Best Songwriter
Photo by Djeloveson

There isn't a large pool of Grammy-winning songwriters born and raised in Hialeah. But there is a songwriter, producer, and artist who's made the big-time in the past year. Alexander Izquierdo, AKA Eskeerdo, got his foot through the door of the music industry in 2010 thanks to a knack for writing powerful songs. After penning hits for Big Sean, Rihanna, Meek Mill, Diddy, and Selena Gomez, the Cuban-American won two Grammys for his songwriting efforts and also started his own career as a rapper. In 2014, he assisted in crafting hits such as Kendrick Lamar's "The Blacker the Berry" and Justin Bieber's "The Feeling." But he still had the energy to debut his breakthrough single "For the City," which went on to become the Miami Heat's official anthem. Since then, he's made plenty of noise in the rap game via EPs such as Cuban Jesus and his latest single, "Bitta." And he's still writing for others. Over the past year, Eskeerdo has crafted records for the biggest pop stars on the Billboard charts. He's responsible for hits like Fifth Harmony's "Work From Home" and Charlie Puth's "Dangerously." He even flexed his skills behind the boards as a writer and producer of smash hits such as Jason DeRulo's "If It Ain't Love" and Meghan Trainor's "Thank You" featuring Rock City. It's clear this 29-year-old songwriter stands out.

Best Electronica Artist
Courtesy of Nick León

A swampy tribalism coats everything Nick León does. His sound is warm with the muggy air of South Florida. It wraps you in the haze of the midday sun and traps you with the soothing subtlety of crickets chirping in the dead of night. His is a lo-fi style inspired by the likes of Aphex Twin and DJ Shadow. His production on an album by New-York rappers the Underachievers caught the attention of Grammy-nominated beatmaking icon Daddy Kev. The Low End Theory founder was starting a new label called Alpha Pup, and he requested a full-length instrumental release from the South Florida music man. The result was Profecía, a nine-track LP that Miami New Times named the best musical release of 2016. This year, León continues to be a force on the city's electronic beat scene. He recently took up the mantle as head of the local label Space Tapes and has been working with a ton of local rappers. His future has never looked brighter.

The movie Suicide Squad was hit-or-miss with fans and critics, but the music video from the soundtrack's big single, "Purple Lamborghini," was a truly stunning bit of cinematography. First, the song absolutely slaps. Rick Ross says the electricity Skrillex added to the rapper's signature heavy darkness amped his flow to new heights. The video depicts Ross and Skrillex terrorizing Miami, and Jared Leto appears in full Joker mode. They ride around in hot whips and stand on the deck of a beautiful cigarette boat, all while the 305 shines bright like a diamond. Ross and Skrillex should have teamed up years ago.

Best Album
Photo by Michael J. Ruiz-Unger

Last summer, bassist Michael Ruiz-Unger, drummer Andres Bedoya, and guitarists Andreas Wong Chong and Jacob Israel composed a record that was dark and mysterious. The Miami quartet recorded the ten-song LP Sábana Ghost in Gainesville, but from the opening instrumental, "Stoned," the album takes listeners far from the Southeast to a dark and dusty dive bar where anything is possible. Their fuzzy guitar atmospherics make this the perfect soundtrack for any number of illicit activities, and their catchy hooks and choruses will stay in your head long after your music player has run out of juice. Fans of the dark retro garage rock played by groups like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Brian Jonestown Massacre will especially dig this album. And if you're unfamiliar with those bands, Sábana Ghost is good enough to inspire you to research its influences.

FTX Arena
Photo by B137

Most fans prefer to see their favorite band in an intimate setting, but there's something incredibly exciting about attending an arena show. To walk along Biscayne Boulevard toward the American Airlines Arena and realize thousands of people are also walking to the beat of the same song is an electric and communal experience. The past year has seen the Triple A host everything from the rock of Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers to the pop of Ariana Grande and Adele to the hip-hop of Kanye West and the Latin rock of Carlos Vives. This summer and fall will see Roger Waters, Depeche Mode, Bruno Mars, and Lady Gaga grace the stage. And there won't be a bad seat in the massive air-conditioned house.

