Spinning Strawze into Gold

Mr. Vibe himself is modest about -- even reluctant to discuss -- his precocious skills as a sampler. "Everybody's got input on the music," he stresses. "It's all about finding the melody and the rhythm that will help us put across the message."

Vibe originally met D Rhythm at Arvida Junior High. "I'd come up in Brooklyn, in the middle of the hip-hop explosion, so as a little kid I'd be lyrically battling older kids," recalls D Rhythm, also twenty years old. "When I came down to Miami, I got into a band, but Vibe was on his own. For a while we were like big-time rivals."

The two joined forces at Killian, thanks to a mutual friend, and eventually the three formed School Daze. "When I came down to Miami from North Carolina, School Daze were already ranked, they had status," recalls the eighteen-year-old Phunk, the youngest Straw. "It was obvious these were the guys I was going to have to get with, or compete against. I ended up opening this warehouse show for them in Kendall. I had to rap over this CD, but the CD kept skipping, so I had to keep it going. When that worked out, I started MCing. I said, 'Are you all ready to hear School Daze?' and the place went wild."

Phunk's verbal facility and stage presence did not go unnoticed. "We were like, 'Who is that kid?'" D Rhythm notes. "We spent a couple of months just trying to find him. All we knew was that he went to Southridge High and that he was Puerto Rican."

Phunk was shocked when he finally got a call, two months later. "You got a lot of guys who talk about being in a band or whatnot, but it don't mean shit. When D and Vibe came by, they had all their music on tape, ready to go."

Originally a quartet, the band dropped the fourth member and changed names in 1992. "One day we were talking about all the negativity going around the hip-hop world," Phunk says, "all the commercialism and selling out and such, and Vibe said, 'This shit is like the last straw.'" The name stuck.

Most of Instrawmental was written in 1993 and recorded last year. The band has opened local shows for visiting underground hip-hoppers such as Black Moon and Old Dirty Bastard. But because of the dearth of commercial stations playing hip-hop music in Dade, the Strawze have had to make do with limited radio support, from WDNA, WVUM, and a host of pirate stations.

They also have had to deal with frequent separations. Vibe graduated from Killian in 1993 and spent two years at the University of Florida before dropping out. Both D Rhythm and Phunk are high school dropouts who hang in Miami. Indeed, the long wait for the release of Instrawmental also has proved a perilous time. All three Strawze are surviving more or less hand to mouth. There have been brushes with the law, and family tensions.

"I ain't gonna front," D Rhythm says. "Things are rough for us, and we're doing what we have to until we see what the record does. We're hopeful good things will happen. But in the end, we're making music to express ourselves, not to make a hit.

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