Historically, Baltimore is an epicenter of civil rights strife, police angst, crime spikes, and urban decay. As small (but legitimately uplifting) consolation for its woes, Baltimore also happens to be the mid-Atlantic region's epicenter of good-ass dance music. Tate Kobang, 23, is a rapper who reps northeast Baltimore specifically. "It's the trenches," he tells Complex. "Anything can happen at any time."
Kobang has, for the past six months, been sitting on a hit record. "Bank Rolls," a remake of Baltimore bogeyman Tim Trees' 2000 hit of the same name, is a potentially viral freestyle in the vein of Bobby Shmurda's "Hot Nigga;" his song is catchy despite its lacking a hook, and, as Baltimore-based music critic Al Shipley wrote last month at FADER, Kobang "raps effortlessly over the beat exactly like he's been hearing it for more than half his life."
"Bank Rolls" has so far matched, if not yet exceeded, the erstwhile success of Tim Trees' original song, with the new verseion having so far attracted 450,000 views on YouTube, 15,000 streams on Soundcloud, and frequent spins on local radio. From an old Baltimore classic, a new Baltimore classic is born. Kobang debuted "Bank Rolls" and its original music video in April, just three months before he'd go on to sign recording and distribution deals with 300 Entertainment and Atlantic Records. Like Kobang's other videos, "Bank Rolls" was shot in various, dusty corners of Baltimore; this one featuring railroad tracks near M&T Bank Stadium, where the Ravens play, and a front porch of the eastside Baltimore neighborhood colloquially known as "Down Da Hill."
"No matter where I live," Kobang says, "Baltimore is my home. I will always keep a spot here, but I want to be able to live and work elsewhere too. You have to expand." Now that he's signed with 300, Kobang is releasing a second, alternative music video for "Bank Rolls." Unlike other glammed-out, post-contract music video re-releases, the remixed "Bank Rolls" video is a modest affair, again starring Baltimore in its simplest glory. We see a bunch of kids from the neighborhood dancing in a power circle on the sidewalk; plus local dancers Marky D and Carter twisting behind Kobang in East Baltimore's Graffiti Alley. We meet Kobang's hustlin' Uncle Jimmy, whom Kobang shouts out in the song, he appears briefly in a yellow Polo and matching bowtie.
"Bank Rolls," with its sparse and soulful keys, its dry claps, its palpitating bass line, and Kobang's mealy cadence, is a distinctly Baltimorean thing. When I perform it in my city," Kobang says, "the crowd performs wit me. Everyone doing the B-more 2-step. Whenever I perform outside of the city, it's different because they looking at us do that 2-step. And then they start catching on."
Watch Tate Kobang's new "Bank Rolls" music video above.