Readers' choice: The Fillmore Miami Beach

This multifaceted venue opened its doors in February 2016 for iStandard's Producer Showcase. Since then, Miami Live has gained fame for holding various kinds of events that embrace local artists from across South Florida. Talents such as DJ Epps and Poe Boy Music Group's DJ Smokey host open-mike events every week. After you walk past the ticket booth, the illuminated stage along the wall catches your eye. The place has become the official home of exclusive Coast 2 Coast Live events, artist listening sessions, birthday parties, and other happenings. And the venue has hosted rare concerts like Prodigy of Mobb Deep and Joe Budden's only Magic City stop during the Rage Tour. Miami Live also has its own in-house studio and green room upstairs, which is available for recording sessions and private events. Though it's been open only a little more than a year, Miami Live has made clear that local artists have a place to realize their dreams and perform live.

Best Small Music Venue
Courtesy of Floyd

Libertine was a good idea in theory. Space took part of its downstairs room and created a small lounge with a separate entrance. However, a few things inhibited the venue's growth, including an awkward and claustrophobic stage and a VIP area on a riser. So when the so-called Space Invaders — David Sinopoli, Davide Danese, Coloma Kaboomsky, and Eric Fuller — took over, they kept the elements that worked while tweaking the things that didn't. The main change was the flow of the room. Gone is the awkward riser; the whole room is now on one level. The stage could still use some work — perhaps removal of the walls that surround it — but this is a great venue thanks to strong programming that includes everything from jazz ensembles in the evening to late-night DJ sets. And the Space Invaders are just getting started in the Park West district, so Floyd's potential will likely soon be fully unlocked.

Best Record Label
Courtesy of Valholla

When Vince Valholla established his eponymous label in 2005, his goal was to help usher in a new era of the music business. Within the past decade, Valholla Entertainment has expanded to offer artists management and public relations guidance as well as publishing, video production, apparel, and merchandising support. Within the past year, the brand has advanced the careers of its musicians, including Webbz and Xali. The label also manages a slew of rising MCs such as SIN and Ron Slyda, as well as producers like the Pyrvmids and the Track Burnaz, who produce hit records for top-charting rappers like Future and Big Sean. The Valholla blog continues to stunt on the competition by using its national reach on social media to alert 20,000-plus followers of artist updates. While other Miami-based labels gloat about their accolades, Valholla Entertainment's staff and team of artists are winning over fans one song at a time.

Mix Masters Studios
Photo by Dashius Clay

Artists in Miami are constantly looking for the perfect creative space on the cheap. While they dream of recording in lavish studios, there's one option that stands out for its unique creative space and reasonable prices. Since 2009, Mix Masters Studios has been giving artists, from trending rappers like Kevin Gates to local rising stars like Lajan Slim and Miami Tip, all the right tools to make their dreams come true. Founders Andres Mendoza and JP Perez started the studio in a two-bedroom house in Kendall in 2008 and then moved into the spacious studio they now call home. Everything an artist needs is available onsite: engineers, state-of-the-art mikes, powerful amps, and instruments like guitars and keyboards. The studio has two main recording rooms, the black and the blue, which are equipped to record, mix, and master tracks. But there's more. Looking for a spot to do a photo shoot? There's a room for that. Need a quiet space to host artist interviews? There's a lounge. Along with offering adequate recording rooms, Mix Masters also boasts an enormous rehearsal space that can be used to re-create performances and concerts of every kind. Despite all of these perks, the place isn't out to bankrupt rising artists. The lowest price that artists (with their own engineers) will pay is $25 per hour. However, if they want to go all out by booking the coveted black room with a Mix Masters engineer, the most they'll pay is $70 an hour. Mix Masters Studios is the perfect resolution for any musician, producer, or singer who knows the frustration of finding a studio that will tend to all of their creative needs at reasonable rates.

Brooklyn Vintage & Vinyl
Courtesy of Brooklyn Vintage

Wax worshippers, there's a new record store in town. Established in 2016, Brooklyn Vintage & Vinyl specializes in used vinyl. Located in the Artwood Projects building, the shop shares space with the online station Jolt Radio. This cozy spot boasts impressive and affordable selections created by everyone from Destiny's Child to the White Stripes to Tupac to Leonard Cohen. Don't let the store's size fool you. Tons of preloved records await your crate-digging hands. Grab your picks and cuddle up in the comfy chairs while you let that warm wax melt into your ears at the store's listening station. The shop's organized displays and friendly owner make for a pleasant day of vinyl hunting. Every third Sunday of the month, check out the shop's community events. Brooklyn Vintage & Vinyl is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 9 p.m.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®