Best Musical Act 2021 | Jaialai | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Photo by Julieta Romina

Riding full-speed toward the stage in golf carts at the Okeechobee Music Festival in March of 2020, Jaialai, members of psychedelic rock band Jaialai — Jose "Jovi" Adames, Richard Boullon, Mario Lemus, and Oscar Sardiñas — appeared to be on the cusp of something special. The band, which had been splitting time between studio sessions and relentless gigs across Miami, had gained the kind of momentum that had local music fans giddy with excitement for what was to come. Then COVID descended, threatening to kill the forward momentum. But with the same good-vibes-only attitude and creative tenacity that made them a beloved fixture on the local indie scene, the outfit chugged on from lockdown, first delivering the hypnotic, laid-back summer dream that is the EP Culebra, then following that up — and blowing everyone away — with As Sweet as I Was, a five-track EP laid down at the Bull Recording Studios that perfectly captures the band's melodic essence. Summer saw Jaialai returning to the Arsht Center and Space Park, not to mention a date at III Points in October. Anyone else getting that giddy feeling again?

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Hailing from Lauderhill's Shallow Side neighborhood, FCG Heem has carved out a lane for himself among South Florida's rising stars. Raised by Jamaican parents, he grew up absorbing his father's collection of reggae music along with the diverse influences from his city. He began rapping at age 11 but didn't take his music seriously until three years ago, after the birth of his son. Since then, he's garnered attention for his tracks, which are equal parts raw and melodic. His most recent album, Neighborhood Poetry, gives listeners a candid peek into his trauma and struggles. "I pretty much rap about everything I've seen or gone through," he tells New Times. Regardless of his budding fame, FCG Heem remains driven by the impact he has on his community and his family. "I'm really like the first one from my hood, so that's major to me, and I know they're proud of me," he says. "Where I'm from, people don't really make it. I'm happy I'm letting them see it's possible. I got the whole city on my back."

Photo by Gabriel Duque and Alejandra Campos

Psych-rock collective Mold (stylized Mold!) put down roots in Miami in 2019, after founding member Carlo Barbacci moved to the Magic City from Lima, Peru. The outfit has become a staple on local bills alongside some of the best underground bands the city has to offer. With the release of its debut self-titled EP, the band proved it had the musical chops to match its work ethic, embarking on a statewide tour and staging a livestreamed release party at the Center for Subtropical Affairs during Art Basel Week. The band has since released two songs off its first full-length, No Silence! due out in September 2021.

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Over the past few years, Seafoam Walls — guitarist, lead vocalist, and songwriter Jayan Bertrand, bassist Josh Ewers, electronic drummer Josue Vargas, and guitarist Dion Kerr — have forged a sound they accurately describe as "Caribbean Jazzgaze." But while they built a strong local following, their quirky amalgamation of nuanced jazz, shoegaze, rock, hip-hop, and Afro-Caribbean rhythms never caught the ears of a major label. Then last year, Bertrand took his earnings from the last show the band was able to wedge in before the pandemic set in and turned it into a laptop and an interface. Sending tracks back and forth to one another, the band members stayed inspired. Following a secret all-ages matinee on a bill with Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore at the Center for Subtropical Affairs, Moore signed the band — their debut album, XVI, is slated for release via his Daydream Library Series by the end of the year.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Marchante

More than just a newspaper, the Miami Herald is an institution that serves an important civic role, and its reporters excel at keeping the community informed in times of crisis. In her relatively short tenure as a Herald breaking news reporter, Marchante rose to the top during the pandemic as a journalist who stayed abreast of the latest COVID-19 news and updated Miamians minute-to-minute with the information they need to know. Vaccination-site locations, local mask regulations, resources for aid in evictions cases — her reporting has served as a vehicle of public service and clarity in a time of confusion and anxiety. The Herald's Curious305 initiative, which Marchante dedicatedly handles, is a clever way for curious Miami residents to have their burning and sometimes silly questions answered. Be it a safety concern like, "When will my kid be able to get a vaccine?" to the more trivial, "Why is Miami known as the 305?" no question is too big or too small to be answered, and Marchante's love for the community shines through in her responses, as it does in all her reporting.

Few outside South Florida fully understand how cataclysmic Miami weather can be. The storm surges, the fry-an-egg-on-your-head-level heat, the climbing sea levels —these phenomena attract meteorologists from across the country. But as a Miami native, Lissette Gonzalez has a more intimate connection with the region. Gonzalez grew up here, earned her undergrad degree at the University of Miami, and has worked for 14 years as the morning and afternoon meteorologist for CBS4 News. The Cuban-American mother of two starts her day early (as in 2:30 or 3 a.m.) so you can start yours off in the know thanks to her weathercasts, which air weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. and again at noon. Fair weather news or foul, Gonzalez delivers the goods with a contagious smile and a soothing voice that urges you to believe it'll all be all right —stage presence that can be traced back to her pageantry days (she's won Miss Miami, Miss Florida, and was second runner-up for Miss America in 1998) and her stint as María in the Off-Broadway musical 4 Guys Named José...and una Mujer Named María.

