Favorite Things about Summer Time in a Black Neighborhood

The sun is out but it’s 5pm. The vrrmm of the dirt bikes are passing by and sound of Lor Scoota is blasting from a car radio. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times. It’s the summer in Baltimore City. The weather has broke in the Black neighborhood and it’s the best feeling. I look forward to this time of year, when school is out and the nights are longer on the block. The only unfortunate thing are the bugs and the police circling the neighborhood. But there are so many things about summer time ova West that make me love my city and my neighborhood.

We all know the allure of the harbor and everything else downtown but it’s the little things that make me feel happiness and nostalgia. There is literally almost something for every one of the five senses. It’s how I know I am home and no matter how pretty or enjoyable other places are, home is always my favorite.

Best things about summer time in Baltimore:

The Smells

I won’t lie, the smells in the city can have you feeling nostalgic or feeling queasy. I live in West Baltimore and I have smelled everything from piss to fresh cut grass. But we won’t dwell on the pissy alleys. The smell that defines the season is the aroma of a chicken box with saltpeppaketchup- one word. It’s something about the way the grease combines with the fries and the ketchup. If you don’t smell that, you not in the true Baltimore. Somewhere someone is drinking a beer, no matter the time of day or place. The summer time heat will lead your nose to the scent of too much chlorine poured in a public pool. The kids jumping out with the smell of wet hair grease and old pipes from the pool. Of course, you can’t forget the one that makes your mother have bath water waiting for you as soon as you get in the house. Outside- “you smell like outside.” It’s like a combination of grass, dirt and metal. It’s hard to describe but everyone knows it as soon as they smell it.

The Sounds

The almost lullaby of a dirt bike followed by a police siren or helicopter. The sound of the bus pulling up or pulling off and someone cussing at the bus driver for leaving them.  The kids laughing and yelling obscenities about the shape of each other’s head. The snow ball machine grinding damn near solid blocks of ice or the sizzle of whatever on the grill. Summer wouldn’t be the same without hearing, “loud-out,” “diesel,” “body-oils,” or “CD’s or movies.” The cat calls and mating call of the average man in the city.  The “aye sweetheart,” or “’scuse me, can I talk to you for a minute?” The “How you doin’ ms. Lady?” or my other personal favorite, “I ain’t tryna waste ya time. I’m just tryna get to know you.” Hearing, “dummy, head-ass, whore,” maybe all in one sentence. It’s cook-out season which means cookout playlists. Music from our local rappers and K Swift club music. Summer time is cook-out time which means somewhere you will hear, “Before I Let Go,” “Follow me,” or a recent addition to the cook-out playlist. When the cook-out ends you can look forward to the pop of gunshots and the half launch of a firework.

The Taste

Obviously, we are in Baltimore, which means crabs. Crab cakes. Old bay! That’s a given. Chicken boxes- a given. Grilled to a crisp (with the blistering, crunchy black skin) hot dogs and hamburgers. The over sweet syrup of a sky blue snowball or the egg custard frozen cups.

The Sights

The murals on the walls from Pulaski, Payson, and Presbury. Baltimore has several artistic masterpieces on obscure buildings. If you riding too fast or blink at green light you might miss them. The parks full of kids on the rusty swings or playing tag. The sweat dripping off the brow of man caught up in an intense basketball game. A random dice game with crumbled dollars on the ground. A dancing yet lovable crackhead who attracts the laughs of pre-teens popping wheelies on mountain bikes. Kids are outside doing whatever for how ever long because there is no school tomorrow and they don’t have anything else to do. Rats, water bugs, and yes even the eye sore of a vacant house. Yes, an eyesore but it’s home.

The Feels

Summer time Baltimore is a whole vibe. The windows down; the music blasting; the sun out. Summer is where most of your laughs are made and a good portion of memories are created. Summer time brings out the best of Baltimore culture. The sights, sounds, and smells of the city all create a feeling that happens every summer. It’s nostalgic and fun. It’s sunsets at 7 pm and slapping mosquitoes away from you. It’s summer time in Baltimore.

