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By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
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"I'm Superman and I'm from Mars," says LA Smooth with a childlike giggle. "And I met this girl and she's from Venus." Sitting at the Dunkin' Donuts on Alton Road in a baseball cap worn low, T-shirt, shorts, and sneakers, the Brooklyn-born hip-hop personality works his well-worn shtick. His most distinguishing accessory, however, is his voice, a breathy rasp that can sound both soothing and strained. When asked his age, he lets out his signature purr. "Aaowwwnooow!" he responds. "I'm 100 years old!"
Luis Archer a.k.a. LA Smooth is a local staple. Co-hosting high-profile events like the recent Bob Marley Festival as well as weekly parties at Level and Billboardlive, DJing at the Marlin Hotel, and hosting the LA Smooth radio show on pirate radio station Mixx 96.1 FM keeps this hip-hopper real busy. As Miami's urban music scene has evolved, LA Smooth has kept his finger on the pulse and face on the scene.
Excavating his pockets, he pulls out a forgotten and withered "black and mild" mini-cigar with a look of bewilderment and throws it abruptly into the Dunkin' Donuts trash can. He then discovers a black condom in the other pocket and returns it with a smirk.
"I entered the music industry three years ago," he begins. "I got tired of people telling me I should be in radio because of my voice." Working in the ER of the Miami Heart Institute didn't provide the glamour LA is now accustomed to but it did introduce him to a wide cross section of people. Hanging out on South Beach also provided him access to the world of the international jet set. Finally, taking destiny into his own hands LA sought out a career in radio. "I stepped to the owner" of Mixx 96.1 FM, he remembers, "and he put me on the next day! Well ... that Monday." He lets out an approving "aaowwwnooow!"
Already gaining notoriety hosting parties around town, LA became the mysterious, husky-voiced DJ on the airwaves. He was then invited to be interviewed on Video Mixx, a local video music show that is broadcast on Miami's Channel 48 from nine to ten Saturday mornings. "They liked my personality, the way I carried myself on camera," he says, proudly adding, "The phones were ringing like crazy!" during the episode. He was quickly offered a position of on-air host for the show's occasional live segments.
Jesse Coleman, president and CEO of Video Mixx, says he immediately saw LA Smooth's drawing power. "He definitely does his thing," maintains Coleman. "He's like a central person because he [brings] different types of people. Spanish, black, white, Caribbean. Everybody knows him. He's talented at what he does and he has a recognizable voice, face, look."
Later, inside South Beach's Marlin Hotel, LA Smooth -- earphones on, Kangol tilted backward, shout-outs rampant -- dances to Missy Elliott in the DJ booth. A pair of midriff-baring honeys walk up to the booth to kiss him hello. Meanwhile, MTV's DJ Clue strolls the lobby. An eclectic crowd of white-bred New England types mingle at the sleek metallic bar with natural soul sisters with fades. The music reaches everyone. Dreadlocked Rastas, models, iced-out thugs, multicultural lovebirds.
His commercial hip-hop set over, LA gives a pound to his replacement, DJ Ben Hop, and heads out to his Friday-night hosting gig at Level. Outside the Marlin's double doors LA meets and greets. "What's up nigga?" he shoulder-shakes a dude with enthusiasm. "DJ Khaled! That ain't my name!" he exclaims. "It's LA Smooth." He repeats it slowly for emphasis."They mistake me for everyone! Khaled's like three times my size!"
LA Smooth's rise is representative of how South Beach is changing from the old days, when it was a Eurocentric, model-driven dance scene. "When I first got on the scene, there was nowhere to go on South Beach for hip-hop. Maybe once a week," LA remembers. "A lot of people didn't like it. It was a different crowd then."
"I remember six years ago when Queen Latifah would do parties here before South Beach was 'hip-hop trendy,'" declares Level's general manager Gerry Kelly. "Now it has become a way of life." With hosts as mobile and diverse as LA Smooth, hip-hop keeps drawing a larger audience. Geographic, racial, and economic lines are blurred. On South Beach you can't pass a club without the draw of a bassline and phat hook. "LA Smooth plays a considerable part by hosting his parties here," concludes Kelly. "It's [hip-hop] getting bigger."