Music

Khia ‘K-Swift’ Edgerton, 1978-2008

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End-of-year charts, summings-up and memorials are blog fuel; a chance to collect and bundle all the pebbles of in-out daily-posted wisdom into weightier, wiser statements. I’m surprised, then, that apart from a touching Idolator report in early December, the July death of Khia ‘K-Swift’ Edgerton has not borne more tributes as the calendar turns.

Edgerton was a 29-year-old Baltimore DJ, radio personality, MC, promoter, producer and businesswoman who set an example to others in every aspect of her life.’The Club Queen’ was a thorough and passionate promoter of Baltimore Club music, a sound that has thrived in the city since the early ’90s. She worked her way up the city’s top radio station, 92Q, while still in her teens, eventually holding the evening slot five nights a week, breaking new tunes, hyping club nights, supporting artists. She was the director of the Direct Drive record pool, a distro that got the top scene DJs all the important new 12″s. She played out locally every week. She was an excellent vinyl DJ, and released scores of mixtapes.

Edgerton’s prominence and total dominance in this established scene ended up defining it. On her watch, the genre evolved beautifully. Baltimore Club is an extremely raunchy sound, pitched up, bass heavy, with hooks that are sometimes blunt, sexual incantations. It’s wild music that begets dancing and getting crazy. Edgerton released Strictly For The Kids vols. 1 and 2, mixtapes ranging from clean versions of adult hits (e.g., “Slob On My Knob”) to club versions of the Dora The Explorer theme. Edgerton intuitively encouraged this regional music to play a positive part in all levels of the community. The kids want to dance too.

More than this, Edgerton led by example as a female. She changed sexual politics in the music by becoming the boss of the scene. A track like “Slob On My Knob”, though blue, was actually a K-Swift-era ladies anthem, with the original one-sided 3-6 Mafia command answered forcefully by La Chat’s insistent refrain for ‘slobbing’ in kind. Edgerton explicitly brought about affirmation and equality in the music itself. Blaqstarr’s “Ryder Girl”, a passionate ode to a tough girl who is down for whatever, was re-released in a K-Swift version that, after opening with a dedication to Edgerton, has a new coda that insists “we got the rest of our lives to turn this situation into a prize” and reminds “please remember, just because they ryders don’t mean they sluts.”

Little appreciated in New York despite the broad, naked influence of the Baltimore sound in locally-loved acts like Diplo, M.I.A., Santogold, or Spank Rock, K-Swift was an artist any artist would respect and admire. Rest in peace. One of her mixtapes will ensure a euphoric and triumphant New Year’s Eve.–William Pym

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