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Op-Ed: The Miami Vibe: How One City’s Sound Changed The Music Scene Forever

May 18, 2022

My first introduction to Miami hip-hop didn’t come from any particular song. An explicit album cover from 2 Live Crew’s third album, As Nasty as They Wanna Be, was how it registered that there was a different sound and style to the genre outside of the Concrete Jungle of New York City. Since the image of four thong-wearing Black women with their backsides prominently featured caused nationwide pearl-clutching in 1989, curiosity took hold. I had to sneak and listen to what the fuss was about. Yes, the tracks were raunchy. When your lead single is titled “Me So Horny,” you know what the overall theme throughout the project will be.

Still, Uncle Luke and his 2 Live Crew brought so many eyes and ears to South Florida that once folks got past the controversy, it was clear the area is more than booty music. “Miami had freestyle, NY hip-hop, then West Coast gangster rap, then booty music, bass music,” Rudi Goblen, a b-boy from Miami recalled in a 2015 article about the city’s musical history. “I was a mixture of all of these things, which was great.” In the ’90s, DJ Raw brought his South Bronx upbringing and influence to South Beach and created the hip-hop festival, Hoodstock. DJ EFN flooded the streets with mixtapes of “new shit” from the big names and local artists who wanted to be heard, like ¡MAYDAY! and Wrekonize. At one point, it seemed like New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta would get their bouquet of roses when it comes to the story of hip-hop, while Miami felt like a footnote in its history. Then came Trick Daddy, Trina, and the Slip-N-Slide era of the late 90s and early 2000s, which paved the way for Flo Rida, Pitbull, and Rick Ross.

And as music has evolved to include hip-hop, dancehall, Caribbean, Afrobeats, and EDM, Miami has become one of the hotbeds of these genres, creating a culture that rivals other popular cities. That’s why AFROPUNK is expanding its reach to the 305 for AFROPUNK Live: Miami, a three-day event (May 20-22) that’ll bring art, tech, food, and music to the historic Black neighborhood of Overtown. The eclectic lineup includes reggae legend Mavado, Afrobeat newcomer Rema, Colombian group Chocquibtown, and artists Yendry, Bambii, Skillibeng, Michael Brun & Friends, Prettyboy D-O, Ebhoni, and Jai round out the list.

But it’s the new generation of musical talents hailing from Miami that will represent their hometown at AFROPUNK Live. Like Walshy Fire, the veteran DJ and producer are one-third of the dancehall and EDM group Major Lazer. Silent Addy is the music influencer reviving the dancehall scene in Miami with parties that bring out Sean Paul, Diplo, and others. And there’s CoolBlaze, the Miami-by-way-of-Philadelphia beatmaker who dropped his Trust the Vibes EP in 2019 to critical success and plays dual roles of DJ and host for the Good Vibes Miami events that provide partygoers just that—shaping the social scene in South Florida.

The music scene in Miami is in good hands. “I am a strong believer that to move forward you must know and recognize what was behind you, and in this fast information age, it is easy to forget,” DJ EFN wrote in an op-ed about his city. “That’s why you should join me in paying homage to the forgotten Miami scene.”

It never was forgotten, and AFROPUNK is making sure it never will be.