Pushed back from the original September date, the Fourth Annual Mix Show Power Summit finally went down this past weekend, bringing to town more than 100 commercial radio mix-show DJs for some high-profile politickin'. The Eden Roc meet-and-greet sessions were closed to the public, but late-night Thursday through Sunday, jocks from Cali to the Carolinas jostled with stargazers and street teams at the Level and Cristal showcases for urban artists eager for airplay: Listen for Fat Joe, Petey Pablo, and even Nate Dogg in the mix during drive-time on a station near you.
Making the most noise was Bubba Sparxxx, with the down-tempo Dirty South anthem "Ugly," the first release from beat master Timbaland's new imprint, Beat Club. Newcomer Bubba takes his time delivering his rhymes, like he's whilin' away a month of Mississippi Sundays, and it's sure 'nuff pleasant, but -- as usual -- the real star here is Timbaland's production. Yet another instance of Mr. Mosley's hip-hop pointillism, the track cross-stitches across the Indian rhythms Timmy threaded through Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On" -- and it's genius two times.
Only thing is, with the weather what it was last week, a better cross-reference might have been Timbaland and Miss E.'s breakout "I Can't Stop the Rain." Organizer Rene Profit McLean, of the Manhattan-based McLean Entertainment Group, couldn't stop the rain either. Like most major music events launched from the outside, the Mix Show Power Summit is meant for visitors keen on catching a little sun. When 99 Jamz (WEDR-FM 99.1) DJ Irie shouted out to the MIA on Thursday night, there was the usual barely audible murmur: "New York in the house?" Everybody scream. The out-of-towners made do with indoor activities.
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Neither rain, nor sleet, nor tourist apartheid could stop local label Quick Hit Records from promoting Liberty City's own Quick Hit Boyz. With official summit sponsorships ranging from $2500 to $50,000, A&R man Charles "T." Tynes decided to follow the advice on his rappers' first single and "Bring It Outside." A well-placed truck covered with posters touting the foursome Fella, Gridlock, Young Jay, and Die-verse tied up traffic for an hour in front of Level in the early a.m. Saturday. "I don't mean the City of Miami Beach no disrespect," laughed Charles T. later that afternoon. "But those two little tickets ain't gonna do nothing." As for the major labels competing for DJs' attention, he says, "For every bottle of Cristal they poppin' inside, we passin' out 50 flyers outside." Not missing a single opportunity, Charles T. says his team "had Nelly blocked in last night at [Liberty City strip club] Take One."
Chilling on a leather sectional at Quick Hit's Magic Deal Studios in North Miami Beach, Gridlock gripes about the exclusion of local artists from national events hosted in town. "They come here with a bigger-than-you attitude," says the six-foot-five, 300-pound rapper. "They come to use our sunshine to make them look good on their videos, but they don't know the real Miami."
The sun on the Quick Hit Boyz' first video, currently scoring some heavy rotation on locally produced, nationally broadcast Video Mix, scorches a barren quarry identified as "Somewhere in North Dade" -- hardly Will Smith's "Welcome to Miami" picture postcard. The Benz is dusty, the beach is nowhere to be seen, and Fella's face is contorted with rage as he twists his head and growls in a deep down bass: "So you wanna go to war?"
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Nursing a Miller Lite he couldn't drink the night before because he was due in for the late shift stocking boxes, Fella hardly looks like the furious man on the video. Like Gridlock, who says he scrounged up the money for his first demos "hustlin' on the streets," Fella echoes so many rappers before him when he says he likes "spittin' on tracks" because that's his way of "making somebody out of myself."
Yelling "Dade County/Whaaa?/Dade County/Whaaa?" in a tortured chorus over a track that sounds like a heavily distorted cello (built by Robb of Trina fame), the Quick Hit Boyz follow Trick Daddy in representing MIA across the causeway from Player's Paradise. But for all the thug appeal, Gridlock claims Quick Hits has its own sound: "We call this new era crunk-style shit."
The Quick Hit Boyz say they talked about redoing "Take It Outside" as a message to Osama bin Laden. "But then we might be getting some anthrax," laughs Gridlock. Another group that will not be changing its message anytime soon is Aterciopelados, which comes back this Saturday for the Billboardlive show originally scheduled last month. Speaking from Mexico by phone, composer/producer/bass player Hector Buitrago says the violence in his homeland of Colombia shaped his music long ago. "These things are not so new for us," he explains. "Our music has always been a defense against the errors of man. We try to irradiate good energy and to transmit the desire for peace. That's the only option in such hard times: peace and love."