Several evenings ago, P.M. and I stood in the lobby of an enormous luxury apartment building just outside downtown Miami as he talked to me about three different major labels he was currently in discussions with over a recording contract. Standing next to us by the elevator was a middle-age man and a young woman. When our elevator arrived the woman quickly dipped in front of us before we could walk in. She pressed the button for the twelfth floor. "Are you going up to level twelve?" she asked.
"Actually, can you hit level four," P.M. replied softly.
"You don't want to go to level twelve?"
"No, I live here, so ..."
"Yeah, I might talk to you later, though." Exiting on the fourth floor, P.M. broke into a mischievous grin. "That happens to me all the time here," he said, shrugging it off as if it were no big deal to be randomly hit on in the elevator of your apartment building. Besides, he added, "My girlfriend would kill me."
Maybe young women who live there can see the glow that surrounds P.M.; unlike a pregnant woman, however, he is merely radiating the confidence of someone who is beginning to reach the peak of his powers. This year, the buzz around him in the local rap industry rose precipitously. Everyone considers him a hot prospect. Accordingly the 25-year-old released numerous "mixtapes," CDs filled with freestyles over beats popularized by other rappers and hastily recorded tracks, to feed audience demand. In August his King of the Crib won best mixtape at the inaugural Miami Music Awards, which took place during a raucous ceremony at Barcode in Miami Beach.
Now there are more interviews, more concert appearances, more requests to add a guest verse on tracks by fellow Miami stars like Jacki-O, and more opportunities to add "drops" (shout-outs) or verses on mixtapes hosted by popular underground personalities like Whoo Kid, who DJs for 50 Cent and G-Unit. P.M. charges up to thousands of dollars for the latter job. "I'm having to deal with a lot now, from going to meetings with my business manager, to my personal manager, to my attorney," he said as he reclined in a plastic chair on the patio of his apartment, sipping red wine from a glass and occasionally staring out into the crisp evening sky. "It's kind of nerve-racking at times."
I noticed the throwback shirt he was wearing, a Cowboys jersey marked with Troy Aikman's number eight. "These are played out," he responded dismissively. "I just wear these when I'm chillin'." He was much more eager to direct my eyes toward the rubber bands dangling from his wrists, which I had seen other hip-hoppers over the past few days wearing, too. "It's a hood thing," he laughed. "It's like you making that quick money, you gotta wrap a rubber band around it."
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P.M. had all the trappings of a successful hustler in tune with the streets, from the diamond pendant in his left ear to the rubber bands. Born Ozzie Sullivan, he grew up in a single-mother household in Liberty City, occasionally traveling up to New York City to stay with his father and other relatives. Unlike many of his friends, he finished high school, even spending a few years at Miami Dade College before concentrating on his rap career. He took the name P.M., a moniker that had two meanings: One is shorthand for prime minister, a hallmark of his early days as a "political" rapper in the mold of Public Enemy; the other is a wry acknowledgement of his tendency to show up late for events and never "wake up" until the "p.m."
Meanwhile the trips to New York exposed him to a hip-hop culture that was considerably more competitive than Miami's. Battling other fledgling MCs in ciphers, he developed a rhyme style that stands in stark contrast to the easygoing flows favored by many of his Southern peers. The result is that P.M. spits hard. One verse from his latest mixtape, Free Agent Volume 3, finds him bragging, "Make it hard to find you like egg hunts close to Easter/Till your body washed up, decomposed in pieces."
P.M. was recruited by the Committee, a production team behind a collective of rappers called the Iconz, at the end of 2000. The Iconz had just released the club hit "Get Crunked Up" and were about to follow up with a 2001 debut, Street Money, that would enter Billboard's R&B/rap album chart at number ten. P.M. said his solo album was supposed to come next, but he was instead given several appearances on the Iconz followup, Ya Lookin' at Em. Released this spring, it didn't do nearly as well as its predecessor. So P.M. chose to break with the Committee (and its label, Iconz Music Group) this fall in order to pursue a solo deal on his own.
Even though P.M. now turns his attention to pursuing national stardom, the Iconz situation holds a valuable lesson. P.M. captured the spotlight on the strength of being one of the best MIA rappers, much like his former crew did with "Get Crunked Up." But he'll soon have to generate a best-selling album or a legitimate radio hit to hold the industry's attention, or else risk being left behind in favor of another hot new prospect. "When the buzz is there, when you got hype about something," he counseled, "you gotta kinda run with things. You can't be timid ... nobody is promised tomorrow."