Baltimore MC Height (known by his mother as Dan Keech) got his start rapping with Wounds and Dogg and Pony and Keech's first solo show was opening for Animal Collective in mid-2000. Eight years later, Keech started collaborating with other Maryland musicians, starting Height With Friends.
As part of Wham City, Keech has toured extensively with Dan Deacon, which is what brings him to the Crescent Ballroom tonight.
We called and spoke to Keech about his favorite rappers, some tracks from his latest record, Rock and Roll and some of the worst jobs he's ever had. I also questioned how hip hop Rock and Roll really is, not because I'm sort of definitive authority on the genre, but because it struck a different chord than some of Height's earlier stuff, like "Jackson Whites." Keech was cordial and gave some great insight, but enough about that.
Up On The Sun: So where did the name Height come from? Are you abnormally tall?
Height: That's just like my rap name. It's like my nickname or something. I am a tall dude, but not freakishly tall.
You've toured with Dan Deacon quite a lot. How do you think you guys blend when your styles are so different?
I dunno, we just started a leg of our tour right now and we're on the road. We don't think of it as that different really. I think we see a lot in common in what we do.
Can you give me an example?
Sure, I guess the same thing as far as not trying to fit in within whatever the genre may be or something like that. I guess that's the main thing. I think we've both felt like oddballs within what we were doing when we started touring together.
How do you fit into Wham City?
They did Wham City records for awhile and one of our albums came out on that. Baltimore Highlands. That's about it. I never really participated as far as the larger art collective, I guess.
What got you into hip-hop?
I dunno, it's always been something that I liked. I'm 31 years old. People my age grow up hearing hip hop their whole lives as well as rock or whatever else. I guess I messed around with it since I was really young. Writing and recording little things and then having a bunch of friends into it that were willing to do live shows is what got me into doing it in a public way, I guess.
Do you read a lot of poetry?
I really don't. I have an appreciation for it, I guess. I can't say that I regularly sit down and read poetry that much.
Who would be some of your favorite rappers then?
I'll just list off some people, I guess: Ghostface [Killah] and all of Wu-Tang. That's maybe my favorite of all time. Then Kool G Rap and Boogie Down Productions, Rakim, Big Daddy King, MC Lyte and things like Three 6 Mafia; I'm a big fan of all that kind of stuff, Project Pat in particular is one of my favorites.
Your song "Hard Work" is about how our occupations define us. Have you ever been on welfare?
No, I have not.
Just thought I'd ask. What kind of jobs have you had?
I've had a bunch of jobs. What I'm doing right now is data entry for a company and also deliveries. I've been a security guard guy for a long time. All different odd jobs, I guess. Which was the worst one?
I really didn't like working at Friendly's, but that's not so bad. Oh! I know what it is: being a driver for like an art dealer. It was a really weird job, but she was just a total bitch to me. It was being her chauffer, I guess. And you'd drive her around to buy art?
Yeah, it was like she sold art, but she sold not originals, she sold like prints to office buildings and stuff like that. Kind of a weird job. I guess that wasn't the highlight.
I'll be honest, when I first heard your stuff I didn't really think of it as rap. Sure, sure. I could totally see that.
I mean, the name of the album is Rock and Roll.
Some of your older stuff on YouTube is more hip-hop, but your latest album, Rock and Roll kind of reminds me of a slowed down version of Cage The Elephant.
I haven't heard that. Do they have a known song?
There's "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" ... uh...
Oh yeah, yeah!
You kinda have the same vocal tone and delivery.
I actually thought that when I heard that song. I was like, oh, it's kinda like my new album.
So why do you define yourself as hip-hop? Can you explain that a little bit?
That's sort of where it all came from for me. I've done a little bit of stuff doing bass before, but it was really the whole project of Height with Friends in the beginning. It's just me rapping and some of the newer stuff I got less interested in crafting a 16 bar verse again and again in different ways. [I'm] kinda open to trying different song writing ideas besides that. You can't please everybody, I guess, but ideally it would be like anyone that enjoyed it before can still enjoy it. And new people could, too.
What would you define it as then? Would you still define it as hip-hop or would you define your new album as different genre of music?
I don't really know. To be honest, I don't know if you can ever say a genre for anyone and say "this is what it is" and stick to that forever. Without it being kind of limiting or something. I wish I had a better answer for you, but maybe I don't.
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What do you think about the underground hip-hop scene?
I like it and in a way, we're a part of it or at least we know some people in it that would just define themselves as hip-hop and that's it. The shows we play it's half stuff like that and half indie rock or you name it.