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Bmore Rocks the Bells

Rock the Bells returns to the Bay Area with its usual stable of hip hop veterans, but this year organizers are flipping the script with a handful of acts that fall beyond the traditional backpacker crowd. This year, acts like Flosstradamus, Amanda Blank and Blaqstarr will rock the stage alongside OG-acts A Tribe Called Quest, Most Def and Nas when the festival comes to Shoreline Amphitheater on August 16th. Producer/DJ/vocalist Blaqstarr, who has done production work for MIA and other artists, spoke with SF Station about the tour and the Baltimore club scene during a phone interview from his studio.

SF Station (SFS): Are you still working in your basement studio?

Blaqstarr: Yeah, it used to be a store, but I turned it into a studio/lounge.

SFS: Whatís in your lounge?

Blaqstarr: I have some sofas with a bedroom in a second room, so if artists stay over itís comfortable for them. Thereís food in the fridge and everything.

SFS: Do artists sleep there a lot?

Blaqstarr: Hell yeah, because of the hours that we work. At 12 oíclock I turn into Blaqstarr, so we work from like 12 to 5am.

SFS: How was the first Rock the Bells show? I heard Mos Def brought you out on stage.

Blaqstarr: He showed mad love at the show. He called me out to play some of my tracks and he gave me the mic so I could give condolences to my girl K-Swift -- a rest in peace shout out.

SFS: Her death was a big tragedy for Baltimore.

Blaqstarr: Yeah, she has been playing my tracks on the radio since I was sixteen. She is the one that helped me get recognition down here.

SFS: How are you preparing to introduce your music to thousands of more people at Rock the Bells?

Blaqstarr: Iím already ready. Iím just going to give them a piece of Blaqstarr, and for the ones that arenít familiar, Iím going to open them up and make them feel like one on the dancefloor. Iíll be rocking the turntables and the mic.

SFS: Do you look at it as a challenge?

Blaqstarr: Iím excited because I know they are going to take to it and itís going to be a positive thing for them. You canít resist the sound. When I touch them with the mic, theyíre gonna pay attention to what I say on and Iím gonna control them and have fun. Itís about becoming one with the crowd.

SFS: How do you describe the Blaqstarr sound?

Blaqstarr: It sounds similar to music from Detroit and Chicago house, but at the same time itís in a raw form. It has real solid melodies and I try to give it an international sound.

SFS: And thereís some hip-hop influence, as wellÖ

Blaqstarr: Yeah, exactly. Itís not commercializing it, but internationalizing it.

SFS: How do you approach your vocal tracks?

Blaqstarr: Iím a fan of neo-soul; I listened to a lot of that when I was coming up. I like artists that are not scared to step out of the box. When Iím in the studio, I just pull it out of thin air and throw them out with the melodies that I feel.

SFS: It sounds a lot different from whatís happening on the West Coast. What do you think?

Blaqstarr: Like hyphy music?

SFS: Sure.

Blaqstarr: I grew into liking hyphy. Itís pretty dope, but I think the Baltimore club music is easier to adapt to. I may be biased, but I think the music here is so basic that the simplicities overrule.

Blaqstarr performs at Rock the Bells at Shoreline Amphitheater on August 16th. Tickets are $35-$75 and gates open at 11am.