Von Vargas
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Von Vargas

Baltimore, Maryland, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2000 | INDIE

Baltimore, Maryland, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2000
DJ Hip Hop Alternative


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Von Vargas @ Meyerhoff Symphony Hall

Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Von Vargas @ The Garage

Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Von Vargas @ Hotel RL Baltimore Inner Harbor

Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Baltimore, Maryland, United States



"Von Vargas' new album pays tribute to an iconic Baltimore landmark"

Written by: Al Shipley

When Lavonne Smith, a Baltimore rapper and producer who performs under the name Von Vargas, began work on his fourth album, the initial title he had in mind was "Echelon Season." Then hometown pride kicked in and he started to think of an homage beyond the typical Wire dialogue snippets and modified Orioles logos that other local MCs have used to signify where they're from.

"We got so much rich heritage here, you know, Billie Holiday, you know what I mean? Pennsylvania Avenue was the joint years ago, so much talent," the soft-spoken Smith, who grew up on the west side, not far from Lexington Market, recalled recently in a Security Boulevard eatery. "I feel like some of the great things that we have about ourselves should be exposed. And it's not the Inner Harbor or crabs-Lexington Market is the one of the longest-running markets in the world, that's huge to me."

And so, in October, Von Vargas released World Famous Lexington Market, named for the local landmark that's been open since 1782. Instead of a concept album, however, Smith simply used the title as a framework for a strong set of songs. "With each song, it was like, 'OK, what's the concept?' Sit down and take it from there. I just had that title in mind, but there's not too much I can say about Lexington Market for an hour. But if you think about a market, people go to market to get food, substance. Whether it's bad food or good food, it's still some sort of substance. So I feel my music, it gives some sort of substance, in one way or another."

Lexington Market
Music Industry
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The album's centerpiece is a nine-minute suite of two tracks, "So Cold" and "One Last Trip," that run together with the same stirring, atmospheric beat. On the former, Vargas duets with one of his labelmates, female singer Ronika, for a brooding, emotional song. On the latter, Vargas interviews his godsister Trina about the events that led to her recent imprisonment abroad for drug trafficking-a startling, real moment in the middle of a rap album, where tales of crime are usually told in silly, fictionalized skits.

"I asked her, 'Can I sit down with you, and just tell me everything,'" Smith recalls. "So she gave me 30 minutes of everything, what happened, and I chopped it up and made it a three-minute song. She cried like three times. I had to record, I wanted to stop it when she was cryin', but I said, 'nah, man, I need that real emotion,' because that's what she dealt with, that's what she was going through, and she not the only one that dealt with it. So I feel like if we could give [that to] some other people then maybe it can help change the course of somebody else's life."

Smith, at 35, is an unabashed hip-hop traditionalist who speaks openly about his love for '80s classics and the generation gap he feels with younger MCs. But World Famous Lexington Market, despite its nods to history, is no exercise in nostalgia, and bangers like "That Good Good" feel thoroughly 2012. And at a time when some of rap's biggest stars are hitting their 40s, and one of the year's breakout stars, 2 Chainz, is 36, he seems appropriately unconcerned with a few gray hairs slowing his roll.

Smith started out in the '90s, working with several other Baltimore musicians who landed record deals and flirted with fame, including R&B stars Ruff Endz. "It was a couple times where I did some work where people offered me deals and stuff like that, and at the time I didn't take 'em because I felt like I wasn't ready," he says. But he also recalls the thrill of hearing himself on the radio for the first time, when a Washington, D.C. station played a collaboration with the Boy Blesst, another Baltimore rap veteran who still records today and who appears on World Famous Lexington Market.

But Smith has found his way onto the airwaves in other, more unusual ways. "I come up just being a musician, I started out as a drummer, then taking keyboard classes, and went from that to DJing. I was DJing in almost every club in Baltimore: Paradox, Hammerjacks. And then from there, I started using what I had to do radio commercials." His biggest success in that arena was a TV ad for the now-shuttered menswear store Changes. "This one jingle, if I'd've had my royalty situation straightened out, it would've been great. 'Cause they got played everywhere-BET, ESPN, HDTV-for two years straight off this one jingle."

Over the years, Smith has mastered the art of selling his own product and has managed to make it a major part of his income. Though he never sold CDs at Lexington Market, he made a killing at flea markets.

