For those outside of Baltimore, knowledge of the city these days seems to begin and end with The Wire, the wildly popular HBO TV show which examined the city’s blight and the factors that cause it: budget cuts, broken schools and shoddy politicians. In the video for “See Hear,” Baltimore rapper Substantial shows the good and bad of Charm City. You see a mural of strong black leaders in one shot; abandoned houses the next. There’s a glimpse of the Maryland middle school where he works, then a run-of-the-mill fast food joint. “Our goal was to give you a visual tour of Maryland in an untraditional sense,” Substantial says. “There are areas here that look war-torn, yet you find hope and inspiration around every corner. This is more of a musical documentary than a music video.”
The song is equally pensive. A standout from his recent Home Is Where the Art Is album, Substantial uses methodical bass drums and choral vocal chops to lament the yin and yang of inner city life. First, he decries gunfire and domestic violence, then celebrates “the smile on a child making moves, actually following through on the righteous path that they choose.” Call it beauty in the despair. “There is light in the darkness,” he says. “The same circumstances that broke many people also molded some of the most influential and powerful people the world has ever seen. I want folks to feel hopeful and driven to change their communities.”
Substantial’s Home Is Where The Art Is is out now on Mello Music Group.