The untold story of Baltimore club music is brought to ecstatic life against the backdrop of the city’s depression, and through the black and LGBTQI+ communities galvanised by musical expression, in TT the Artist’s bristling documentary.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2020
If you’ve watched The Wire or read the crime stats, then the picture you have of the city of Baltimore will be a dark one indeed. This high-energy, rhythmically-propelled and dazzlingly colourful film doesn’t deny that picture, but it shows a vibrant cultural community that is persisting in spite of it.
TT the Artist (aka Tedra Wilson) is a singer, rapper, producer and now filmmaker who for the past decade or so has been a force in the Baltimore dance and music scene. In her directorial debut she takes us on a quick-fire tour of her world. We meet DJ/producer Mighty Mark, who demonstrates how to make a Baltimore Club beat, which dictates the film’s pulse, visually as much as sonically.
Polished set pieces are dovetailed with raw actuality, like the heats for the King and Queen of Baltimore dance contests. With sparing use of dialogue, much of the story is left for the viewer to intuit, but the personal testimony in the songs, or a dance involving a rapper and an armed cop, say everything that is needed.
Dark City Beneath the Beat feels hopeful, even uplifting, but this is art born out of desperation. As one of the subjects says: “We dance in the streets because we don’t have anywhere else to go.” — Nick Bollinger
“Spanning multiple media and disciplines, [Baltimore club is] both a stylistic umbrella for many idiosyncratic artists and an open-to-all platform for community empowerment… Above all, it’s a soundtrack for Baltimore itself, with a fevered rhythm determined by the city’s socioeconomic hardships and cultural wealth. ‘Why do we give all our time to streets that don’t love us back?’ one Baltimore resident asks. Dancing with a raised fist throughout, this superb documentary makes a case for the effort.” — Guy Lodge, Variety
About the Filmmaker
TT the Artist, is a leading voice in the Baltimore music scene. She has worked with Grammy-Award winning producer Diplo and high profile musical acts as well as directed, produced and edited many of her own music videos.