Even in these times of satellite radio and unlimited streaming, terrestrial AM and FM radio has managed to survive and, in the case of WVUM, thrive. The University of Miami's student-run station began as a pirate operation in 1967, but over the decades it has become a local institution (with a clear, strong signal, to boot). While most stations play more commercial than music, WVUM has long been commercial-free, save for the rare public-service announcement. What you get are heaping helpings of off-center musical selections from bands you won't hear anywhere else, plus genuine indie rock, hip-hop, and world music, with the occasional spoken-word poem and Hurricanes sporting event for good measure.

Now more than ever, Miamians need a reason to smile. Ideally, sports are meant to provide those smiles, even if they come from fans sharing a bit of self-deprecating agony until the home team turns it around. Brendan Tobin has a way of helping radio listeners bask in the highest of the highs and burst out laughing in the face of our lowest lows. Whether he's making whale sounds at 6 a.m. because the Miami Heat are rumored to be landing their next star, dressing up as "Marlins Macho Man" after the Fish pull out a win, or getting in the middle of a Jake Paul–Floyd Mayweather melée, Tobin is at the center of all that's right in Miami sports radio. Win, lose, or draw, Miami sports fans can look forward to tuning in the next morning to hear Tobin's take on it all. While we never know what he's going to do, we do know it'll make us smile.

Photo by Melody Timothee

You've probably heard her infectious voice while listening to The Afternoon Get Down on 99 Jamz on your way home from work. For more than 20 years, Supa Cindy has graced local airwaves with her lighthearted banter on music and pop culture, climbing the ranks from intern to co-host. She got her start on The Big Lip Bandit Morning Show alongside former 99 Jamz personality Big Lip Bandit and comedian Benji Brown. "We definitely changed radio in South Florida," she says of that experience. "Big Lip and I were the first duo, male and female, that had the same amount of talk time. I think that's what people related to. Our chemistry and arguing over the air like brother and sister." Now she's the quintessential voice of Miami, lending her voice to topics ranging from entertainment news to mental-health discussions, while continuing her impact on the local hip-hop scene with her "Miami Cypher" series and her latest Sunday-night segment, "Co-Sign Radio," where she debuts new music from emerging local artists with co-host Jill Strada. "My radio career started with DJ Khaled, Rick Ross, Flo Rida, and Pitbull," Cindy says. "All of them are my personal close friends. And to see their growth, I'm like, 'Why is it impossible to see another Khaled or Rick Ross?'" Sure enough, her cyphers have shone a spotlight on up-and-comers like Kiddo Marv, King Hoodie, Tafia, Mike Smiff, and Tierra Traniece. "I love the community. I love I can go to any neighborhood and get the love and respect I've earned," she says. "I love my people, and when I say I love my people, I'm talking about the 305."

Whether casually holding forth in ballcap and T-shirt or dishing celebrity gossip as his drag alter ego Funky Dineva, Quentin Latham has become a YouTube go-to for pop-culture enthusiasts. Latham's journey on the platform began back in 2009, "before the word Youtuber started," as he says. For the past decade, he's grown his brand via his witty and unabashed recaps of reality-TV franchises and commentary on pop culture and politics. "My ability to talk about anything from politics to socioeconomic issues to religion to hip-hop culture has definitely separated me from the rest," he tells New Times. "The reason why I win on YouTube is because I'm smart." The Florida State University alumnus has certainly cracked the code to getting the algorithm gods on his side —to the tune of more than 360,000 subscribers. But what keeps subscribers coming back is his candidness about his identity as a gay black man. "Being a queer black man from Miami, one of the biggest hurdles is hearing, 'You're a faggot,'" he says. "It's something I truly had to overcome, because it's something I've heard about myself since the second grade. At a certain point in this business, you realize: I'm more than that and my sexuality doesn't define me." These days he cohosts Fox Soul's YouTube show Tea-G-I-F on Wednesdays and Fridays, sharing hot takes on current events and entertainment news. The Carol City native says he's proud to represent the city that's influenced his persona on YouTube and TV. "Atlanta jumpstarted my career— I did ten years in Atlanta," he says. "But one thing that's always bothered me was I became Funky Dineva in Atlanta but what people don't realize is all this personality comes from Carol City, baby." In the words of Funky Dineva: We see you, Nessa girl!

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®