 

 

A Word with Baltimore’s own Kotic Couture

This month we celebrate PRIDE.  Pride is more than the parade, the beads, and the bars. Pride is the people, the history and the culture. The city has few spaces and voices for queer Black people to be happy and together. There is an artist, creating a space every second Saturday for these voices and the people. Meet the artist restoring Baltimore music and creating a voice for Black queer people in the city. That artist is Kotic Couture, born Kyle Wilson. Couture is one of those people that defines style and pride in every sense of the word. Proud to be Black, proud to be a part of the LGBTQ community and overall proud of the journey to artistry. Couture is like a sermon on Sunday without paying tithes. They are a word, a vibe, and a mood wrapped all in one. Kotic started creating music for the love of music and to complete a bigger picture: opening the door for other artists who are gay, queer, non-binary, lesbian, or identify with those categories at all. The more Kotic succeeds, the more others can look to them as an example to defy odds.

A look at Kotic’s bold style.

Kotic got their humble beginnings on the Eastern Shore and made their way to Baltimore. Outgrowing subtle racism and homophobia and a town whose first LGBTQ parade will They came to Baltimore for the style, the culture, and followed the sounds of 92Q jams (which they grew up listening to). Couture started freestyling on the bus in middle school (think back to Myspace era) which is where the name comes from. The line, “Bitch, I’m chaotic,” became not only a Myspace name for the artist but a part of the glam of Kotic Couture. That and the Remy Ma song, “Fresh” where the line was, “This is couture hip-hop.” And that was the style, Kotic wanted to embody. To do Couture hip-hop. But they realized, “I can’t create my own style of hip-hop. So imma just take that name.” Thus, we have the birth of the fierce artist Kotic Couture. From the spelling of the name to the bold fashion and make-up, Couture brings genuine sound back to Baltimore. l this year to hosting version every second Saturday at the Crown, Couture has come a long way. As they put it, “I was made in the country but built in the city.”

They came to Baltimore for the style, the culture, and followed the sounds of 92Q jams (which they grew up listening to). Couture started freestyling on the bus in middle school (think back to Myspace era) which is where the name comes from. The line, “Bitch, I’m chaotic,” became not only a myspace name for the artist but a part of the glam of Kotic Couture. That and the Remy Ma song, “Fresh” where the line was, “This is couture hip-hop.” And that was the style, Kotic wanted to embody. To do Couture hip-hop. But they realized, “I can’t create my own style of hip-hop. So imma just take that name.” Thus, we have the birth of the fierce artist Kotic Couture. From the spelling of the name to the bold fashion and make-up, Couture brings genuine sound back to Baltimore. Songs ranging from hyped up-tempo like “Get Ya Life,” to heart-felt truths like “Diary of a dreamer.” Couture is essential what Baltimore music is missing, a queer outspoken artist. “As queer people or people in arts community, we are very hyperconscious of gender, gender presentation, and sexuality. You have outside entities where if that’s not a thing to them they don’t think like that. They see straight, gay, male, or female. So, when somebody sees me for the first time, [they’re like] okay that’s a gay man in make-up. They can be a little weirded out, they can be a little iffy. Another thing I’ve learned is move in between these communities and being myself.”

As we continue to recognize June as Pride month. We should appreciate the lessons taken from Kotic. Appreciate yourself, develop your style, and be upfront about who you are and what you want. They have a simple yet clear message, “I did a little tastemaker’s series with Big Improv. They interviewed me, and all their sketches were based off my answers. It was hilarious. But one of the questions the interviewers asked me was, ‘what is something hip-hop fans would be surprised to know about you?’ Well I don’t know if it’s apparent but I’m queer. In our culture, in hip-hop and Black popular culture, queer people are always a cliché. My mentor told me when I was younger, ‘don’t ever pigeon-hold yourself into being a gay artist but always be authentic and who you are because outside entities will use that and oh yeah we like your music but you’re strictly a gay artist so there is nothing we can do with that.’ I think it’s important to represent myself but it’s also important to show people as queer people we’re not monolithic like there are so many things we can do.”

Remember the people and experiences that make pride what it is. From the first frontiers of Stonewall to everyday extraordinary artists like Kotic. Baltimore has a large LGBTQ community which needs to be acknowledge, not vilified or demonized. Kotic gives our city what we need, a fearless artist, fashion forward, and unapologetically Black.

Catch them every second Saturday hosting Version at The Crown or stay plugged in with SoundCloud