For this edition of Baltimore Music Right Now, I interviewed three artists with multilayered musical practices, S.DOT, BethBanger, and Cadeem LaMarr. I spoke with each artist over Zoom about their love for creating music, their origin stories, and their hopes for the future.
On Saturday, June 17, S.DOT was recognized as part of the city’s first ever Baltimore Club Music Day. He is part of a group of innovators and artists who are pushing the sound of Baltimore club music forward while paying homage to the last 30 years of its history.
S.DOT was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, but grew up in Baltimore. He studied architecture at the University of Memphis before finishing up at Morgan State University.
He is both a DJ and a producer, but calls himself a DJ first.
He started off producing music for Baltimore dancers. He’s collaborated and produced for several notable artists, including producer DJ Kade Young, singer RoVo Monty, and experimental musician serpentwithfeet.
S.DOT says club music culture is where he has planted roots and found a home.
“I found club music, and I kind of found community,” he said.
For S.DOT, a pivotal moment was when he attended a party one October during his junior year of high school and got a shout-out from Baltimore Club Music legend DJ K-Swift.
S.DOT started sending in songs he made to 92Q and DJ KW Griff. He recalls one day when he was in school in Memphis, and he heard one of the songs.
“It was like the coolest shit ever, and I couldn’t really tell anybody about it cuz nobody understood the significance of club music in Memphis. But I was reeling.”
He took a break from producing when he started grad school, but said he got so bored during the pandemic that he reopened his computer and decided that he wanted to make his first EP, “Return,” which featured assistance from DJs and producers Calvo and Ayymello.
Today, post-Baltimore Club Music Day recognition, and gearing up for a summer full of gigs, he is humble and reflective. “I just don’t think I ever saw myself here. Does that make sense? I’ve always been like, ‘I do this because I love it.’ I do it because it’s cathartic, but I didn’t see myself being on a stage and being honored for it. I’m trying to take it all in, but it’s taking a while.”
He’s hopeful about the future of Baltimore’s club music scene as well.
“I’m so immensely proud of everybody here. Club music in general, but even outside of club music, there are a lot of Baltimore artists that don’t really get that shine because it’s Baltimore. For homies like Jacq Jill or like Nativesun to put a spotlight on us and say ‘these people are dope, and you need to be listening to them too,’ it’s amazing. I’m humbled by it. I’m also just like, I’m ready to work. I feel as though everybody that they’ve been putting in that spotlight is ready to work as well.”
To support S.DOT, he said: “Reach out to me on Instagram. Especially for gigs, that’s the easiest way to get in touch with me. Follow my Bandcamp and SoundCloud, that’s where most of my music is right now.”
Cadeem LaMarr is an engineer, producer, and graphic designer born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Prince George’s County. His work crosses genres, with sounds ranging from EDM to drum and bass to R&B, and everything in between.
The first time he knew that he wanted to make music was when he was driving with his brother and heard Clipse’s “What Happened To That Boy” on the radio.
“I remember the percussion. And I was like, ‘What am I listening to?’, and I didn’t want that moment to end.”
Around that time, his childhood friend had started a record label and was using the music production software FL Studio. Cadeem asked if he could watch him produce, and shortly after, his friend gave him a copy of the software. He started producing EDM because he wanted to make something different than what his brother and peers were making.
LaMarr says music is something he cannot turn away from.
“Music is just an expression of my inner dialogue. That’s the best way I could do it. And it’s sporadic. It’s all over the place. It’s direct, it’s vague, it’s opaque, it’s crystal clear. It is everything in between,” he said.
He dedicates a lot of his time to learning his craft and building his production skills.
“I’ve put in the time into learning music production and everything about it. I know so many nerdy little details. And I’m always learning,” he said.
“I just wanna put out a ridiculous amount of really good music. Like that “What Happened To That Boy” moment. I want to give that to somebody. For them to say, “Like, wow, what is this?”
His most recent video release is for “OK!”, directed by his longtime collaborator Jarrett Loeffler. The video is visually stunning, groovy, and bright. LaMarr said that the crew filmed the video in 20-degree weather, but because of the warmth that he embedded in the production, and the fun that the crew had on set, you’d think it was filmed in summertime.
BethBanger was born in Washington, D.C., but grew up in West Baltimore. She is a rapper and recording artist, and like LaMarr and SDOT has ventured into other ways of exploring music. “I’m not full on the production side yet, but I do subtle mixing on things, and I’ll have people that I work with touch up and do the mastering,” she said.
She always knew she wanted to make music. She grew up watching her brother, producer BenJamin Banger, and credits watching his evolution with helping her grow.
“I always wanted to make music or sing. I was just kind of very shy. I kind of saw him kind of coming into his own, and we’re very close.”
She said she started off by writing poetry. “As time went on, I started meeting more people on the art scene, including some of my people that I work with now. They kind of introduced me to recording and just really encouraged me to be myself on the mic.”
BethBanger first started recording music in 2017. “It felt amazing, I felt like I could really do it. From there, I just have progressively grown as time has gone on, and I just continue to grow.”
In 2019 BethBanger first performed at a friend’s show. “I was so nervous before, and I was trying to play it so cool. I rode with a couple of my friends, and we were in the car, listening to music. I was freaking out internally. I was like, ‘What if I forget everything? What if I trip and fall? Because I’m a klutz.’”
The nervousness that she felt in the car ride melted away as soon as she stepped on stage.
“Everything just moved. I was in a zone, and that was a total shift. I had never entered a space like that where I thought, “Okay, I am completely confident right now. I have the floor. I control the room right now.”
BethBanger embodies that same confidence she felt in 2019 in her performances today.
“It’s like a mentality I try to do every time I perform: I control the room, I set the tone.” Although she says she still gets nervous, “That first performance really set the tone for what I knew that I could do, I just have to make it, you know, come to pass.”
Like LaMarr, BethBanger’s musical practice is enhanced by the creativity in the music videos she releases to accompany her songs. Her single “Couple Goals” was released in 2021 and appears on her debut album, “Sweet Disaster.” She released the music video on June 9, 2023.
She was the creative director for the “Couple Goals” shoot. “Everyone was really helpful in making things come to pass,” she said. “It was a really good shoot. I’m really proud of that video.”
BethBanger uses her music as a way to process her emotions. For her, writing is an act of self-care.
“I can’t let things sit on me, like, on my spirit, I have to get it out.”
She keeps several folders of notes on her phone that she returns to, including spaces for poems, songs, and random thoughts.
“I try to write them down, and if it is something that I feel like I can put into a song, then I will, and I’ll kind of transfer it over.” This act of writing, processing, releasing, and catharsis results in music that is sincere, vulnerable, and relatable — it allows her to connect with her audience on an emotional level.
“I’ve grown to understand that my words have value and that my words do impact other people. My song can help them process their feelings, like how I process mine, in a way that they maybe didn’t think they could.”