One of the special qualities of Baltimore City is how rich in creative expression it is. On almost every block, there is a work of art. Whether it be street performers or walls of graffiti, artistic expression is an important part of Baltimore’s culture. With so many creative minds in the city, it takes the initiative of local figures to provide them with organized and safe platforms to express themselves.
Local clothing store Pipe Dreamz does just that with “Talenti,” an open mic competition for local artists that gives them the chance to win a set at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas. It is a great way to give one of the city’s up-and-coming artists a chance to gain exposure beyond their hometown.
During business hours, Pipe Dreamz operates as a precisely curated clothing boutique and art gallery. Paintings of local artists line the walls, and a limited — yet carefully thought out — inventory of clothes hang from wires. In the front, a sleek bar boasts an expansive selection of cereals available for order, along with mimosas and waffles. With the unique feature it carries, Pipe Dreamz has all the qualities to be an iconic underground Baltimore venue.
Every Thursday, as nighttime rolls around, dozens pack into the small store crammed between the storefronts of North Charles Street. The energy there is contagious. Mosh pits and dancing break out on a regular basis, leaving packs of sweaty teenagers catching their breath after the best performances. This energy reflects how supportive the city’s youth is of unknown artists. Every week the sign-up sheet gets longer and the crowds get larger, making the competition a weekly tradition for local artists and a must for aspiring performers.
Of course, none of it would be possible without Pipe Dreamz’ owner Ansar “A.C.” Abdullah, who has made a point to promote Baltimore’s artistic and musical talents for years now. “The open mic has been a tradition since our days on North Howard Street, there’s a need for starving artists in the city to be given a platform,” says Abdullah, who has gone the extra mile to put events such as “Talenti” on, simply out of his love for the underground culture.
As he says “I like to see the growth in artists, that’s my biggest reward in doing all of this. When we do these open mics it constantly stands as a reminder as to why I opened this shop up in the first place, to give young kids a voice no matter what their racial or social background is, to give them an opportunity at least for one night to be able to feel like they are on top of the world and this is the biggest stage ever.“ Abdullah proves that a little care and effort can go a long way for developing artists.