By David Rolland
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With the recent limelight on the Magic City's growing yayo-enthused rappers, it's hard to believe that a guy with a New York City swagger could infiltrate the 305 crunk mafia. But Dynas, a 28-year-old Queens native who came to Miami as a teenager, has become one of the city's most revered, if unsung, underground MCs by displaying the lyrical bravado of NYC greats such as Nas, Talib Kweli, and Jay-Z.
Dynas (a.k.a. Anthony Theodore) flows like a rhyming encyclopedia, spitting tragedies and triumphs drawn from his personal saga, in a style often laced with a patois honoring his Jamaican roots. Over the past decade, he has graced more than 100 mixtapes and countless maxi-singles and twelve-inches. He has rhymed with hometown heroes such as Pitbull and Rick Ross on bootleg tracks long before they became Billboard darlings. His three-year-old label, Bad Gramma Records, already has scored a major distribution deal with ABB Records out of San Francisco. His last EP, Blame Game, co-released on Bad Gramma and Miami's own Counterflow Records, was an underground sensation, selling more than 5000 units. His first full-length album, Big Boys Club, is slated for September. Yet Dynas remains virtually unknown in the MIA.
"It's 'cause I don't wear shiny suits and wear lipstick and suck dick like some people in this business," he explains. "I don't need to prove myself to try to get down with some bozo's crew, shine some dude's platinum chain just hoping they'll sign me to their corny label."
That's the fire Dynas is known for. His arrogance has made him a lightning rod on the local underground hip-hop scene. And though many folks might resent him, few would argue about his verbal skills. A typical Dynas quartet:
Here's my offer, whether you platinum or pauper
I'll be the source to break the five mikes your label bought ya
Tell the chief and his daughter, I'm the milkman and her father
Why bother, I'll make rappers put down the armor and sport a garter.
"I know I'm good, and it's not just me having delusions of grandeur," he says over a steaming herbal tea. "I got mad people coming up to me telling me that I'm the best, that I got skills comparable to, say, guys like Nas. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I'm on Nas's level, but...." He pauses to flash a sheepish grin. "Well, yeah, maybe I am on Nas's level but just never got that million-dollar contract with Sony to show the world that I'm on par with these cats."
Dynas has become a hot commodity in the world of beat architects looking for a lyrical muse. Top-flight producers such as Tony Galvin, DJ Spinna, Illmind, Lewis Parker, and 9th Wonder have all pitched him beats, gratis, simply on the strength of his flow.
Local producer Supersoul, who has worked with Dynas on several releases, unabashedly concurs. "Out of all the local MCs, Dynas is hands-down the best," he says. "I was at this one MC freestyle battle and there were a bunch of new jacks up there thinking they're hot, and Dynas was just in the crowd, not even part of the lineup. One thing led to another, and all of a sudden he's up onstage and just kills it! He made one dude cry. He's just ridiculous on the mike."
Dynas, of course, offers no argument. "The term wack does not even go near my name," he says. "To the point where I don't like having my name in the same sentence -- wait, no, the same conversation as someone deemed wack."
Dynas traces his confidence back to his recently deceased mother, a working-class accountant of Jamaican heritage who taught her son the importance of self-respect and self-knowledge. While most kids' heroes were comic book characters or athletes, Dynas worshipped the Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey.
In fact the name Dynas, short for Dynasty, was inspired by his favorite book, The Destruction of Black Civilization, by Chancellor Williams. Not only did his mother educate him about the importance of his heritage, but also she was an avid record collector with a serious rare grooves library. "Everything that I know about music, my mother taught me," he notes. "She would have these parties at the crib and she'd make me be the DJ, so I'd be here messing up her records on her old Technics turntable.... She taught me at an early age how to rock a party." Dynas spun everything from Stevie Wonder to Bob Marley to rare Studio One dubs.
Dynas spent his formative years in the heart of the hip-hop universe. New York City in the early Nineties was the Renaissance of expert lyricism. On weekends he would go see masters such as Rakim and Slick Rick.
Yet it wasn't until his move to Miami in 1995 that he began to take his rhyming seriously. By age eighteen, Dynas found himself embroiled in regular MC ciphers and rap battles all over South Florida. He was eventually asked to join the group Black Forest, a seven-member hip-hop crew that caught a fair buzz within the local hip-hop community.
"We had a unique presence," Dynas recalls. "It was like the Wu-Tang Clan meets Souls of Mischief; people really digged us." During a performance at the How Can I Be Down? conference -- an annual showcase for new talent, formerly held in Miami -- Dynas drew the attention of an A&R exec from RCA Records. "He saw that I stuck out, which wasn't an uncommon thing. A lot of people kept saying how I should just do my own shit 'cause, quite frankly, I was the best out of all of them," Dynas notes with typical humility.
The major-label deal was short-lived, however. RCA dropped its support -- Dynas attributes the split to the proverbial "irreconcilable differences" -- and he was left to pursue a solo career on his own. He was eventually picked up by DJ Spinna's label, Beyond Real Records, putting out several singles with artists like Masta Ace and Big Gipp of Goodie Mobb.
One obstacle Dynas has encountered is his refusal to sacrifice his lyrical integrity by rapping about "selling rocks on the corner." His last EP, titled Make Ya Mind Right, offers an eloquent critique of the state of the industry: "These studio felons be steady yellin', but be sheeps inside/All that rhymin', no indictments, how you sleep at night?/ Where you grindin', there ain't no sirens, so you feedin'us hype."
Of course, nowhere is rap thuglier than Miami, where MCs have made careers from celebrating the city as the world capital of drugs, money, and sexy mamis -- the tropical bling trifecta.
"What people don't realize is that Miami is a huge city with different personalities," Dynas counters. "Think of it like this: Miami is like a man. See, there's a time when a man is on the street hustling to make a few dollars; then there's that man who wants to get freaky in the club and party with sexy ladies; then there's the college-educated man who does all these things but not to the extreme that the media portrays. I'm like the blue-collar MC; I rap about shit that I know and my everyday experiences, and I'm not the only one that can relate to what I'm saying."
With his debut LP set to drop on Bad Gramma this fall, and several other projects in the works -- in particular another LP for famed New York hip-hop label Rawkus Records -- Dynas says he's ready to show Miami's other side: "This movement is bigger than Trick, Rick, and Pit; there's a conscious, lyrical side to this city that knows how to rhyme about subjects beyond material things."