"I did North Point for a whole year. Just off a year of selling an album and giving 'em a [free] mixtape with it, I made $15 grand just on Saturdays alone," he notes with pride. "But it's still gotta be quality, that's why it would sell, because it was quality. Or the way it looked, they was like 'Yo, I'ma buy it just because it looked good.'" His wife, a graphic designer, has been instrumental in the eye-catching artwork for Von Vargas albums. "She's my biggest supporter, man. If it wasn't for her, I probably would be jacked up right now."

Today, though, with the help of his wife, Smith has his business together and is making some of the best music of his long career. And if success comes calling, he won't turn away an opportunity because he doesn't feel ready. "Sometimes I get upset when dudes think it should happen overnight, because if you here for longevity, it's not gon' happen overnight. If you a one-night wonder, what's gonna happen five years down the line?" - See more at: http://www.citypaper.com/music/bcp-cms-1-1414915-migrated-story-cp-20121212-music-20121212,0,4260484.story#sthash.T09kD7Jy.dpuf - Baltimore City Paper

"What's up with hip-hop"

Many Baltimore rappers have sold their mixtapes in Lexington Market, but MC/producer Von Vargas is almost certainly the first to write an album about the historic downtown market. World Famous Lexington Market takes an affectionate but never saccharine look at Vargas' hometown with tracks like "Maryland Crab" and "Hippodrome," and features a guest appearance by the Boy Blesst and production from Banga Bill. The album will be released on Oct. 26, but can be streamed now at lexingtonmarket.bandcamp.com.

Shaka Pitts has been organizing and hosting rap-battle competitions in Baltimore for years, but his latest venture, the Mid-Atlantic Battle Association, has been his most high-profile series of events yet. The next event, Cause of Death, takes place at 5 Seasons on Oct. 21, with nearly a dozen battles planned, including Ty Law vs. Killa Zeek and Bones vs. The Author. Go to pitfights.tv for info on tickets or to see videos of previous events.

These days, it's increasingly difficult to measure popularity in hip-hop by record sales or concert audiences-often the only metric that comes close to demonstrating the size of an artist's fanbase is social media stats. So who runs Baltimore hip-hop on Twitter? Right now, Los (@iamKingLos) rules the roost with 101,000 followers and Rye Rye (@RyeRye) is the runner-up with 44,000. Artists with over 20,000 followers: B. Rich (@brichbaltimore), TestMe (@testme410), and Caddy Da Don (@CaddyDaDon). And rappers over the 10,000 mark include Tony Austin (@TonyAustinMusic), Tha Profitt (@Tha_Profitt), Keys (@keys_theproblem), D. King (@DKing730), Bossman (@iamtravisdavon), Wordsmith (@Wordsmith), e-dubble (@EdubHipHop), DBoi DaDome (@DBoiDaDome), Legacy D. Don (@LegacyDDon), Mullyman (@Mullyman), and Comp (@compbangarang). - See more at: http://www.citypaper.com/music/music-boxes/rap-sheet/bcp-cms-1-1382051-migrated-story-cp-20121003-music-20121002,0,6180660.story#sthash.nJOL1o8j.dpuf - Baltimore City Paper

"Top Ten Indie-Rock, Hip-Hop, Experimental and Avant-Garde, Heavy, Dance , Club , Jazz and Blues, and Country and Folk"

2012 Top Ten Local Hip-Hop Albums

1. Von Vargas, World Famous Lexington Market (Major Influence)

2. Tate Kobang, The Book of Joshua (mixtape)

3. DDm, Winter and the Tinman's Heart (mixtape)

4. Tombstone Da Deadman, Death Lives (GUniverse)

5. Rye Rye, Go! Pop! Bang! (N.E.E.T./Interscope)

6. StarrZ, Best Mixtape Ever (mixtape) - See more at: http://www.citypaper.com/search/bcp-cms-1-1414970-migrated-story-cp-20121212-featu-20121212,0,6057523.story?page=2#sthash.7p77av4m.dpuf

7. LenWood, Truth Be Told: The Story of Lennie Walker (mixtape) - See more at: http://www.citypaper.com/search/bcp-cms-1-1414970-migrated-story-cp-20121212-featu-20121212,0,6057523.story?page=3#sthash.lbIpbmDY.dpuf

