NEW YORK — When Teddy Pendergrass sang "Turn Off the Lights" decades ago, you could bet the crooning legend was thinking about a more romantic scenario than this.
A bunch of dudes wearing bandanas were scrambling around in the dark. No one at the Crack House, Murder Inc.'s home studio, could seem to get the lights — or any other thing that requires electricity — to work. Much to the dismay of Murder Inc.'s next artist up to bat, Charli Baltimore, the studio had an unexplained power outage.
"We had some technical difficulties," Baltimore said a few hours later, sitting next to her album's producer Chink Santana and studio engineer Milwaukee Buck at the controls in Soundtrack Studios, located not too far from the Crack House in Manhattan.
"A typical evening for me usually consists of me coming around 8, 9 ... 10 [p.m.]," Baltimore started to explain.
"Twelve! Keep it straight," interjected Santana, who also sings, blowing up Charli's spot.
"Twelve?" Baltimore answered back, blushing. "OK, 12, but I work all night. I don't leave. We in here sometimes 'til 9, 10 the next morning, mashing it out."
A few months ago, Baltimore started on her long-awaited debut album, The Diary (You Think You Know) (see "Post-Biggie, Post-'Un,' Charli Baltimore Finally Ready To Make Debut"), with Santana and Irv Gotti. The trio worked at a feverish pace, knocking out six songs in three days. Things slowed down a bit after that, and Charli was rhyming almost faster than her camp could make beats. She ran through all the soundscapes Gotti and Santana sculpted for her.
"After that, me and Chink formed our bond and knew where he could go with me musically," she explained. "We just been going somewhere else with the music. I wanted to bring a whole new flavor to female rapping, like nothing that's ever been done, nothing that people would expect, but keep in the whole theme of The Diary — 'You think you know but you have no idea.'
"People don't expect me to spit how I spit," she continued. "When I was on a different label they wouldn't let me be me. This is what you get in a Charli Baltimore album for real."
Guys trying to get at Baltimore is the theme of her album's new first single, "Hey Charli." (The title track was originally announced as the lead cut but the Incsters changed their minds.)
"I'm more complex than dinner and movie/ N---a, you gotta move me/ A bitch kinda moody," B-More's recorded voice blasted from the studio speaker as she nodded, live and living color, vibing to her verses. As the chorus came in, all in the room could detect why she gave the song its name. "Heeyyy, Char-leeeyyy," a man's voice said on the hook.
"That was inspired by all the trash men that always pull up on me like, 'Heeeyyy Char-leeeyyy,' " the redheaded rapper said of the track. "People be doing that all the time to me, the trash men, the people that clean the streets, 'Heeeyyy Charl-eeeyyy.' I was like that's funny. I was playing with my flow [on the song]. That's something I grew into. When I first got signed I didn't know how to play with my voice and play with flow. Just being down with Murder Inc. the past couple of years I learned a lot."
For the video, which she plans to shoot at the top of October in her hometown of Philadelphia, Baltimore is hoping to get a host of guest appearances from cats who always represent the City of Brotherly Love, including Allen Iverson and Bill Cosby.
"It's definitely going to be a Philly video," she insisted. "All 'bout Philly. The artists that are doing videos in Philly, I don't think they're bringing all the different flavors of Philly out."
Before her album — which has been pushed back to December 3 — wraps production, Chuck is hoping to wrangle in another colorful-haired mic rocker, one with a penchant for voicing her pain.
"I'm trying to find Pink," she said. "Only because I have this crazy record for her. When I listened to her album I was like, 'She's the one.' The record [on my album] is called 'Still Waiting.' I let one of my friends listen to it, who was going through something with a guy, and she was crying. I thought for a while who I would want on it, because I knew I wanted somebody to sing on there.
"It's about a girl who, when you first listen to the record, you think she's talking about her boyfriend," Charli continued. "She's actually his booty call, his mistress. He already has a girlfriend, and when she finds out, she's already so caught up in him, she's kinda gone. That's why it's called 'Still Waiting.' He's leading her to believe he's eventually gonna leave this girl. Pink just has that tortured element, then when I went to the VMAs and saw her perform I was like, 'Oh, I gotta get her.' But I felt funny going up to somebody and being like, 'Hey I got a record for you.' "
For a feature interview with Murder Inc., check out "Murder Inc.: In Gotti We Trust."