By Nadine Matthews
Special to the AFRO
Errigh LaBoo, commonly known as Neek, was a 14-year old music geek and “club head” when he met legendary Baltimore deejay K-Swift. “Meeting her,” he stated, “I got to experience nightlife behind the scenes rather than just out with the crowd. It gave me my vision of how I wanted to be involved in the culture in the music scene.” Now at 32-years-old, Neek, who narrates and appears in the Issa Rae-produced Netflix documentary Dark City Beneath The Beat, is a highly respected musician, influencer and advocate on Baltimore’s music and dance scene.
A Baltimore native and middle child of six siblings, Neek wanted to use music to empower those around him to use their creativity to better their lives in a substantive way. He founded BMore Than Dance at 21 to stage dance competitions featuring local talent. The organization, according to its website, “manages troupes and individual dancers, DJs, emcees, and producers not only to compete against each other, but in a variety of competitions across the nation.” Perhaps more significantly, Neek told the AFRO, “We help the youth enhance and learn to monetize their talent. Some people don’t go to college or trade school, but they need an opportunity to succeed in everyday life.”
His actions caught the eye of filmmaker TT The Artist, a Baltimore transplant. Neek explained, “She is from Florida but came here for college and dived into the scene. She wanted to know wanted to know everything about the culture.” She eventually invited Neek to participate in her documentary. “TT The Artist does it all, she directs film, she creates music, she stars in film. She is a Swiss army knife,” Neek joked. Issa Rae’s production company Color Creative, became aware of Dark City Beneath The Beat which was at that time Neek said, “almost completed,” after reaching out to work with TT.
The documentary takes a close look at Baltimore’s music scene, highlighting what makes it, and the people who create it (and its dance) so special. Due to technical equipment being stolen, it ended up taking 12 years to complete. Neek revealed he believes it worked out for the best. “We weren’t really ready for it then. It was a great idea but everything we were good at, was not there yet. It was still in the process of evolving. With documenting that evolution, the film became more interesting.”
Neek explained that the “Baltimore sound’ is very similar to House and Miami Bass. It can be compared to dance music because of its high BPM,” he said referring to the shorthand for Beats Per Minute. “Hip Hop was a combination of the emcee, the BBoys, and the graffiti art; all of the elements is what made it a culture.” He relates that the Baltimore music scene mirrors that dynamic. “Its emcees, vocals, the tempo of the music that allows dancers to create their vibes, the full production with a bass, treble and kick patterns that tend to ‘blow speakers.” It’s like watching an action movie, depending on the song.”
The film also touches on a bittersweet memory of beloved fixture on Baltimore’s underground music and dance scene, Tamika Raye, containing footage of a memorial in her honor. “We called her ‘Fat Girl’,” said Neek. “She was one of the brightest, biggest talents we ever saw.” Unfortunately, Raye passed away in 2017 from injuries sustained in a car accident. “The entire city, the entire culture was affected by her passing away. It sucks to not have her here to experience what we’ve been able to accomplish,” he said.
For Neek, the most fulfilling aspect of doing Dark City was the youth. The film features over 200 of Baltimore’s independent artists. “Whether they are dancers, DJs, poets, rappers, etc. most of them are 24 and under,” he stated. “So, for them to come from a place like Baltimore and deal with its adversities and wake up and see that is a major milestone and a major accomplishment. It brought life to a community that was forgetting its own culture ever existed.”
Neek advised those looking to make it big in music to be patient and learn all aspects of the business. “Social media and the entertainment business overall give this impression that everything just happens overnight. It doesn’t. There has to be patience to understand the dynamics that you never knew were relevant whether it’s advertising, marketing, rights and trademarks etc. Certain things can only be learned over time. Learn what the process is before you jump in.”
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