DJ Scottie B travels the world bringing Baltimore club music’s fast, bass-heavy shake from the inner city to top discotheques, and his Unruly Records label is the stamp of approval for those who claim the genre. But before helping to develop the Charm City sound, Scottie B was Scott Rice, a Jewish kid in what once was a heavily Hebrew part of Baltimore called Park Heights. Scottie B is well known now, yet few fans know how his musical interest carried him away from the family business–he’s the great-great-grandson of the first ordained rabbi in the United States.
Abraham Reiss was born in Bavaria in 1800 and moved to the U.S. in 1840 to become America’s Chief Rabbi. After short stints in New York and Newport, RI, Abraham and kin moved to Baltimore, where the anglicized Rabbi Rice set out to bring more orthodoxy to Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. Frustrated in his efforts, he died in 1862 having made his mark mostly as a merchant and not as a clergyman–BHC eventually became a Reform temple. By the time Scottie’s father Jesse was hustling pool, shooting dice, and hanging out in jazz clubs in the 1930s, the family’s ecclesiastical ties had frayed as they moved within Baltimore. In Scottie’s youth, Park Heights was racially mixed, with Jews moving away from Druid Hill Park (which gave 90s R&B group Dru Hill its name) into county suburbs like Pikesville. Jesse didn’t follow. He told Scottie, “If you’re gonna trust somebody, trust schwartzes; they’re just like us.”
So this scion of America’s first rabbinical family prepared for his Bar Mitzvah in pool halls. He was the only city kid in Hebrew school and once got in a fight between learning brachos. “The rabbi was kinda grinning,” Scottie, now 42, recalls. “He just said, ‘We don’t do that here.’” Right around the time he became a qualified minyan member, Scottie started DJing, too. Hip-hop had made its way down the East Coast from New York like Rabbi Reiss had, and Scottie B began to ascend the bima weekly to mix disco, house and rap for strictly unorthodox crowds. His older brother, Phillip, became Shraga, moving to Brooklyn, then Monsey, then on to the West Bank, where he has served as deputy mayor of the ultra-orthodox settlement of Emmanuel. Scottie doesn’t feel any shame for not becoming a man of faith like his brother or his famous ancestor… “It’s not the same,” he says, “but I’m not mad at my daughters because they’re not DJs!”