When the early-morning hours hit on weekends in Miami, a certain ambient sound tends to waft through the main streets. Locals who've spent the night in a club know it well: In Miami Beach around 3 or 4 a.m., a warm, fuzzy throb of pulsating bass music floats into the streets, mixing with hip-hop blaring from faraway subwoofers and idle chatter and clinking glasses from sidewalk cafés.
It's a sound that Tara Long, a Miami native and former club employee, has intentionally co-opted into the "so Miami" ambient-electronic music she releases under the moniker Poorgrrrl.
"Fuzzy throb, I like that," Long says, laughing at New Times' description of her music. "That's definitely accurate. You should make sure that gets into the story."
Long, who performs as Poorgrrrl alongside DJ and producer Byrdipop, crafts the sort of spacious, hip-hop-infused electronic music that's possible only in the post-Drake era, now that the producer known as 40 has turned drowned, underwater-sounding hip-hop beats into high art. Long has pushed that sound to its logical extreme: Songs such as "We Trashy," off her 2016 EP, Pitiparti, open like typical hip-hop bangers — until dissonant thumps and squelches join in as if someone were melting a vinyl single with a hair dryer.
This has been a banner year for Long: After debuting her Poorgrrrl persona at the Wynwood music festival III Points in 2015, the Milan-based Parachute Records scooped Long up and gave Pitiparti a proper release.
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"We put that EP out on our own," Long says. "Basically, the real reason we got hooked up with the record label was that a friend played them our music on a cell phone. They were originally like, 'Whaaaat is this?' before they heard it on a real computer. But they were looking for, and I quote, 'a rapper from Miami.'" So with a proper label now writing the checks, Long says she and her collaborators are working on putting out a full Poorgrrrl album in 2017, as well as planning a few events for Art Basel 2016.
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Not everyone has enjoyed her work: She says 50 percent of the people who encounter it seem to love it, and the other half are immediately angry. There's even a Reddit thread dedicated to bashing her sound. Her performance at 2016's III Points included dozens of gyrating bodies onstage, which left people feeling both confused and exhilarated.
The shift from growing up in South Miami to becoming an ambient hip-hop artist on a European label isn't lost on Long. After moving away to study visual art at New York City's Parsons School of Design, she moved back to Miami on a mission to "establish something here." She's reluctant to say she has a "responsibility" to represent local Miami culture on an international stage, but she admits that much of her inspiration comes from growing up in the ever-surreal world of Miami clubs.
"I worked at Jazid on South Beach," she says. "I worked at White Room when it was White Room. I worked at Bardot. I try not to let it define what I'm doing, and I want to be an individual, but at the same time, I am so Miami. I don't think people even get that I am actually Miami. It's important for me to represent that for the real people who work at the clubs and live through all this shit. It's a whole other vibe."