Get Your Break On

The Source awards arrive, and it's all good, if a little dull

So what advice did he give them? "Don't be so quick to enforce the law," Muhammed replies. "I pointed out to them that the term no tolerance has a different interpretation with black people. When you say ďno tolerance' to black people, that means harassment. So I said to the department and to the commanders that you can't use that language. You have to have tolerance." In other words, he adds, "The objective is not to arrest people. The objective is to make known that people can't do certain things, and at the same time enforce the law."

Rev. Willie Sims concurs that cops have to be more sensitive to the gangsta rappers. "It's all in the approach," he explains. "Be courteous. You don't have to use abusive language.... You don't have to be offended by the language. The word MF is a common word among the hip-hop crowd."

Amazingly Muhammed maintains that in his two decades of FOI service, his subordinates have never had to manhandle a single ruffian. "I have to say over all the years, we have a zero record in terms of having incidents," he reports. "We thank God and give him credit for that."

Kirk Nielsen

Sims also gives them credit: "The Nation has a mystique that works in their favor." That mystique was still strong at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, when 60 FOI men stationed outside Level walked rapidly in single file along the Washington Avenue sidewalk, turned east along Thirteenth Street, then disappeared down the alley at the club's back entrance. "Oh, oh. They're going to kick someone's ass," said a wiry hip-hop entrepreneur, who briefly stopped passing out promotional copies of his video to watch the men.

But back in the alley, the FOI soldiers merely performed a drill. They broke into three rows, turned to the east in unison, and then marched back to Washington and resumed their posts along the metal barricades lining the sidewalk.

The two guys ejected from Level at 2:30 a.m. on Monday morning by the club's own security team could have thanked God, and perhaps the light touch of the FOI, for their fate. The two bounced men, who wore white T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Freedom or Death," were involved in a scuffle inside the club. One simply wandered away through the crowd. The other ended up on Washington Avenue with a group of Miami Beach officers in front of him on the landscaped median. One cop wearing black leather gloves propelled him toward the other side of the avenue with a series of shoves. For a moment tension rose, then deflated: neither of the two (one was white and one black) was arrested.

By Monday evening time had almost ground to a halt.

The awards show itself was more tortuous to sit through than a VH1 Hammer special. Ticket holders swaggered proudly to the appropriate door only to be informed by a clipboard-carrying Source staffer that "things were running a little late." Doors would open in fifteen minutes. Two hours later they were still pacing and sweating through their Phat Farm jerseys while their shorties tugged on booty-popping SoBe Lycra tube dresses, scoping out a place to rest their Lucite heels. The media was bull-penned just outside the red carpet waiting for the big guns. But no such crumbs were thrown this group, which appeared more and more agitated -- and soggy -- as the hours dragged on without any sign of star power. Though the show was scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m., performers didn't even show up outside the Jackie Gleason Theater until 6:10. A handful of big names -- Busta Rhymes (a host with actress Vivica A. Fox), LL Cool J, Russell Simmons, Method Man -- paraded and posed, while the more elusive stars, such as Mary J. Blige, were hustled around the side of the building to their dressing rooms.

Escaping much attention was Musiq Soul Child, a Lilliputian nu-school soul singer who had tucked his cute self inconspicuously behind photographers and his hollering counterparts, a crochet hat pulled down over his sunglasses, singing to himself. Jesse Jackson, who the previous night had given an ironic speech that condemned rap culture for encouraging the baby's daddy mentality, conversed with producer James Prince in the lobby while two women in hip-hugging FUBU excitedly waited for an autograph. Around 7:00, a voice over the PA distracted two-way pagings in progress, announcing that everyone should take a seat. The show was about to start. (Translation: The show is going to start in another hour.)

Inside the auditorium, which was bedecked with glittering putrid-green palm trees, the crowd buzzed as fans mixed with celebrities. Method Man skipped up and down the aisles. Always the animated one, he crowd-surfed on the two pools of people crammed mosh-style inside the stage's belly. Without entertainment from the Wu-Tang member or the occasional videocam shot of Jackson throwing the peace sign, the show was as dead as Tupac.

Here's how it went: A very unfunny comic shouts senseless quips for 45 minutes. Then DMX and some pyrotechnics open the show. Wait twenty minutes. Host Vivica Fox appears. Pause five minutes for crew to locate Busta Rhymes, her cohost. They introduce another performer who doesn't bother to take the stage for another half-hour. Audience gets restless. They two-way page, they walk around. Crew, flummoxed that there are plenty of empty chairs, finds some seat fillers, a.k.a. eager kids, to run around and fill them. After Mary J. Blige gives the most high-energy performance of the night and the P. Diddy satellite performance from Watson Island is booed, the Wu-Tang Clan is cued to introduce the Best New Artist. Houston rapper Scarface is on the magic envelope. But where is he? Tick, tock. Minutes are seconds in hip-hop time. When he finally makes it to the stage, he declares himself "fucked up, y'all." After a speech thanking God and Grandma, he's told someone has called do-over for taping reasons. He disappears into the audience. More minutes drag by while Wu-Tang emerges from the smoky bowels of the theater. The rest of the show continues like molasses. It begins to make sense why the VIP section isn't offering much high-end food, only copious Frito-Lay munchies.

Last year's Source awards lasted twelve hours. By the time you read this, they may still be taping. Did you expect the Oscars? A finely oiled machine? A force that lives up to its ridiculous hype? Sorry. For that simply refer to Miami Beach's unnecessary full metal forces.

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