Baltimore Club and DJ Phinesse

Elyssa Goodman

Started as a subgenre of House music, that electronic, heavy basslined synthesis of Pop and Disco samples, Baltimore Club fused Hip-Hop into this genre, producing a never-before heard sound in early 1990s Baltimore. Originally sampling Pop hits of the era for their refrains and basslines, Baltimore Club developed a successful following that bridged racial barriers and musical tastes for lovers of both House and Hip-Hop.

One of the original DJs from the Baltimore Club scene was DJ Frank Ski, who took the breaks in songs bordering the Hip-Hop and House genres and repeated them over and over. One of these songs in particular is still sampled today, Lyn Collins’s “Think,” originally recorded in the late 1970s. Because of the repeated breaks in songs like this one, Baltimore Club developed a call-and-response feature, with clubgoers repeating choruses and refrains the DJs selected to scratch. Other DJs of the original Baltimore Club scene include DJ Technics and DJ Rod Lee.

In 2002, the genre was introduced to the music community on a larger scale not in Baltimore, but Philadelphia by DJs Diplo and Low Budget in their Hollertronix duo. The duo was inspired by the Baltimore Club sound, and brought it to their native Philly where they popularized it among both young hipsters and Rap aficionados. After this crowd traced the roots of the music they heard back to Baltimore Club, the scene blew up, becoming popular not only in Baltimore as it already was (and had been for quite a while), but to New Jersey, New York, and of course Philadelphia.

The Baltimore Club scene had remained underground mostly because its DJs, wildly popular in Baltimore clubs like Paradox and Godfrey’s, had found their niche and decided not to expand beyond the scene where they were already known. After more DJs from other areas became inspired by the Baltimore DJs, however, the scene and the sound expanded, with DJs from different areas offering their own interpretations of the original Baltimore Club sound. In its new, sometimes hipster, incarnations, Baltimore Club is known as “B-more” and “Baltimore Breaks.”

Today, because Baltimore Club appeals to those who love both Hip-Hop and House, it is credited with patching the sometimes racial rift in underground music. No matter their ethnicity, lovers of the Baltimore Club sound come to hear the music and dance.

One of the DJs bringing Baltimore Club to a broader audience is Pittsburgh’s own DJ Phinesse. After graduating from Duquesne University with a degree in Media Studies, DJ Phinesse became the premier Baltimore Club DJ in Pittsburgh. Phinesse even hosts a show on Carnegie Mellon’s own WRCT radio station, Krowd Kontrol Radio. The show usually starts at 1 am, but you can also catch it on WRCT’s website,

Phinesse was born in Philadelphia, where he began scratching at a young age. Greatly influenced by Baltimore Club originals like Scottie B., Phinesse followed their example and began working in the genre on his own. Today, he is one of Pittsburgh’s renowned DJs, remixing work by local artists like Wiz Khalifa, featured in The Cut’s December issue. Phinesse also puts out his own work, some of which include the songs “Triumph,” “Kill Break,” and “Loose Riddim.”

True to the original Baltimore Club sound of one or two refrains scratched over and over, Phinesse has been known to appear at gigs with only one or two records, which is often more than enough for him to rock the evening out completely.

Pittsburgh can thank DJ Phinesse for bringing the Baltimore Club sound and expanding the genre to an even bigger audience. Phinesse continues to spin all over Pittsburgh and beyond. He is well-known in the Baltimore Club scene not only in Pittsburgh, however, but of course in his original digs, Philadelphia. In addition to Baltimore Club, he also spins Reggae, Hip-Hop, and R&B.

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