By Jacob Katel
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With appearances on MTV 's My Block and TLC's Miami Ink; mixtapes with DJ Drama, EFN, and Kay Slay; and more frequent-flyer miles racked up than your Air Force Ones, Michael Garcia now has his soles firmly planted back in the 305 and is busy bangin' out tracks in the studio for the remainder of 2006.
Over the past two years, with all the recent shine attributed to Miami's hip-hop scene, the Magic City has grown up, according to Garcia: "Since I put out my album, the scene has really diversified. At that time, nobody was trying to help nobody, and people were to themselves. Now with the success of Pitbull, Rick Ross, [and] Trick Daddy, the unity among artists is a lot better, and a lot more people are working together. If that continues and artists keep their egos to the side, I don't see nothing but the sky for Miami."
Unity and respect are things Garcia and his Crazy Hood family have been practicing since their entry into the game more than ten years ago. As one of the pioneers of the scene, for those who don't know, Garcia sums up: "We were the first crew in Miami with our own store, Crazy Goods, our own Website.... EFN was putting out hip-hop mixtapes back in 1992-1993 before any other DJ down here, and we were dropping vinyl in 1995 with Da All."
With a confident presence on the mike and true-to-life vocal content, this Miami-born Cuban MC is versatile enough to deliver music for the headphones as well as South Beach speakers. Garnering a shopping list of accolades sharing stages with artists such as Mobb Deep and OutKast, releasing a successful album, snagging a spot as the pitchman for UPN 33 Garcia seems to have only one goal left: signing a record contract. Although some scorekeepers view that last objective as the centerpiece in a rapper's career, the 28-year-old Garcia has a different opinion, for the man has already made an indelible mark on Miami's hip-hop history. "I've accomplished every dream I've had from when I started rapping," he says. "I've recorded with some of the biggest players in the industry, I have relationships with superstars, and my main goal, which was to be one of the most respected rappers in Miami, has already been done. As a man, the only thing I have left to do is get that record deal. It doesn't scare me if it doesn't happen, but I know in my heart it will."
In today's hip-pop industry, where artists can get signed based on a catchy hook or marketing image, it's not only the number of zeros on the balance sheet that matters to Crazy Hood, but also the intentions beyond the dotted line. "I've been offered a lot of things, but I want something that will benefit the team too. I'm about as real as they come. I don't forget nobody that's been through the struggle with me, and Crazy Hood has been there since day one. I'm not just going to forget that because someone comes with a little check," says Garcia. "I want someone who's going to care about the project and see the big picture, not just put a single or two out and put me back on the shelf." Check one of his latest exclusives, Confessions of a Sellout, for a more in-depth account of what happens when cats realize it's not all about the dollar signs.
As a teenager known by the nickname Gambit, Garcia would save any penny possible to put toward pressing tapes and professional packaging of his product in order to kick and push to the high school clientele at Braddock High School in Kendall. While working at Kinko's, he met "Miami's Mixtape King," DJ EFN.
"EFN basically said there's no money involved yet, but if you want to run with us, we could all work together. He really took me under his wing, and I learned off Da All," Garcia explains. Da Alliance a group consisting of EFN, Weird Thoughts, Heckler (who is readying his solo album No Joke), and producer Drain put out a grip of twelve-inch singles in the late Nineties, including "That's Crazy," featuring Noriega.
"I was really inspired by the Society single 'Yes Indeed.' I mean I loved bass music, but to hear someone rapping like that and be from Miami, that put me on. Artists like Mother Superia, Black Forest, Hip Hop Shop with the Rhythm Rocker, Hoodstock there was a movement happening down here [in the mid-Nineties]," Garcia reminisces. "But the system kind of killed itself, and now time is repeating and it's a beautiful thing."
Using those influences, a strong affinity for Public Enemy, and a penchant for salsa, dancehall, and Guns N' Roses-style rock and roll, his debut album, Anti-Social, as well as tracks before and after, have shown diverse production and wordplay reflective of Garcia's musical tastes. His first single, "None of Dem," featured chopped reggae vocals on the chorus over his street-life accounts, while the lead single off of his LP, "Come Get It," backed by a loud guitar sample, let the people know that "if you looking for real hip-hop, it's right here."