If you're already a follower of the DMV rap scene, you know that when a track opens with "Aye Terk," and you hear the flicking of a lighter before an elongated "Sparkheeem," you're in for something special. The tag belongs to a 24-year-old producer and PG County, Maryland native of the same name who's been making his mark on the region's output for the past six years.
Sparkheem's sound, which has been increasingly ubiquitous this past year, is a mixture of the menacing bops most regularly associated with the area and sometimes more hazy, adventurous shots at making tracks that can go beyond local recognition. On tracks like Suitland, Maryland artist Baby 9eno's "Free Bino," he perfectly walks the line between dreamy and head-knocking; on Baltimore rapper A$AP Ant's "Dog Day Afternoon," his synths feel like something Pie'rre Bourne would cook up for Playboi Carti. He's equally equipped to produce chaos too, like he did on Q Da Fool's 2017 track "Backyard."
Earlier this week, Sparkheem was part of a mini-viral local moment when Landover, Maryland rapper Lil Gray teased a song that flipped the jingle for regional car dealership Eastern Motors, inspiring some overly excited comments from listeners. That track is the first one that comes on in Sparkheem's new FADER Mix. For all of 30 minutes, he teases a combination of already-heard bangers, unreleased tracks, and instrumentals that soundtrack the modern DMV sound. Listen below and read more about Sparkheem.
Over the years, you've probably worked with more rappers in the DMV than any other producer in the area. In what ways, if any, do you think extending yourself to so many local artists has helped you craft the sound that you have now?
Working with different artists definitely helped me craft my own sound. Somebody like Tae Dawg is a different artist than somebody like Q [Da Fool] so even though they might sometimes rap on something similar, I would still have to approach them different because they are two different artists with different tastes. And this happens with a lot of artists I work with because now somebody like Lil Gray would want a beat “weirder” than both of them and that’s just because Gray wants to be different and rap on sounds he hasn’t heard — a reason why I like working with bro so much.
Tell me about the thinking behind the mix. There's a combination of songs already released by DMV artists, ones that no one has heard, and your own instrumentals. What were you trying to convey with the way it's structured?
At this point, I feel like the DMV artists have a sound, especially the artists I work with. Most people would define this sound with bouncy beats, dark pianos, and a punch-in flow. And even though this is mostly accurate, I still think I go beyond this distinction. I have been making a lot of different types of sounds for years so I would like to show it with my mix, even though A LOT of my most popular songs do actually have these same elements. That’s why I think people define my sound with those few elements.
The mix starts with a song that you and Lil Gray dropped a few days ago, over the Eastern Motors theme song. Anybody that grew up between Baltimore and DC is likely able to recite that song word-for-word when they hear it. I smiled from ear-to-ear when Gray teased it earlier this week. Whose idea was it to do this?
We actually got the idea from social media. We seen somebody say he should hop on that beat. So i called him said, Yea that’s a good idea. He agreed. I made the beat that night with Mannyvelli. Spizzledoe came and added his sauce, then boom, Gray pulled up and recorded like three songs that night. That was the first.
There's a beat on here titled "Terk vs Sparkheem." I've always been curious about that because you have producer tags for both. Do you look at them as alter egos in a sense?
I got the nickname Terk from my childhood friend Nate and I got Sparkheem from niggas I’m my high school. They called me Sparkheem because I would spark everybody even though I was selling weed too, and at that time period people really appreciated that. Those were the humble weed days where loud was 20 a J and we still smoked reggie in chocolate cigarillos (ewwww). I always had nicknames growing up so before Terk, people who knew my family would call me Lil T, so I’m used to being called multiple names. With that being said though, I don’t look at them as alter egos because Terk Sparkheem is my whole tag — my tag goes “Aye Terk" light flicks... "Sparkheem," said by my bro Tae Dawg. So even though people don’t usually say the whole thing together, people who know me know it’s the same thing and it’s one thing, one person.
Can we expect any DMV rap compilations this year?
I got two tapes out: one called Best of Sparkheem Vol 1, which is compilation of some of my best songs that I released last year. And another tape called All Earz On Me, and this project actually contains all original music produced/recorded/mixed and mastered by me. I want to drop another Best of Sparkheem Vol 2 to update my catalog because I have had ENDLESS songs come out since the first tape. I’m working to get the first tape back on Apple Music before I put together the second one (it was taken down because I have to get re-approval for a song featuring Wale). But other than that, I don’t plan to drop a compilation on my own for a while. I want to make sure the next All Earz On Me is a clear step and level up above my first tape.
Lil Gray - Eastern Motors
Sparkheem - Skreets
Enzo - Finesse Song
Lil Xelly - Xrrheem
Kayvo - Burning
Sparkheem - Faxxx
MoneyMarr - Competing
TaeDawg - ATDBO
Goonew - Drip & Ice
Sparkheem & Spizzledoe - Bullet Proof
Yung Manny - All my Guys are Ballaz
Big Weigh - Rocket
Sparkheem - Terk vs Sparkheem
Sparkheem - Billion Dollar Heem
Sparkheem & Spizzledoe - Gucci Flop Flip
Sparkheem - 93 Supreme
YG Addie - Tysons Corner