United and It Feels So Good

Southern hip-hop magazine Ozone recently joined powerhouse DJ collective TJ's DJs to present the first annual Ozone Awards, hosted by Trina and David Banner. Though it was held farther up the state in O-Town, Miami made its presence known in a forceful way throughout the weekend of festivities (which included the quarterly TJ's DJs Tastemakers conference for DJs, artists, and shakers). A recurring theme of the conference discussion panels concerned the turning point of Miami's resurgence in the national urban music scene.

"In a few years, I think Miami will be where Atlanta is in terms of the music industry," predicted Atlanta's Mr. ColliPark, producer of top sellers by the Ying Yang Twins, Banner, and local star Pitbull, during the producer panel.

Dre (of Miami hitmakers Cool and Dre) agreed: "People will be looking at how we do it to figure out how they should do it."

The Ozone Awards signifies a new point of pride for Southerners involved in the hip-hop culture, which has not always given their music respect. The event follows the do-for-self mentality that has characterized the region for years.

"It's a big thing, most definitely," Rick Ross said later, stopping along the busy awards show red carpet to give Miami New Times some love. "We've been waiting for our day."

As Ross bid us farewell, the voice of a young girl piped up in the crowd: "Ooh, there go my baby daddy!"

We all know the rules of pop music superstardom. Once you get the girls, you get the world.

The South might be dominating hip-hop right now, but that doesn't mean everyone really recognizes its merits, as Pitbull pointed out on his stroll down the carpet.

"They can sleep as much as they want and they can look across or look over us — it doesn't matter," he asserted as multiple camera flashes illuminated his body. "It just taught us how to grind harder."

The magazine handed out plenty of awards that night, but there were a few we would have loved to have seen take home the mighty "O":

The United and It Feels So Good Award: The 305: The show opened with Miami stars DJ Khaled, Rick Ross, Pitbull, Trick Daddy, Dre, and Plies (okay, he's from Fort Myers) sharing the stage for the first several minutes. There was an almost Justice League-like display of unity as various songs were shot off like anthemic bullets. All that love might have proved fleeting, for Trick Daddy threw down his microphone at the end of the performance, but not before declaring that all the Miami artists were his protégés, a statement that apparently required a little smoothing-over afterward.

Best T-Shirt: Trae: The Texas-based rapper proudly supported a truly stylin' slogan: "Asshole by Nature." And in Ozone's special awards show souvenir magazine, Trae offered up "10 Ways to Be an Asshole." His tactics include "just don't give a damn," "disrespect those that disrespect you," and the real gem "keep a fucked-up attitude."

The Bugs Bunny Award for Most Carats: [Tie] Rick Ross and TV Johnny: The Mayor of M-I-Yayo rocked scads and scads of multicolor ice that would make even Paris Hilton envious, including a double-R piece fashioned like the Rolls Royce logo and a whimsical chain accented by what appeared to be the Pringles potato chips guy. By the time he hit the stage, Ross had added a third chain, an enormous platinum rope holding a giant triple-C pendant (for Carol City Cartel, not a Chanel knockoff). Meanwhile Houston's TV Johnny, the jeweler who partnered with H-Town rapper Paul Wall to emerge as the griller of the stars, put all his money where his mouth is with a truly blinding set of choppers made of black-and-white diamonds. I mean, we don't really know they were diamonds — they coulda been diamels or diamante — but we're willing to suspend disbelief if necessary.

Most Patient Patiently Waiting Winner: Kamikaze: Ozone runs a regular column called "Patiently Waiting" to spotlight artists it believes are next to get their shine, and bestowed a Patiently Waiting Award on artists in key Southern states. Formerly one-half of the Crooked Lettaz duo with David Banner in the Nineties, Mississippi winner Kamikaze has weathered several record deals and has certainly been in line longer than any of his Patiently Waiting colleagues. In other words, it's past time to take note of him.

Most Reverent/Blasphemous Album Title: Plies's Real Nigga Bible: We're not sure what The Man Above will have to say about this name — and its Holy Bible-inspired cover image — when this rising artist eventually hits those pearly gates. But until then, Plies seems to have stumbled on an attention-getting presentation, flyers of which were scattered around town by pious street teams.

Best Averted Dynasty-Style Catfight: Trina and Khia: Attendees held their breath to see what sparks might fly between Miami's Trina and Khia, the Tampa-reared Atlanta transplant who originally debuted with the kitty-licking anthem "My Neck, My Back," a ditty that would make Lil' Kim blush. After all, the awards show was held the same week in which the two ladies traded verbal assaults in the form of two battle songs. Particularly scathing was Khia's effort, which had emerged only days earlier and included talk of Trina's rumored miscarriage. But cooler heads thankfully prevailed as the dispute stayed on wax and the audience was not forced to decide who would be Alexis and who Krystle.

The Surprising Solidarity Award: Jacki-O: Jacki-O, who had never particularly aligned herself with Trina, shocked onlookers with her "Fuck Khia" T-shirt. Talk about girl power.