On the morning of July 21, I woke up to find a text message on my phone informing me that Khia “DJ K-Swift” Edgerton, Baltimore’s most popular radio personality and a focal point of the percolating Baltimore club music scene, had been pronounced dead at a hospital after a swimming pool accident at her home. The shock of the unexpected news was magnified by the fact that I had just seen her perform her second-to-last DJ set at the Artscape festival two nights earlier. But for several years, I had religiously listened to her nightly radio show and hunted down every mix CD she released, much like the thousands of other Baltimore club fans that looked to her to break the latest hits and expose the newest club producers.
The distinctive combination of house and hip hop that we know now as Baltimore club music was developed by local DJs in the late ’80s, a decade before K-Swift made her first impact on the scene. But she earned her stripes as not only the scene’s only notable female DJ, but also its most popular and powerful tastemaker maybe ever; her absence will loom over the city’s music scene in much the way that of DJ Screw does for Houston’s. And in a cruel ironic twist, K-Swift’s label, Unruly Records, signed a distribution deal with indie powerhouse Koch Records on the very day that she passed away. The last mix K-Swift ever recorded, a retrospective of the first five volumes of her popular Jumpoff series, will be issued as her Greatest Hits on Dec. 23.