Mighty Mark has seen the memes: Taylor Swift spotted at a Cherry Hill carryout or smoking cigarettes outside of Rodos Bar in Fells Point. They were funny, but don’t get it twisted, he thought.
“We don’t acknowledge Taylor Swift here in Baltimore. There’s only one Swift we acknowledge,” said Mighty Mark, in front of his turntables and wearing a Baltimore Ravens jacket, in a video posted to social media on Tuesday.
Then came the chant-like drop: “Yeah! K-Swift, K-Swift, K-Swift, K-Swift …”
As Baltimore prepares to potentially welcome pop music royalty to town for Sunday’s AFC championship game, the veteran Baltimore club producer born Marquis Gasque wanted to send a reminder: Baltimore already has a long-reigning queen. Her name is K-Swift, and any excuse to celebrate the life of the 92Q DJ and Randallstown native who died in 2008 at only 29, is one to savor.
“She was the heartbeat of the city,” Mighty Mark said.
Even Mayor Brandon Scott needed to draw a line in the gridiron. “Charm City believes in supportive partners, so @taylorswift13 is more than welcome to roll into town to support hers,” he wrote Tuesday on X. “But so we are crystal clear! K-Swift, the Swift that kept Baltimore shaking off for years, will be our Angel In the End Zone.”
K-Swift, born Khia Edgerton, was the face of Baltimore club, the city’s joyfully frenetic strain of dance music whose outsized influence can be heard around the world today. Just listen to DaBaby’s “Shake Sumn” and Lil Uzi Vert’s platinum hit “Just Wanna Rock” for evidence, said Vernon Kelson, 92Q’s operations manager and former colleague of K-Swift.
“When you think of Baltimore and Baltimore being known for club music, that’s the first person you think of,” Kelson said. “She’s the club queen.”
Though she never produced the music she played, K-Swift was the maestro when it came to her influential “Jumpoff” CD mixes released by Unruly Records, which fans like Mighty Mark would regularly line up to buy at Downtown Locker Room. He and his friends would immediately flip the cases over and scan which producers made the cut, from club stalwarts like Rod Lee and Blaqstarr to green artists in search of a breakthrough.
Her open-minded approach to curation inspired many, including Mighty Mark.
“Swift wasn’t afraid to take risks and chances,” he said. “She always found new music and new production, even from people who didn’t have a name. … That’s what kept her relevant with the older and younger generations of that time. She [represented] all generations when she was alive. She was all-encompassing when it came to club music and culture.”
In July 2008, K-Swift, who counted producer and DJ Diplo as an early fan, was poised to take club far beyond the mid-Atlantic — until her life was cut short on a July night when she dove into an above-ground swimming pool at her home. She died from neck injuries.
While her life was tragically cut short, K-Swift is still felt throughout the city, whether it’s Porkchop’s daily 92Q tribute mix to his friend and former colleague — every weekday morning at 7 a.m. — or the 2021 tribute mural by Nether410, that adorns the former Paradox nightclub on Russell Street, mere steps away from M&T Bank Stadium.
They are among the sights and sounds that keep K-Swift’s legacy alive and well in the city — a point of emphasis for Mighty Mark, who wants to make sure up-and-coming generations are aware of her impact on Baltimore’s music and culture.
“I’m a big proponent of history. Glorifying and celebrating our hometown heroes, it inspires people — new producers, new artists, new DJs — to take it further when we celebrate K-Swift,” Mighty Mark said. “It gives something for people to live up to. Just like the Ravens, it’s that hometown success” that inspires us. (That extends to comedians, too, as he also recently posted a club track built around quotes from Stavros Halkias’ Ronnie character, a boorish Ravens fan from southeast Baltimore County.)
In a week like this, it’s hard not to bring everything back to Sunday’s matchup. So, in that sense, adding one more layer of competitive, off-field needling just feels right, even if Taylor Swift — who has yet to add Baltimore to the “Eras” tour itinerary (we haven’t forgotten!) — is simply a bystander there to root for her boyfriend.
Why? Because Kansas City isn’t Hollywood but the Chiefs arguably are; good luck finding a stretch of TV ads without their head coach Andy Reid, Kelce or former MVP Patrick Mahomes, let alone the breathless coverage of the Kelce-Swift romance. Arguably the NFL’s most glamorous team is coming to Charm City, with Time’s Person of the Year in tow. Naturally, an Abingdon-based apparel shop put “Baltimore vs. Taylor Swift” T-shirts on sale this week.
Kelson isn’t worried. He sees a Super Bowl appearance in Baltimore’s future, which he knows would only delight his friend. Consider it one more reason to feel confident ahead of Sunday’s result.
“Kansas City’s got their Swift, and we got ours,” he said.
Wesley Case is a Baltimore-based writer covering arts and entertainment.