Best Book by a Local Author 2023 | If I Survive You | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Photo by Cola Greenhill-Casados

You'd be forgiven for thinking Jonathan Escoffery's 2022 debut, If I Survive You, is a memoir. Throughout much of the book, the author, who was raised in Miami by Jamaican parents, uses second-person narration to tell the story of Trelawny, a Jamaican-American boy growing up in Miami in the '90s and coming of age in the post-recession aughts. ("On the day you are scheduled to begin the sixth grade, a hurricane named Andrew pops your house's roof open.... Nor do you share your concern that in Miami, great city of cons, you're as likely to wind up getting your organs harvested as you are to make a profit here.") The book, a compilation of eight related short stories, reads like a novel, telling a continuous story while jumping back and forth in time and closing with Trelawny scrapping to buy his father's sinking home in Cutler Ridge. It's a fairy-tale ending fit for Miami and what Trelawny describes as the Magic City's "aroma of promise": that at any time, "you are a single lucky break from becoming one of the haves."

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There are few places on this peninsula where discophiles can uncover a rare reissued vinyl in mint condition and a well-worn copy of the 2 Live Crew's As Nasty as They Wanna Be under the same roof. Praise Technique Records, which has been providing Miami vinyl aficionados with a trove of more than 20,000 new and used records since 2017. While you can peruse all of Technique's inventory on its website, it's worth browsing the aisles of the 79th Street headquarters to take in the giant posters for cult-classic movies, the vast selection of DVDs and VHS and cassette tapes, and a staff eager to help you navigate the row upon row of sonic treasures.

Vinyl takes a long time to press. It's also clunky. Whether it sounds better than an MP3 is up for dance-floor debate. None of that deterred a ragtag group of University of Miami grads from creating the vinyl-only record label Sports Records. In six years, the label, spearheaded by Michael Bird, Jacob Friedland, Kyle Parker, Will Cormier, and Daniel Edenburg (AKA Brother Dan), has generated nine releases, 42 parties, and an unmistakable house sound that is sleek and sexy. Turntable fodder aside, the label is known for its funk-filled parties at Floyd and at warehouses across the Magic City, so the uninitiated will have plenty of opportunities to savor their production cred.

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How do you condense Miami's electronic music scene into one album? If you're Omnidisc, you don't. The Danny Daze-led label released Homecore! Miami All-Stars last December, with a whopping 44 tracks from the city's top producers. No one is left behind on this release, from the long-established like Otto Von Schirach, Jesse Perez, Murk, and Dino Felipe to emerging acts like Nick León, INVT, La Goony Chonga, and Sister System. So deft is Daze's curatorial touch that he even managed to lure producer and scene icon Push Button Objects out of retirement to contribute to the project. Taken together, the compilation gives you an auditory peek into where Miami's electronic music scene has been, where it is, and where it's going — and the future sounds exciting.

If you're familiar with R&B and hip-hop artists Pouya, DRAM, Cedric Brazle, and Zya, you should also know Justin Wiggins, who has manned the boards to produce some of their signature sounds. Most recently, Wiggins teamed with Twelve'len and Denzel Curry to produce their single, "Lady Draco" with a moody, shape-shifting beat. Wiggins — who is inspired by Brandy, Justin Timberlake, Destiny's Child, and Donell Jones — is orchestrating a contemporary spin on early 2000s R&B and hip hop. His growing roster of hits signals that his vision for R&B is taking root. "I want to make an impact on R&B, especially being from Florida and Miami," Wiggins says.

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Inspired by alternative Latin scenes they discovered in metropolises in Central and South America, Miami natives Golden Flora and Darwin Figueroa are on a mission to show that Latin music expands beyond reggaeton. Performing as Oro Fresco, the duo mixes electronic music, hip-hop, and comedy to create a sound that's unique yet not too discordant to dissuade anyone from the dance floor. This year saw the release of Oro Fresco (Remixes), a collection of four tracks reinterpreted by other artists messing around with the band's Spanish-language tracks in praise of marijuana and in dread of the climate crisis.

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It's been a couple of years since Ginga Soul dropped her EP On My Mind. For anyone concerned that the Miami-based artist might've lost her way, the release of her new single "Karmic" this past spring put all doubts to rest. In a collaboration with rapper A'Sean, the song pairs Ginga Soul's sultry vocals with laidback beats reminiscent of the neo-soul of Erykah Badu with a tinge of Janet Jackson's coffee shop R&B. Just like the six-song EP that preceded it, "Karmic" showcases a new and emerging voice that continues to hit all the right notes.

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Trapland Pat was raised in Deerfield Beach but he embodies his Haitian descent, neighborhood, and upbringing with sprouting bonks, flashing diamond grills, and an animated persona. He entered the scene full-time in 2018 after a drug charge led the loss of his football scholarship at a small Indiana college where he'd played wide receiver. Since then, he has released a handful of mixtapes and singles, including his 2020 breakout banger, "Big Business," which was remixed by Rick Ross. On his latest mixtape, Trapnificent, Trapland Pat joined forces with fellow Broward County producer Pepperjack Zoe and Baton Rouge rapper Fredo Bang. The results are versatile tracks that bridge regional sounds with piano-heavy trap beats and introspective verses on money, street life, and women. The catchy, melodic tracks are vaguely reminiscent of Kodak Black but his breezy cadence and straightforward delivery are all his own.

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Local venues where rock bands can play might come and go (sadly, it has been mostly the latter), but the highly adaptable Palomino Blond have continued to find places to play their dreamy feedback-laden rock since 2018. Comprising singers and guitarists Carli Acosta and Kyle Fink, drummer Emma Arevalo, and bassist Peter Allen, this Kendall shoegaze outfit has meshed the quiet with the loud reminiscent of a next-gen Smashing Pumpkins or My Bloody Valentine. In 2021, Palomino Blond's debut album, ontheinside, captured the band's grungy blissful aesthetic in seven songs that left you longing for an eighth. Don't worry — the band never goes more than a couple of months without announcing a new local show.

Formed in 2015, Jah Steve & the Counteract Crew crisscross the Sunshine State for their bread-and-butter shows, including regular gigs at the Original Fat Cats in Fort Lauderdale and Ginger Bay Cafe in Hollywood. But touring with legend Lee "Scratch" Perry solidified this South Florida band's bona fides as a top-tier roots reggae ensemble. The band's vibes are reminiscent of Bob Marley, Augustus Pablo, Peter Tosh, Tenor Saw, and other reggae icons. Frontman and bassist Steve McGowan leads the five-member group that also includes brothers Doron and Jadon Clarence, guitarist Bennie Jackson, and drummer Basil "Benbow" Creary, who has appeared on more than 50 studio albums for artists such as Yabby You, Dennis Brown, and The Skatalites.

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Best Of Miami®