8. Kane Mayfield, Rhymes by Kane: Thievery Corporation Edition (Mania Music Group) - See more at: http://www.citypaper.com/search/bcp-cms-1-1414970-migrated-story-cp-20121212-featu-20121212,0,6057523.story?page=3#sthash.lbIpbmDY.dpuf

9. Height With Friends, Rock and Roll (Friends/Cold Rhymes) - See more at: http://www.citypaper.com/search/bcp-cms-1-1414970-migrated-story-cp-20121212-featu-20121212,0,6057523.story?page=3#sthash.lbIpbmDY.dpuf

10. Rickie Jacobs, Live Epic (mixtape) - Baltimore City Paper

"Von Vargas"

Von Vargas’ appearance reflects the grit and the swag of Baltimore City while his music and lyrics glorify life, with hopes of leaving the average listener with true inspiration, substance and value. His raps include no expletives yet his message is powerful. Heartfelt and morally responsible he continues to give truth to issues that plague society while gracefully shining lights on heroes like Decerio in “FInd Your Great”, one of his lead singles for the soon to be released Metropolis Binocular. Von Vargas’ music delivers visceral messages and we think you should get familiar. - Kayenecha Daugherty

"Aural Advocacy Black Music Month"

For more than a year Gypsy Soul has been getting to know Von Vargas. Not only does he make great music with messages that uplift but his personal character is full of integrity. He has been working hard to empower other Baltimore artists with information and resources to enhance their careers. We are SUPER excited for his upcoming album Metropolis Binocular in late August 2015 and hope that you will check it out, SUPPORT and SHARE. - Kayenecha Daugherty

"Von Vargas Paradise Forever"

Von Vargas’ “Paradise Forever” ft. Chrystal Le'ne was one of the first singles to drop for the upcoming album. Von was gracious enough to give Gypsy Soul a sneak peek before the drop and we LOVED it. We hope you will too…just push play! - Kayenecha Daugherty

"Von Vargas Find Ya Great (Decerio) ft. Jocelyn Faro"

Inspired by the death of a young boy who put his life on the line for his little sister in one of the MANY house fires that consumes Baltimore City each year. Decerio did what many grown folks will never do, risk their life for something or someone they believe in. Von pays tribute to this life and so many others that have found their great…not to mention the strong vocals that lift the song…enjoy! - Kayenecha Daugherty


New Album  Metropolis Binocular Spring 2016

Past Projects

World Famous Lexington Market (Album)
Run DMV Mixtape
Famiglia Forever Christiano (Album)
Scarlet Letter Mixtape
And many more projects and music ads



Von Vargas
"...A Musician & A Writer, Poverty Mentality Fighter, Lyric Reciter, Composer of these Electrolyte Exciters..An Advocate for Justice plus I Love where I'm From..."

Born and raised on the Westside of Baltimore City his knowledge of the street mentality coupled with his profound ability to convey it’s pits and falls makes him essential in today’s music industry. He continues to leave motivational impressions on the hearts and minds of people across the globe. With his music, Von Vargas will continue to raise a standard. His goal is to help change the poverty mentality through speaking to and for the "have not's", overlooked and counted out.

He's been featured on Hip Hop DX, Fusicology, Jukebox DC, Hip Hop TV Japan, Blastro and in The Baltimore City Paper. Von currently serves as an Advisor to the Grammy Washington DC Chapter Board of The Recording Academy (NARAS), and a member of it's Producers & Engineers Wing, RAW Baltimore Alumni as well as an advocate for justice . Von is responsible for Music Marketing Ads, Hip- Hop Ads and Campaigns for: CBS Sports, United Healthcare, American Cancer Society, Dickies Workwear and more. Von is currently the co-owner of Creative Development Studios, which allows him to maximize his talents while serving corporate, community clients and students of the Baltimore City Public Schools system.

Von's music glorifies Life and leaves the average listener with true inspiration, substance and value. His raps include no expletives, yet his message is powerful. "When observing his ability to reach students through rap… the response it elicits is Phenomenal,"… says Cheneeda Carter of the MD Educational Opportunity Center.

Von is preparing to release his forthcoming album Metropolis Binocular early 2016.

Band Members