Back in July, Baltimore comedian Jess Hilarious addressed her four million Instagram followers on a particularly piercing source of grief. “So for real, for real, like I’m really tired of niggas talkin’ about, ‘Oh no, she not from Baltimore, she from New York,’” she said, from the driver’s seat of her car. The two-minute sound-off featured Jess running down a list of cultural signifiers to solidify that while she does enjoy aspects of New York culture, she has an unwavering pride in her hometown.
She compared the way that people from both cities’ accents dictated how they pronounced certain words. For instance, instead of mouthing each syllable of a name like Er-ic, Jess stressed that a Baltimorean would normally say it like Erc, typical of the Maryland drawl. “The ‘i’ is silent,” she explained. She pointed out that being called “dummy” is a term of endearment, regardless of how little sense that might make to people not native to the city, and, of course, highlighted the way Baltimoreans draw out words like do, to, and you, to sound more like dew, tew, and yew. As the internet tends to do, the videos got lost in the daily shuffle of the online content farm, isolating it as a beautiful moment in one of the longest-feeling summers in recent memory.
But last week, Jess Hilarious’s rant got a second wind when veteran Baltimore Club DJ and producer BooMan uploaded a clip to Instagram that chopped up her vocals and immortalized them into a club track. The song starts off with classic, anticipation-building bass thumps and creeps into a loop of Jess saying “Man, I kinda went off earlier and shit. It’s just that I’m real passionate about where I’m from.” Then, BooMan goes 808 snare-crazy before he brings in Jess, screaming, “Where the fuck else I’ma be from?”
The song is only two minutes and twenty seconds long, but there’s something particularly exhilarating about being a Baltimore native and having the ability to rock off to a song that affirms your identity while educating the rest of the world. It’s no wonder that a producer like BooMan would be behind a moment like this. He got his production start at the genesis of Baltimore club’s first golden age in the early ’90s, when it was just dubbed “club music” and not categorized by what East Coast city it came from. At that time in the genre’s history, specificity was key. On songs like “Living In the Alley,” the late club icon Miss Tony called out to particular neighborhoods in the city to lend a helping hand. In 1996, Big Ria’s now-classic “Hey You Knuckleheads” ran down just about every inner-city intersection in Baltimore.
BooMan’s interpretation of Jess Hilarious’s upload, appropriately titled “Jess H Bmore Anthem,” is especially gratifying because it takes a contemporary moment and enhances it with original principles of the genre: looping of hyped-up phrases, easily retainable lyrics, and an undeniable Baltimore-ness at its essence. During a brief phone conversation, BooMan said that he’d missed Jess’s video when it first went viral but when it somehow popped up on his IG feed five weeks later, he went straight into production mode, shocked that no one had beat him to the punch. Thank God he got first dibs.