Beats, booze, booties, and a whole lot of bass. That's the stuff that put Miami music on the map, and that's what you'll get a face full of Saturday at Red Bull's United States of Bass.
If you have any love for your city, you'll shed your self-respect on the dance floor for the best names bass has to offer. It's set to be equal parts ratchet-ass get down and history lesson as Miami legends old and new firebomb Wynwood's Gramps while joined by a healthy mix of their greatest contemporaries, personal icons, and spit-fire newcomers. When it comes to bass music, a greater national lineup may have never been assembled.
Representing the 305 comes 2LiveCrew frontman and Miami New Times columnist Uncle Luke. He battled inane censorship laws and paved the way for today's rappers and lyricists to say whatever's on their minds.
Right beside him will be DJ Laz, the Power 96 mix master and so-called "pimp with the limp." The dope beat slanger carved a place for Cuban-Americans on the national dance floor and gave Miamians of all backgrounds Spanglish anthems we rally behind to this day. If those two names don't inspire awe in your heart, you're not really from here. End of story.
Rounding out the impossibly fly roster are Miami's three-time World Champion DJ Craze, Detroit's freak-nasty DJ Assault, Jersey Club superstar DJ Sliink, a double-header frenzy of footwork from Chi-town's DJ Spinn and DJ Earl, B-more boss bitch TT the Artist, and a monster set from L.A.'s jack-of-all-trades, grand-bass-daddy Egyptian Lover.
"I'm going to rock the party like back in the '80s," Lover said in an email interview. "[It'll be] a history lesson for the youth who want to know how the original DJs did their thing. A must-see show. Real vinyl, live 808, on-the-mic, and turntable tricks."
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The "Egypt Egypt" party starter was one of the first producer-DJs to bring funkafied grooves to the 808 sound. His steamy, sweaty, stadium-filling sound taught California crowds to do the "freak," a style of dance where men rub their junk against a lady's behind. You know, that shit you did at your 2000's-era middle school dance.
"The beat has to keep moving and have that special something to touch you deep inside and make you want to do things you normally would not do," Lover says. "Miami has some sexy wonderful freaks with a lot of class and naughtiness, as well as Los Angeles, because we both have beaches and beautiful women on them. I would say it's dead even. So all you beautiful freaks in Miami come to the party and let me see how freaky and fine you are."
Lover has a storied history with our bootylicious babes. His raunchy style was a direct influence on the 2LiveCrew, who in fact originally hail from Lover's L.A. streets. When Lover first came to Miami and met with Luke "Skywalker" Campbell, vibes were set in motion that would change censorship history forever.
"When I first came to Miami, Luke was the promoter," Lover remembers. "[He] watched me program the 808 to do my live show. I guess I inspired him greatly and many of the Miami future bass groups."
Luke teamed up with 2LiveCrew on the 1986 track "Throw the D." It was a bass-forward beat fronted by X-rated lyrics previously thrown around only in a live stage setting. Luke convinced the crew to put those nasty lyrics on record. It proved a perfect formula for hits, so the Crew moved to Miami, where Luke led them to glory.
The combination of raw sexual content and throbbing jack-hammer bass took the group's lead single, "Me So Horny," to the top of the U.S. Billboard rap charts, but the same thing that brought them fame and success brought them straight to the Florida district courts. The album Nasty as They Wanna Be was the first album ever to be deemed legally obscene. Luke and the rest were arrested for performing their songs live. Record-store owners were arrested just for selling the tapes — all because of the LP's lewd lyrics.
"In America, that was the single biggest taboo you could be breaking," writes Campbell in his recent autobiography The Book of Luke: My Fight for Truth, Justice, and Liberty City, "the fear of miscegenation, the terror that kept 400 years of slavery and Jim Crow in place. And not only did we break that taboo, we smashed it, stomped on it, and danced on it. People were more upset about us than they were about talk of killing policemen and Jews."
Luke and the 2LiveCrew ultimately won their battle for free speech, and rap music has never been the same. Miami bass brought heavy booms and dirty lyrics to the forefront. Turn on your radio. What do you hear today?
A couple of years later, DJ Laz hit the scene, infusing Miami's bass addiction with a heap of Cuban flavor. His 1991 single "Mami El Negro" samples vocals and horns from Wilfrido Vargas' merengue hit "El Africano." Laz shone as a local icon in his role as Power 96 weekday morning personality, his megamixes getting Miamians through traffic without killing one another for more than ten years. His 1996 single "Esa Morena" is basically the city's unofficial theme song.
Laz's Latin-bass fusion brought Spanglish to mainstream radio more than a decade before Pitbull would become "Mr. Worldwide." Laz helped give Miami the sexed-up multicultural identity it has even still, but Pitbull isn't the only one to make Miami's flavor a global phenomenon.
The sound and style of Miami bass has infected dance floors across the country, each city lending a futuristic edge all its own.
Come Saturday, DJ Sliink will teach you all about the bed-spring-breaking beats of Jersey Club, an effervescent and high-energy Newark-based response. DJ Spinn and DJ Earl will represent the Midwest and Chicago footwork, a punchy clap-heavy style designed to set your feet jerkin' till the woodwork sparks.
TT the Artist will spit fire over B-more breakbeats brought to life with chopped-up house — and most likely some gunshot — samples. DJ Assault is going to break your neck with some gritty ghettotech and have all the girls shakin' their "Ass-N-Titties."
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All the genres represented prove that heavy bass comes in many forms. It might just be the unifying theory of American music. If politicians could pump the jams and pump it up, would we see more hands reaching across the aisle? Perhaps the ongoing series of Red Bull Music Academy-sponsored events can be a beacon of dirty, filthy, nasty hope for our country, but just as we did in the late '80s and early '90s, Miami must lead the charge.
Go ahead, "Get It Girl," and shake what ya momma gave ya.
Red Bull Music Academy Presents: United States of Bass with Uncle Luke, DJ Laz, DJ Craze, Egyptian Lover, DJ Assault, DJ Sliink, and others. 10 p.m. Saturday, October 24, at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St., Miami; 305-699-2669; gramps.com. Admission is free with an RSVP via eventbrite.com. Ages 21 and up.