Most people know Baltimore by way of HBO’s gritty drama The Wire: a rotting playground for corrupt politicians and bloodthirsty gangsters. But Rye Rye (born Ryeisha Berrain), a laid-back rapper with amphetamine rhymes from the city’s hardscrabble east side projects, has nothing but love for her hometown’s spirited club scene. And even though she’ll drop her debut LP this fall, on M.I.A.’s N.E.E.T. label, the 18-year-old music sensation doesn’t intend to leave town any time soon. “I plan on staying with my family for a while,” she says, “while repping that B-more sound.”
Joe Squared Pizza & Bar 133 West North Avenue My friends who are into the hip-hop scene go here. At night, they play music and different guys just jump back and forth into a circle. But they’re having fun, not competing. It reminds me of So You Think You Can Dance?, with hardcore breakdancing. Oh, and the pizza’s good, too. Usually, you buy a pizza and leave, but here, you sit down and watch a hip-hop dance show.
Sonar 407 East Saratoga Street Whereas Paradox has all the loud ghetto kids, Sonar has more of a hipster scene. It’s a lot of kids sitting around, chilling and drinking, and there are never any fights here. I used to go when I was 17 because I knew a guy who promoted the parties. A lot of people from the underground stopped by to spin techno and electronica, and I’d just pop up randomly—I’d go when Diplo was in town, and everyone would be wilin’ out.
Paradox 1310 Russell Street This is where M.I.A. directed the video for my single “Bang.” There are a lot of dance-offs here, with everybody crowding around in big circles and watching. When I was younger and wasn’t supposed to get into clubs, I used my older sister’s ID. That’s when it was fun, because you knew you weren’t supposed to be there. Nowadays, the youngest kids in there are like 12 or 13.
Broadway Diner 6501 Eastern Avenue If we go out to Sonar or Paradox, most likely we’ll be leaving late, so a whole group of us will go here because it’s the only place still open. I usually order the Buffalo wings with some ranch dressing. It’s never really crowded, so we can laugh and make some noise. It’s all about the people you’re with.
The Sound Garden 1616 Thames Street I didn’t even know there was a record store in Baltimore until one of my friends took me down here and I saw all this stuff I was on, like the Mad Decent EP. A lot of hipsters go here just to hang out. If you’re looking for a record, it’s a cool spot to hit.