Soulfrito Music Festival
With Nas, Don Omar, Busta Rhymes, and others
Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Better Than: The Winter Olympics.
In contrast to the Olympic Games being broadcast the past couple weeks, Soulfrito: The Urban Latin Music Festival was organized to represent nations -- Puerto Rico -- and athletic events -- synchonized ass-shaking -- that were nowhere to be found in Sochi.
Officially, the headliner of the daylong event was Don Omar. But by his 11:15 p.m. set time, when the Puerto Rican King of Reggaeton jogged across the stage to the beat of pounding bongo drums, a certain percentage of the crowd had already left.
Those who stayed, though, definitely enjoyed the dapper Don Omar's Spanglish hits.
Backed by three scantily clad female dancers who were occasionally pushed off the stage by male counterparts in sleeveless leather vests, Don Omar demanded the Soulfrito fans' attention and received it with pleas of "Miami, make some noise!" and percussion-heavy renditions of songs like "Muñecas de Porcelana."
A large contingent of people might have left before Don Omar because they felt they got their money's worth by already experiencing nine hours of music, including a trifecta of classic emcees.
The first to take the stage: Juicy J, formerly of Three 6 Mafia.
Wearing a bucket hat and sunglasses at night, Juicy J brought monster energy, with his DJ occasionally setting his turntables to mute, so the audience could get the full effect of the rapper's booming growls during his portion of the Katy Perry song, "Dark Horse."
At one point perhaps inspired by the daredevil feats of downhill skiers, Juicy J yelled out to the crowd: "Which side's more hyped? So I know which side of the crowd to jump into." This would have been an impressive feat as there was a 20-foot gap between the stage and the barricade holding back the fans. But Juicy J thought better of it and walked down to lean against the divider while shouting out, "Stay Fly."
Eventually, though, Juicy J's daredevil instinct took over as he asked: "Anyone want a gold chain?" He took it off and held the necklace over the crowd as he ended the show with "Juicy J Can't."
No one reached out for the chains, probably assuming they were fake if he was offering them up for grabs. But as he walked off with them still in his grasp, he teased the crowd again, "Anybody want them?" and then laughed his way off the stage.
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Next came Busta Rhymes, who was huskier and less agile then during his glory years.
But with an assist from sidekick and hype man Spliff Star, Busta proved he can still "roar roar like a dungeon dragon." And when he took an impossibly long swig from a bottle of Patrón Tequila, he loosened up, jumping around the stage for his song "Bounce."
The highlight of Busta's set, though, was undoubtedly when the familiar hook from the song that made his name, A Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario," blasted out, making everyone jump around even the site's bronze Dan Marino statue.
His bravado came out more when he shouted to the crowd: "I got ten minutes left to go through 20 years of hits. You gonna get a seizure."
But as it turned out, there was only enough time for two more songs: "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See" and "Get Low."
The next act, Nas, truly maintained at a breakneck pace.
Much of his set came from debut album, Illmatic, currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. There were no frills, from his wardrobe (black shirt, shorts, Spike Lee spectacles and a Flavor Flav-lite clock necklace) to his on-stage patter.
And with a live drummer backing him, Nas shifted speedily and seamlessly from one song to another, from "Street Dreams" to "If I Ruled the World" to "I Can."
He stopped very rarely. Once to acknowledge a painter on the stage, working on a portrait of Nas. Another time, laughing midway through "Got Yourself a Gun," he paused to tell the fans: "I'm so hyped I forgot the fucking rhyme."
The track that had everyone's full attention (including Nas') was "One Mic," which inspired a crowd-wide rap-along.
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In the end, there might have been no snow at Soulfrito (maybe in the bathroom, we're not sure), but there was as much spirit and dancing athleticism as anything NBC had been airing the last two weeks.
And most likely, unlike the Olympics, we won't need to wait four years for the next Soulfrito.