Will Wizards fans ever dance to DJ Class's 'Tear Da Club Up' again?
By Chris Richards
Ask Washington Wizards faithful about their favorite Gilbert Arenas-era memory, and they might flash back to an ecstatic Friday night in May 2005. Arenas was basking in a confetti blizzard, chucking his jersey into the stands of MCI Center. Washington's basketball team was advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1982.
And it sounded righteous. The PA was pumping a song both strange and triumphal, with shrill electronic trumpets slashing through a kidney-rattling beat. Whether they knew it or not, fans were rejoicing to an obscure dance track called "Tear Da Club Up" by Baltimore's DJ Class.
Today, "Tear Da Club Up" plays a curious role in programming at the arena, since rechristened Verizon Center: It's a victory anthem for a losing team.
This is the sixth season that the Wizards have played "Tear Da Club Up" in the final throes of a win, but with such bad luck at home this season, the song has become something of a sonic Sasquatch. Now, after Arenas has been charged with felony gun possession, the team's future continues to twist into an uncertain shape. But "Tear Da Club Up" isn't going anywhere.
(Read more, after the jump.)
"Those trumpets announce that some something big is about to happen," says Damian Bass, who curates much of the music at Wizards games, soundtracking timeout breaks and cueing prompts for more DE-FENSE (stomp-stomp). A native of Baltimore, where DJ Class's music is a staple in nightclubs and on radio station 92Q, Bass hand-picked "Tear Da Club Up" as the Wizards victory tune.
"With about 10 seconds left, when we really have the game sealed, we'll play it," he says. "The team is saying it's a done deal."
Unfortunately, the Wizards haven't been able to get many deals done this season. But the song's massive horns did come blaring during the season home opener in October, when optimism was still running high.
"It's a great song," said fan Kevin Blackwell, nodding his head to the beat in Section 105 after the Wizards polished off the New Jersey Nets.
"When I hear it, I know that they've won," said Aaron Brooks, a season ticket holder sitting nearby. "The track is hot."
It's hot, but that doesn't mean most fans know much about it.
"We've gotten a ton, a ton, a ton . . . of phone calls asking, 'What's that song you play when the Wizards win?' " says Bass. He's kept it a bit of a trade secret. That's because the lyrics that come after the 72-second mark aren't suitable for family listening -- something DJ Class absolutely intended when he released the song in 2001.
"I was still in my DJ mode when I made it," says the veteran Baltimore club music producer, born Daniel Woodis. "I would make songs specifically that they can't play on radio. . . . I never made a clean version. I never made an instrumental. I did it so that I could simply tear the club up!"
These days, Class definitely has the radio in mind. After relocating to Atlanta in 2000, he's been immersed in R&B and hip-hop production.
Last summer, Class scored an unexpected solo hit of his own, "I'm the Ish." It's a riveting slice of Baltimore club music -- a genre spawned in Charm City that Class describes as "a little bit of house, a little bit of hip-hop and the little bit of techno we could get."
Class released "I'm the Ish" expecting to move the 2,000 vinyl copies he normally sells, but was pleasantly surprised when R&B sensation Trey Songz and producer Jermaine Dupri released their own version of the song. Months later, Kanye West approached Class at a party in Los Angeles to say, "Yo, [that] remix is all right, but you should have called me."
Days later, Class was on a jet to Hawaii to collaborate with West on a version of "I'm the Ish" that would later enjoy radio play across the country. The residual buzz should only help promote Class's forthcoming album "Alameda & ColdSpring," set to drop later this year.
Meantime, Bass has begun using "I'm the Ish" to keep fans energized -- no easy task as the Wizards continue to allow so many games to slip through their fingers.
Such was the case at Verizon last Tuesday, with the Detroit Pistons running circles around the beleaguered Washington squad.
When the clock finally expired, there were no thundering drums, no screaming horns. Instead, the Temptations' "The Way You Do the Things You Do" came dripping from the speakers. It almost sounded like an insult.
January 15, 2010; 4:55 PM ET
Categories: In today's Post | Tags: Baltimore club, DJ Class, Kanye West
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