influenced your upcoming EP, Temperado Tornado.
Percussion is the EP’s main element, which is reflective of the timeline of dance music in DC and Baltimore. Jazz elements, touches of Funk, Techno, House, and some throwback breakbeat sounds all show up in this EP. Afrocentric vibes can be felt throughout Chocolate and Charm City, I just took the time to listen to them.
You finished the mix just before the world went on lockdown. What was the last gig you had? Tell me a little bit about it, and maybe about what you miss not playing to an audience.
The last show I played before going on lockdown was the packed rooftop of LeBain at the Standard Hotel in New York City. It was a beautiful day with a beautiful crowd, overlooking a breathtaking view of the skyline. I miss the harmonious vibe we can create together through music and dance. Although, the tour got cancelled, I am glad that we are all staying distant and safe at home, which is the most important thing.
AFROPUNK’s mantra in 2020 is “Strength in Struggle.” Does that phrase resonate or carry meaning with you? If so, what?
Hell yes! Some of the best music has come from times of struggle and creative expression is a sign of strength. I’m looking forward to what the future holds!