The Color of Hip-Hop

As Miami Beach soon will learn, it's not black or white -- it's green

Accordingly there was plenty of loaded symbolism as news broke two weeks later that come August, theSource magazine would be staging its annual Hip-Hop Music Awards at the Jackie Gleason Theater. Ted Lucas, president of Miami's own Slip 'N Slide Records (home to Trick Daddy, Trina, and Iconz), excitedly announced to the Sun-Sentinel: "I'm going to have the biggest party the Beach has ever seen, [even] if I have to have it outside in the streets."

That kind of promise (or threat, some would say) only helped fuel fears of a Memorial Day redux. Indeed one of the chief reasons the Sourceawards show relocated from Pasadena, California, was an effort to avoid a repeat of last year's embarrassing spectacle wherein slugfests in the audience led police to clear the hall and cut short the affair barely halfway through its program. With that in mind, reporters searched in vain for a comment from Miami Beach Mayor Neisen Kasdin and City Manager Jorge Gonzalez.

Both men were unavailable, having traveled across the Atlantic to Switzerland, where they were celebrating their capture of a very different sort of high-profile show. The Art Basel fair was finally set to arrive at the Miami Beach Convention Center in December, in no small part because of Kasdin's wooing over the past few years. With its Swiss parent expected to gross $250 to $300 million in art sales this year, even a small slice of that pie (not to mention its jet-setting clientele, for whom a six-figure painting is a leisure purchase) would be welcome relief to an increasingly jittery local business community.

So can the American Riviera and Chocolate City coexist? Of course, says Sourceeditor-in-chief Carlito Rodriguez. Whatever problems occurred over Memorial Day weekend were simply the result of a handful of individuals pumped up on "testosterone and alcohol," he explains. "Nobody wants a repeat of anything negative. We're going to do whatever we can to prevent any nonsense," Rodriguez adds, citing meetings this past Monday with Mayors Kasdin and Alex Penelas, as well as members of the Miami Beach police force.

In the end the controversy over hip-hop on the Beach will be resolved not by issues black and white, but rather green. As witnessed by the imminent arrival of the Latin Grammys, corporate poobahs of the record industry may be able to accomplish in Miami what decades of brave activism could not. When faced with the loss of an estimated $35 million should the city spurn the Grammys and its possible inclusion of heathen Cubans, el exilio's leadership finally dragged itself kicking and screaming out of the Cold War.

"Money is the bottom line," Rodriguez agrees, warming to the topic. "So all these people saying hip-hop events are never going to happen on Miami Beach -- the chamber of commerce, hotel owners, and whatnot -- are all eventually going to turn around and say, 'Fuck it! Okay, we'll take the money,' because they see the potential behind it. If you want to get into economics, the awards show is in August, the off season. Nobody wants to come to Miami in August!"

So greed will help everyone overcome prejudice?

"That'd be ironic," Rodriguez laughs, "but it would be all right."

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