Can't Knock the Hustle

Hip-hop is South Beach's new problem child -- culturally potent and very, very profitable

As Campbell sees it, there is an orchestrated "conspiracy" at Miami Beach's city hall to stymie his Memorial Day plans, as well as to prevent the city from becoming a favored black vacation destination. "They want to discourage my people from ever coming back here," he charges.

To that end, he continues, the city is actually hoping for a violent confrontation. Turning his ire on Kulchur, Campbell snaps, "I can see you writing the story right now! 'Luther had all these people at Level, it spilled into the streets, and that's why the police had to go and mace everybody who was fighting to get into the club.'" He pauses and then warns, "You're not going to put that shit off on me!"

Don't think additional police are going to defuse tensions, he adds. Since his original plans have been scaled back to a single night's show at the convention center, Campbell believes chaos is inevitable. "You think the Florida Highway Patrolmen are going to help?" he asks incredulously. "What about inside the hotels? People don't have anything to do so they're going to have parties at the pools, and that shit is going to go crazy."

Don't hate us because we're ghetto fabulous: O.J. offspring Arnelle Simpson and producer Jermaine Dupri at last year's Memorial Day fete
Cindy Karp
Don't hate us because we're ghetto fabulous: O.J. offspring Arnelle Simpson and producer Jermaine Dupri at last year's Memorial Day fete

Above all else, though, Campbell sounds personally hurt. He refocuses his attention on city hall: "They should've said, 'Hey, Luther, you've come up with a great plan, we want to work with you.... We want you to promote and tell motherfuckers to come down here in peace. We want you to make sure you've got the right artists coming here, not rowdy-ass motherfuckers. We want you to work with our nightclubs. We know our nightclub owners don't know all these promoters, or the difference between Snoop Dogg and Murder Inc." His voice drops and he concludes bitterly: "They should've embraced me! But did they? They didn't embrace a motherfuckin' thing."

Out in clubland, Campbell and PRO weren't exactly received with open arms either. Many viewed the rapper as simply trying to grab a chunk of a lucrative weekend that crobar co-owner Ken Smith termed "the richest bag of money going." If that entailed invoking the specter of violence and racial turmoil, so be it. As previously reported by Kulchur, one nightclub manager was approached by a PRO rep and offered only half of what other promoters had bid to rent out his venue. Upon being rejected, the manager says the PRO rep went ballistic. "He threatened me: 'We control Ocean Drive, we control the streets! If you don't want trouble, you better deal with us.'"

Although Campbell denies any threatening language was ever employed, other nightclub figures have related similar accounts. Another manager of a high-profile spot told Kulchur of how a PRO rep insisted on booking his establishment without the asked-for $3500 deposit. "I finally lowered the deposit to $500," the manager says -- a price far below the market rate -- "but he couldn't even come up with five dollars! So how am I supposed to take these PRO guys seriously? They're just scam artists. They wanted to lock up all the clubs under their control."

Amidst all this acrimony, Spin's Tony Cho is faced with an even tougher negotiation. Given the many competing venues, how does he convince Jay-Z to host his Memorial Day party at Spin? "I just don't want anybody to get killed," Cho says with a weary chuckle. "Especially me."

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