Gil Green (center) poses with his buddies Ace Hood and NORE.
Gil Green (center) poses with his buddies Ace Hood and NORE.
Itchy Eye Photos

Vibes Art Basel 2017 With KRS-One, Fat Joe, and Others Is the People's VIP Party

Every year, Art Basel Miami becomes a bigger, brighter clusterfuck of pretentious, velvet-roped, invite-only events. It makes sense. Art is all about speculation, and celebrity is all about exclusivity. But director Gil Green knows plenty of celebrities, and he thinks that whole A-list, expensive scene is just a racket.

That's why he started his annual Vibes Art Basel gathering six years ago. It's a mix of hip-hop, reggae, and dancehall concert. It's also an art gallery open-house and networking event. But most of all, it's a good time for the streets, by the streets. And it's coming to the Toejam Backlot in Wynwood Friday, December 8.

“We always champion it as 'the people's party,' and it's such an eclectic crowd, a mishmash of everything in Miami,” Green says. “Growing up in Miami, I was privy to the real dancehall. We used to throw these real crazy warehouse parties. Coming from that and Uncle Al on 15th Avenue, and seeing what the music can really do, I wanted to create an event that mixes those real moments of hip-hop culture and dancehall, where people aren't afraid to sweat and there's no VIP. If you're a celeb, there's no roped-off area. You gotta be with everybody else. That's the deal.”

Ooh boy, are there celebs! Last year's event brought David Guetta, Luther Campbell, Raekwon, and Flo Rida to the area. This year, Green is tempting everything between the gutter and the stars with performances from hip-hop legends KRS-One and Fat Joe, plus DJ sets from Dutty Dex, LS-One, and Tom La Roc. The night is hosted by 99 Jamz' hostess with the mostest, Felisha Monet. And because Green is always texting his people to come through and throw down, some surprises may be in store.

“We've never advertised this party,” Green says. “I always just put it out on Instagram, and it's grown from 600 people the first year to 3,000 people [in 2016]. We have to get permits for the whole block. It's organically grown, and it's exciting. Every year, it's something different. You never know what you're gonna get.”

People trust the party because Green and his 305 Films team are fixtures in the culture. He's worked on music videos with DJ Khaled, Lil Wayne, Ace Hood, Birdman, Elephant Man, Akon, and more. Vibes Art Basel brings everyone from the hardest hip-hop heads to the president of the Arsht Center to actress Gabrielle Union, and they're all rubbin' elbows on the dance floor.

Vibes makes its home in the heart of Wynwood – not the overwalked main street of NW Second Avenue, but close to it. The 305 Films' ToeJam Backlot studio is already set up to look like the setting for a rowdy Caribbean dance party. Red, yellow, and green paint covers the wooden stage, which is modeled on an island hut with bars and cozy hangouts. Picnic tables circle the open space so people can chow down on copious food-truck offerings.

Of course, the whole spot, mood, and atmosphere are transformed by art come to life. Vibes Art Basel 2017 welcomes and celebrates the life and work of Martha Cooper, the late-'70s photographer responsible for capturing and cataloging the earliest works of subway and train graffiti at a time when no one considered such “vandalism” to be art. People balked when she published a book of the works. Today, subway art is the stuff of legends.

“You've probably seen half the images in her book,” Green says. “They're so dope.”

Vibes also welcomes Rob Prior, a live muralist inspired by music who's toured with Linkin Park, among others. He'll be doing his thing while the music blasts, joined by photographer and director Jonathan Mannion, plus local artists Jona Cerwinske, Claudia La Bianca, and Tony Pietropaoli.

Vibes Art Basel 2017. 9 p.m. Friday, December 8, at Toejam Backlot, 150 NW 21st St., Miami; 305-759-9277; toejambacklot.com. Tickets cost $25 via vibesartbasel2017.splashthat.com.

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