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Every month or so for the past year and a half, Radamas Maldonado has thrown a Sunday-night networking party at his house in Miami Lakes. He purchases several hundred dollars' worth of alcohol and food and invites all of his friends in the Miami hip-hop industry.
DJ Radamas has a lot of friends. A recent session drew more than 100 people. There was Prince Markie Dee from 103.5 The Beat (WMIB-FM 103.5) and K. Foxx from 99 Jamz (WEDR-FM 99.1); Vortex, a rapper formerly of the Four Horsemen; up-and-coming rapper PM; Candace Carey, an actress who appeared in the movie Drumline; and Sony Urban's street team. The party was a celebration for Slykat, whose "Color Blind" video clip had recently placed first in a citywide Music Video Challenge (MVC '05) contest and netted him a publishing deal with Universal Music Group, so Radamas's whole City Kidz camp was there. "We're all friends -- everybody's friends," said Radamas of the high-powered gathering. "It's not a competition thing; it's a friendship thing."
Radamas has worked on the Beach for years and began his career with notorious club owner Chris Paciello at Liquid. He holds down residencies at B.E.D. on Mondays, Jimmy'Z on Wednesdays, Art Bar in Fort Lauderdale on Thursdays, Privé on Fridays, and crobar on Saturdays. He also spins records on 103.5 The Beat at noon weekdays.
"There's three things that make a party," explained Radamas. "You have to have a great DJ that creates a vibe. You have to have a hot spot, a place where you walk in and think, Wow, this is cool. And you have to have a good promoter."
If Memorial Day weekend on the beach goes true to form, it will be somewhat similar to Radamas's invite-only confab. Granted there will be a DJ spinning records instead of a stereo system bumping out the latest local hip-hop tracks. And your homeboy definitely won't be slaving over a grill, burning up chicken, hot dogs, and hamburgers for you to devour. The drinks won't be free either. But there will be a lot of standing around; networking with friends, lovers, and potential lovers; and dancing.
Last year I went to the Clevelander for an afternoon party. I was lucky I knew the woman booking the hotel's events at the time; otherwise the entrance fee would have set me back $50. What would all that money have bought me? A chance to stand around Clipse, Foxy Brown, and Tyson Beckford; to see three hip-hop dancers bounce around on a catwalk; and to hear the musical selections of DJs Red Alert and Tony Touch. Both DJs are legends -- Red Alert is one of the original South Bronx DJs, and Tony Touch is a pioneer on the mixtape circuit -- but they ended up playing the same hip-pop crap as everyone else.
Why do people pay so much money to get into these parties? Chalk it up to the intangibles: a warm environment, an excellent sound system, the thrill of mingling with a celebrity or two, and attractive, interesting people -- or rather those who can afford the cover charge and/or are well-dressed and connected enough to get past the velvet rope.
Shawn King has been involved in the music industry for years; he used to manage P. Diddy's soul food restaurant Justin's in Atlanta. Shuttling between ATL and MIA, King now manages the aforementioned PM and is the VIP coordinator for La Dea, an Italian restaurant on the ground floor of the Bentley Hotel. In addition to hosting special events, every Thursday he throws a networking party that attracts label executives and urban artists. "This is the place to be if you're looking for a place to go to really get your product out there or to get a connect," said King. "Puffy and Outkast have been there already. It's a great place to stargaze."
The restaurant has been open for almost a year as an invite- and reservation-only locale but has been accessible to the public for just a few months. Its primary owner is money manager Horace Madison; its minority owners include Big Boi from Outkast, Stevie J (producer and label executive for Bad Boy Records), Miami producers Cool and Dre (who crafted the glorious beat for the Game's "Hate It or Love It"), and Usher Raymond.
La Dea is nestled between two popular destinations, a T.G.I.Friday's on the corner of Fifth and Ocean, and Teasers. Ocean Drive is ground zero for Memorial Day weekend. Throughout the day and much of the night, the street will be overrun with young men and women, black and Latino, cruising each other, handing out mixtapes or flyers for parties, or simply preening in the middle of the sidewalk. Ladies in skimpy bathing suits will literally stop traffic as guys in white undershirts form crowds around them to gawk or take pictures. I won't go into detail about the beach across the street, where everything from impromptu parties to wet T-shirt contests will take place.
It's a crazy scene that finds most, at one point or another, retreating to one of the hotels, restaurants, or nightclubs along the boulevard. But the spectacle often remains the same no matter where you go. No wonder King emphasizes that La Dea is for the "industry" -- although nowadays it seems everyone is in the music industry. "A lot of people go out and they network," he said. "But I'm really trying to make my net work."