by Dylan Naumann
The Baltimore based Hip-Hop group DKTM (“DON’T. KILL. THE. MOVEMENT.”) Collective started to form around the year 2014. The founding four members – “Pope,” “BLKLEXX,” “Ninety-N1ne,” “Mouse,” and “Lucy Mourn” – were already bouncing ideas back-and-forth to each other by sending unique “ciphers” through text message. The content of ciphers ranged from unfinished sections of featured raps to short phrases known as “bars” (a way to communicate how to measure the music). Upon receiving the ciphers, the members would attempt to put their own unique style into the rap/bar. That inspiration among the collective hasn’t slowed down at all. Up until now (a half decade later) the collective has welcomed members from the names of – “Baat-Choy,” “MellO,” “Slovak,” “Morgan Marsh,” “Reem-unknwn,” and “Aghori.” All bring their own individuality under the collective’s roof; implementing their own aesthetic to current and future works.
Recently DKTM released the EP titled Metropolis, with featured tracks such as – “Chop!” and “City Lights.” The project is credited towards “Blklexx” and “Mouse,” with additional production by “Baat-Choy,” and featuring “Morgan Marsh” on “Chop!” Noticing every member apart of DKTM isn’t on the project, or every project for that matter, won’t bring a surprise to anyone that’s familiar with the collective. For instance, when the members release new material it’s under the DKTM label, but they’re also representing themselves – the collective acts as an umbrella for whole and the artist. Like the recently released EP love tapes by “Baat-Choy” or the future release of Sides by “Pope.”
Since everyone represents DKTM as a whole, all their music is found in one place – eliminating the problem of searching for everyone separately. Needing to only make one search to find everyone’s music, seems a bit more convenient, logistically speaking. Making it clearer and easier to find everyone, also gets straight to the point of discovering local music around the area. All the releases by the members help sustain everyone’s own unique persona. Making the creation of their own music, highly valued between everyone, especially when collaborations happen. The freedom of not being bogged down by one style, or have to obey by one aesthetic, influences artistic diversity within DKTM. When collaborations do take place, when the masses come together, that diversity presents itself once a week at the DKTM lair located in Baltimore, MD.
The weekly meet-up/jam cultivates the environment mentioned earlier, and also strengthens a song writing process that’s positively inherent between the individuals and the whole. From the point of view of “Blklexx,” it seems to be more of an organic process now than before. “Members would come to the jams with multiple aims to write together and to produce together by bouncing ideas around…for example, you’ll write a verse then I’ll write a verse would be the mentality between us…and no one is explicitly stating that you have to write about one thing either.” That type of collaborating reinforces the organically driven process that DKTM thrives on. The collective stretches that process by welcoming other talent from the area to come to the meet-up/jams. Giving the invitation to others – that aren’t part of DKTM – enhances the beauty of working spontaneously through each other. But more importantly, the collective goes “beyond the music making” in terms of opening a space where collaborations between different kinds of artists can happen. “Baat-Choy” even states that, “it’s a part of the DKTM experience of opening the jams to other local artists…to come by to record and jam. In that way we try to establish a form of community building.” To create a sense of community like “Baat-Choy” stated, opens a platform where an artist can come and participate, among the collective, and have an outlet to establish themselves and their art. Being able to host an that type of artistic outlet, creates freedom of expression between the artist and the art; doesn’t have to be measured against a preexisting pedestal. Together they all want the opportunity to create, to inspire, and to enjoy the beautiful process of making music with others. Coming to the jams allows the opportunity to unfold – between the members of the collective and the array of artistic energy that walks through the door.
By the time that energy has walked through the door and out, DKTM utilizes that energy when they record and to write. But also, it plays an integral part for their live performances, and its more fuel for their attempt to “take over the world,” “Mouse’s” laughter echoes next to mine. You’ll see the collective stretch up and down Interstate-95 – playing anywhere from unconventional venues such has house shows in College Park, Md to more conventional ones such has Sidebar and The Crown. Regardless of the venue, DKTM’s energy remains the same wherever they perform. Setting your eyes and ears towards the stage, you’ll defiantly witness the essence of a hip-hop show but there is something more radiates from the stage. From the words of Mouse: “our energy during shows have been described as sharing the same energy as a punk band…an outpouring of energy.” Combining the two energies – a hip-hop show with elements of a punk show – keeps a diversity of taste between audiences. Whether they like a lo-fi aesthetic or a moshed-filled frenzy, DKTM will surly produce! The energy you’ll hear on their recordings may be a little different from their live shows. The reason why that is because the integration of live drums played by “Slovak” and “Mouse” breaks out his 404 to get more of a DJ vibe.
Their performances favor a sight and sound that’s different from any other collective in the area. Establishing the benefits of artistic diversity between the artist and the whole collective; the ability to curate a stimulating live performance – sonically and visually; and being the builders of an artistic community. Underneath all the bars, raps, beats, moshes, grooves, and Twin Peak references is seen as a collective of friends that simply enjoy making music with one another, enjoying of having the opportunity to grow alongside each other – artistically and non – to strive together, and most importantly….to have a good time. Be sure to check out the DKTM Collective on Soundcloud for their latest releases and their Instagram for show announcements!
Dylan Naumann is a freelance musician, composer, writer, and improviser. Born and raised in Towson, Maryland, he’s currently finishing up his degree from Towson University for jazz commercial performance. He enjoys wondering around town, from local venue to venue, trying to find the inspiring sounds from local artists.