Hail, Fire, and Brimstone

MC, community activist, and Kendall native, Brimstone is serious about the history of Miami's hip-hop culture

"Brimstone127 is like the Biscayne Boulevard of Miami hip-hop," quips local musician Buffalo Brown. "The man is a staple down here. You cannot talk about Miami hip-hop without mentioning Brimstone."

Bold statements indeed. But while the usual local suspects may have gotten more mainstream shine, Brim, as he's known for short, is the glue that keeps together a more down-to-earth segment of the scene. If Pitbull is hip-hop's self-proclaimed "Mr. 305," Brimstone is definitely 305's "Mr. Hip-Hop."

"The one thing that hip-hop has taught me was unification," he says, "seeing all these different people coming together regardless of race, age, gender. That's what hip-hop means to me."

Now 33 years old, Brimstone, real name Seth Schere, has been bringing folks together in the name of hip-hop for years. His first bout of rallying, by his account, came at age ten. Having just seen the classic 1984 movie Beat Street, he persuaded elementary school friends to start a break-dancing crew.

His most recent project resulted in the track "K+RS=One," a collaboration earlier this year among twenty Miami MCs uniting to pay tribute to pioneer KRS-One. The track and its accompanying video have been getting a fair share of YouTube plays and MP3 exchanges. In a world of over-the-top egos and best-of-the-best rapper's delight, to gather so many MCs to spit only four verses each, about someone other than themselves, was a near-religious miracle.

A first meeting with Brim reveals an über-positive, über-enthusiastic personality that seems borderline Evangelical preacher mixed with kindergarten teacher. He begins and ends every greeting with bless, and never utters a curse word. His optimism translates into his music, released under the collective moniker Brimstone127 (127 being the street on which he grew up).

The group comprises him as lyricist, Mariposah as background femme vocals, and Jase as DJ and professional beatboxer. The trio's music is socially conscious and uplifting; at times it's silly, which makes it all the more pop-radio catchy. "I don't go gangsta rap,'" Brim confesses. "I make music that my ten-year-old daughter can listen to."

The 2004 LP, Metamorphoses, became a hit on college radio stations nationwide. Brim's latest full-length offering, Elevator Music, released this past May, has upped the ante, with guest rhyming appearances by KRS-One, Busy Bee, and Mr. Long of Black Sheep, as well as production work by Dug Infinite. While most artists are comfortable staying behind the mike, Brim's can-do attitude has taken him in front of countless classrooms and inner-city youth programs. He teaches youngsters real-life survival skills through hip-hop culture.

"This is the guy who would teach kids how to break dance at the local Jewish Community Center," recalls Omar Clemetson, a childhood friend. "There's nothing that Brim wouldn't touch. If there's an outlet for him and hip-hop, he'll be right up there!"

Born and raised in Miami, the Kendall native grew up in an affluent Jewish family. Both parents are attorneys, and his older brother is a successful photographer. "I had a happy childhood," Brimstone remembers. "I was an outgoing, innocent kid, yet my curiosity would get the best of me." As is typical of the suburban curse, Brim was a bit of a misfit growing up, he admits. "I was a professional shoplifter," he says, laughing. "I would steal anything -- records, books, food, women's stockings, anything!"

Later he became an active graffiti writer. His first tag, bestowed upon him by Miami's AIM Crew -- BRIM -- was an acronym for "Born and Raised in Miami."

"That was like in 1987. By then hip-hop was at its finest," he says. "Criminal Minded [by Boogie Down Productions] just came out; Public Enemy's Yo! Bum Rush the Show was out; Eric B. and Rakim's Paid in Full was out. I mean, cats like Biz Markie, Gang Starr, Kool Moe Dee -- this was the hip-hop that I grew up on."

Upon entering Killian High School, Brimstone gave up his spray can. He became friends with a New York transplant named Dionne, who, in Brim's words, "dressed like those dudes in the music videos." With Dionne's baggy pants and wild color combinations, and Brim's white-boy suburban appearance and a bit of street cred, the two outwardly made an odd couple. But his friend's influence was major.

"I started writing rhymes and getting really into music because of him," Brim says. "Back then there were no white rappers out there. I mean, this was before 3rd Bass even came out! Dionne would always tell me: 'Yo, you need to stop sounding white!' Needless to say, we were ahead of our time."

The two quickly became inseparable and decided to start a hip-hop group they called Plan B. They recruited several other members to be part of the MC lineup, making Plan B one of the first hip-hop crews to come out of Miami's southern suburbs. By 1991, a seventeen-year-old Brim dropped out of Killian High to take his music career full-time.

Plan B released two full-length albums and produced more than 100 mixtapes, all of whose masters Brim proudly proclaims he still has, on cassette. And if that isn't historical enough, Brim has been credited with launching Coconut Grove's first hip-hop venue, the Zoo, in 1991.

"You got to remember, back then Miami was all about bass and freestyle. There was hardly anywhere to go to hear hip-hop music," recounts Brim. "You look at South Beach now and there's hip-hop clubs everywhere. But when I was growing up, there were only two spots that played hip-hop music, the Junkyard and Fifth Street. Then the Zoo came along."

A venture Brim began with a cousin, the Zoo packed the house every Saturday night. Each week more than 200 of Miami's biggest hip-hop lovers would go to hear local DJs like Coupe de Ville and DJ Kris. One night a freshly plucked thirteen-year-old got on the decks. His name was Aristh Delgado, and it was his first DJ gig in front of a live audience.

"When I see DJ Craze now, we laugh about that gig," Brim says. "He could barely see over the turntables and he had to stand on milk crates!"

Brimstone is famous for these stories. Deeply rooted in the local hip-hop community since, well, the beginning, he has no qualms about saying, "I was a part of that," when describing Miami's momentous hip-hop occasions.

His latest endeavor has been to gather traces of all of these historical moments and house them under one roof. "I'm in the works of starting a hip-hop museum down here," Brim says. "People from the Miami hip-hop community have been giving me all these mementos that are truly Miami hip-hop artifacts, like old-school flyers and demo tapes. It's just been this amazing journey that needs to be documented."

But with the amount of blood, sweat, and tears he has given, the Billboard success of other local acts has eluded him. He remains serene about it.

"It's out of my hands," he says calmly. "I tried as hard as I can, and I have pursued those avenues of trying to make a hit record, but nothing ever comes up." He pauses solemnly and then continues.

"People measure success as money, but I measure it as a dream. And you know what? My dreams have already come true. I mean, I've always dreamed of working with KRS; now he's a personal friend of mine. I always dreamed of working with De La Soul, and I've been in the studio with Maseo. I can stop right now and say that I have had an extremely successful music career. In that sense, who cares about that major-label deal. I literally made it."

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