Rye Rye

Photography Aaron Fallon

From a studio on 23rd street in Baltimore, rap’s new “it” girl, Rye Rye, told SOMA what she would wear to: ( 1 ) Kurtis Blow’s Harlem Hip Hop Church: “An old school hip hop look… like a lot of gold bangles, bamboo earrings; but I would wear some appropriate slacks, like dressy-type wit street shirt.” ( 2 ) North Korean peace talks: “A multi-color power suit.” ( 3 ) A snow ball fight: “A damn coat, gloves; hat so I won’t freeze to death. But I would love to wear a stylish one-piece snow suit.”

Hip Hop is an American invention. Though it encompasses the globe and exists in almost every country big and small the world over, real “hip hop” is unequivocally rooted in the US. Every major city across the union hosts an indigenous form of rap music. For instance there’s Atlanta’s “Snap and B,” “Hyphy” from the Bay Area, “G-funk” from LA, New Orleans’ “Bounce,” as well as “Juke” and “Chipmunk Soul” out of Chicago. Now, it looks as if Baltimore Club, or Bmore Club, is finally getting its push into the national spotlight.

The sound is a musical war between House, Break Beat, and Hip Hop; with a rhythm of machine guns and bombs. The burgeoning sound can come across like a distant cousin to the underground scenes of Ghetto Tech and U.K. Garage, or an older brother to the U.K. Grime scene.

Leading the charge is an 18-year-old MC with the nickname Rye Rye. Baltimore has a new patron of the arts, M.I.A. now has a protégé, and Ryeisha “Rye Rye” Berrain has just graduated high school. Before meeting Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam (a.k.a. M.I.A), she had not been outside of Baltimore; now she’s a world tour veteran. While the announcement of her pregnancy following the withdrawal from a tour with A-Trak was met with disappointment from her fans, her upcoming album Go!Pop!Bang! (out in January) is poised to exceed expectations. And she is adamant that it won’t be just another Bmore album. Working with producers Blaqstarr, M.I.A., Diplo, Egyptian Lover, and the Count and Sinden, the record will be anything but conventional.

Rye Rye’s single “Bang” is also dominating the Internet  at the moment. Its corresponding Youtube video acts as a mini-tour of the Baltimore scene, and by the looks of it, the footage unfolds like a new millennium version of Krush Groove. There’s neon glow-in-the-dark body suits, fog machines, disco lights and strobes, break dancing, and guys and girls doing the local dances: Sponge Bob and the Crazy Legs. The video also showcases Rye Rye’s ability to completely destroy a dance floor. When asked about her background in dance she says, “Of course I was a dancer first. I started when I was eight-years-old and from then on I have been into it.” She adds, “It helps me with my music, because most of the time, I decide which songs to record to if I can dance to it.”

These days, hip hop seems to be toting a new mission statement, and Rye Rye is re-inventing party rap even if she isn’t old enough to drink. The days of glorifying gangster parties and bling while objectifying women may not numbered, but they are definitely waning; forced to share stage with innovative acts like Kid Cudi, the Cool Kids, Ninjasonik and others. In the beginning it was street parties and an excuse to dance, a youth culture created from ruin; kids spinning on their heads, hands, and backs—defying logic, conventions and physics. Anything was possible—and still is—in the name of a good time. We can thank acts like Rye Rye for reminding us of that and setting the stage for the next big party.

– Daniel Dehnhardt