Miami's Ten Best Albums, EPs, and Singles of 2013
Sounds like the 305.
Just stumble down the street, slip into the club at 3 a.m., or tune into some pirate radio station while crossing the causeway from South Beach to the mainland. And almost as if by accident, a Magic City soundtrack will arise from the cacophony — a buzzing, blaring mix of street rap, house music, melancholy R&B, slow-burning fusion stuff, glossy dance pop, and other kinds of tuneage.
Here are Miami's ten best albums, EPs, and singles of 2013.
Maybach Music Group: Self-Made, Vol. 3. The Bawse's opus Mastermind may be delayed till 2014. Ditto Gunplay's solo debut, Living Legend. But thankfully, Ricky Rozay, his most troublesome homie, and the rest of the Maybach Music Group dropped another installment of the now-annual crew comp, Self-Made, to help fill the gap. The album is stacked with primo contributions from main MMG players, including Meek Mill and Wale, as well as Stalley, Omarion, and even newcomer Rockie Fresh. But the iciest clickety-clack street rap shit comes courtesy of Ross and Gunplay on straight Maybach-brand cuts like "Gallardo" and "Stack on My Belt." As the big man boasts: "Double-M, this shit popping." S. Pajot
Futro: Why EP. The year 2013 may well be remembered as the moment when Miami house music came full circle, thanks to old-school pioneer Oscar G and new-school ambassador Lazaro Casanova joining forces as Futro. "We both have very distinct styles on our own that make for very interesting collaboration possibilities," Oscar told New Times about the partnership. "We both share a love for classic '90s house stuff but are also big on more current, forward-thinking sounds." And undoubtedly, Futro's debut Why EP offers the best of Oscar's '90s Murk-era Miami house grooves along with Lazaro's neoclassical interpretations of the genre. As the Futro dudes themselves say: "Past, present, and future classics" for the modern dance floor. Sean Levisman
Denzel Curry: Nostalgic 64. The hype grew with every month it was delayed. But finally, Nostalgic 64 arrived. And it delivered. Assisted by Ronny J, Nuri, Poshtronaut, and others' haunting production reminiscent of '70s slasher film scores, Denzel Curry offered listeners a daunting glimpse at the inherent darkness and unavoidable danger of life in the streets of Carol City. As the 18-year-old Curry raps on "Zone 3," one of Nostalgic 64's most intense tracks: "It's real in the field/Either kill or be killed, like B.G./So I got a grip with the TEC/Took my nigga China Man/Took my nigga PJ and Trayvon/Goddamn, who's next?" Hopefully, no one. But expect Curry's next project, Planet Shrooms, to show up in 2014. Lee Castro
Austin Paul: Velvet and Disparia EPs. Some music is so soulful it's scary. For instance, 305 upstart Austin Paul's frighteningly good Velvet and Disparia EPs. Both released this year, Velvet is a beautifully gloomy five-song introduction that fades into five-song follow-up Disparia, which drifts even further into the shadows. His compositions are like sonic battles between good and evil, his melodies hauntingly seductive. Subtly, Paul's religious upbringing works its way into the music through spiritual undertones and hymn-like chords, while more than a few demons work their way out in the lyrics. He plans to round out the EPs with another release in 2014. And it's shaping up to be the most danceable of the three, but we're still expecting some dark corners. Kat Bein
Manuvers & Yarlen: The Drive Home. With its home-brewed fusion of alternative hip-hop, electronic, and urban contemporary flavors, Manuvers & Yarlen's The Drive Home LP might just be this year's most forward-thinking local release. An auspicious first collaborative effort for this budding production duo, the album also serves as a document of Miami's homegrown indie vocal talent, with guests like Induce and Ketchy Shuby's Jay Jo Hero. "The concept is pretty much late-night sessions, in whatever way you want to imagine it," Manuvers told New Times about the album's poignant, atmospheric sound. "Creeping with someone or driving, thinking, creating. Either way, it's a concept from something Yarlen and I have in common — we're night creatures." Sean Levisman
Lana Del Rey vs. Cedric Gervais: "Summertime Sadness (Remix)." After being pulled into the Madonna-molly controversy (thanks to his 2012 single titled, yes, "Molly"), the mainstream spotlight seemed to be shining brighter on Cedric Gervais than ever before. The attention even led Young Money rapper Tyga to sample the track and release his own version. But none of that would compare to the pop frenzy caused by Gervais' reworking of Lana Del Rey's sleeper hit "Summertime Sadness." Released as a single in 2012, Del Rey's song quietly went nowhere until Gervais reworked the melancholy tune, adding big beats and a buildup that's simply perfect for bottle sparklers and confetti. But what really makes this remix a standout track is how Gervais took a mournful ode to the summer fling and turned it into a celebratory anthem. "Oh, my God," indeed. Jose D. Duran
Prez P: The Ambiance. When everyone else is more concerned about getting "turnt up," you can catch Miami rapper Prez P in the cut with the crew and some ladies, minding their business, carrying a red Dixie cup in one hand and whatever else in the other. Similar to 2012's DreamSucceDie, this year's The Ambiance celebrates real life, a carefree attitude, and laid-back vibes, no matter the subject matter. Even on a track such as "Neva Love Em," Prez begins with a Tupac-esque rant before transitioning seamlessly into an R&B-tinged serenade that sounds very much like a love song, aside from the refrain: "I don't trust these bitches/I don't trust these bitches/I don't trust these bitches." Lee Castro
Niko Javan: Erbody Yoppin. If 2012 was the year of trap, then 2013 was the year that trap broke all the rules. And the 305's Niko Javan (also one-half of rap duo O'Grime) was one such producer pushing the limits of the hip-hop-infused dance genre. His unique, colorful style even caught the ear of tastemaking label Mad Decent when he released the ten-song Erbody Yoppin EP about six months ago. With samples ranging from Sade to Led Zeppelin and plenty of features from his Miami rap buddies, Erbody Yoppin ensures there's a beat for every type of booty. Kat Bein
Ketchy Shuby: Still Making It Look Easy. Local indie outfit Ketchy Shuby has long described its sound as Miami soul. "It's the bright lights, with the grind and hustle mentality, with integrity and heart," frontman and singer Jason Hernandez-Rodriguez recently told New Times. With the 2013 long player Still Making It Look Easy, the band let its hair down and got in touch with its inner flower child. Exploring a psychedelic sort of children's storybook whimsy, SMILE offered some of the year's most original and imaginative songwriting by a local act, full of "genuine humor, laughter, and sorrow." Sean Levisman
Jacuzzi Boys: Jacuzzi Boys. A bit of spit and polish might have brought out the best in Miami's garage-rock heroes, the Jacuzzi Boys' Gabriel, Danny, and Diego. But on this second LP released through Seattle's Hardly Art label, the JBs still sound like their usual swampy selves. Even when borrowing from the Beach Boys ("Double Vision"), harmonizing and stuttering amid bouncy rhythms, they never fully shed the grimy, good-times appeal that's made them the ambassadors of the Miami rock 'n' roll scene. On "Be My Prism," they exude the thumping bravado of early Strokes, while on other cuts, like "Hotline," they pull back a bit to deliver hushed performances that still manage to sound brash. It's pretty clear the Boys are on their way to becoming men. Jose D. Duran
Get the Music Newsletter