With Shabba Ranks, Stephen and Damian Marley, DJ Khaled, Vybz Kartel, and others
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Better Than: The first day of Best of the Best!
For those who braved both days of the mega Best of the Best weekend, one can easily say that the second day was much better on so many levels.
First, the weather was beautiful, sunny, and breezy unlike Saturday, which was cloudy, muggy, and humid.
Second, the line-up was better. Yes, we know ... Saturday's talent roster was a who's who of Billboard chart toppers. But man, lip-syncing can get pretty old. At least Sunday's talent pool consisted of hardcore dancehall performers who, according to their code of ethics, would get pelted with empty Heineken bottles for performing to track.
Third, the crowd was bigger and more diverse. Besides the fact that there were three times the number of the attendees at Sunday's show, one clearly noted a better balanced male-female ratio when compared to the first day's all-out teenage girl drama.
Fourth -- and final -- reason that day two was helluva lot better than day one ... The vibes! And quoting one spiritual rasta mystic from backstage: "Yah mon, dis is good energy. Yah dun know, reggae music makes any-bumbo-ting better. True!"
OK, so now that the verdict it out, let's get back to the show, shall we? The gates opened promptly at 3 p.m., but the stage wasn't even kitted out until about 4:30-ish when up-and-coming dancehall acts cluttered the stage. Tifa, Ruff Kutt Krew and Gappy Ranks did their usual drive-by performance and Bicentennial Park began to fill up.
On stage, the host with the most, Walshy Fire of Black Chiney and Mixx96, kept the crowd moving between sets, as he encouraged fans to throw up their hands "if you were making more money this year than last year." Clearly, not many hands went up.
Reggae crooner Tarrus Riley took the stage with his five-piece band around 6:50 p.m. and tossed off a solid performance. When Riley sang his most popular track, "She's Royal," the ladies in the crowd couldn't help but throw their panties at the stage. Oh yeah, Tarrus may be a spiritual vegan Rastaman. But he sure knows how to please the females.
A surprise appearance by local R&B artist Qwote, whose latest single "Throw Your Hands" featuring Mr. 305 himself, Pitbull, created some buzz, getting his native country's flag waving and folks screaming, "Sak Pase!"
By 7:30 p.m. (and just like clockwork), set times were being rearranged. Will there ever be a Best of the Best when people actually stay on schedule? Anyway, ten minutes later, legendary Jamaican songbird, Sanchez, took the stage, over a half-hour late. Sanchez, who's been in the reggae game for more than 25 years, was looking dapper in a shiny, metallic suit with matching top hat. His performance was on point, singing classics such as "Brown Eyes," "I Can't Wait," and "Frenzy" that got the crowd in a sing-along frenzy.
At 8:15 p.m., Bajan princess Alison Hinds and her rude-gyal backup dancers brought the heat. Clearly, we had entered the "soca portion" of the night as her infectious hit "Roll it Gal" got the ladies in the audience doing the dutty-wine.
A half-hour later, the crystal-clear sky had turned to dusk. It was primetime for some big baller action. And DJ Khaled and his 80-person entourage took front and center. Straight away, Khaled let the crowd know that his set had been cut in half and added that he's got so many "friends" that he wants to show love to. So without wasting any time, Khaled's protege Ace Hood came through, chanting "Hustle, Hustle, Hustle, HARD!" as well as showcasing his newest single, "Go Get It"
Soon after, the DJ dropped Chris Brown's "Look at me Now," which got the crowd thinking, "Is Chris Brown coming back for part two?" But instead of C. Breezy, it was B. Rhymes! Spitting a million words a second, Busta ignited the crowd with the kind of lyrical fury that'd make any MC shudder in disbelief. And keeping this star-studded stage show going, "All I Do is Win" was blared while another pop superstar, Ludacris, jumped on the mike. Next, Khaled acknowledged local rapping heavyweights Ballgreezy and Billy Blue. Then, just like that, Khaled and company was out. It was ten minutes of pure We the Best madness.
Soon after, it was time for the show's Must Thank the Sponsors bit as Magnum condoms led a short showcase called the "Magnum MC Cypha." Say wahhh? And as the crowd wandered off to get a refill of Henny and Coke or take a bathroom break, the stage was left to three struggling would-be rap stars, all vying to be crowned Magnum Condom's hip-hop champ.
Now, like every year, crunch time hit right around 9 p.m. as a slew of artists were still waiting to hit the stage. So this is where we do the cattle call:
9:20 p.m. I-Octane let the crowd know that he is "bumboclout pissed" that his 20-minute set got cut in half before jumping into his newest single, "Puff It."
9:30 p.m. Assassin blew up the stage with his steroid-like energy as he ran through his most popular tracks "Gully Sit'n," "Dem Nuh Look Nah Gal," and the newest, "Money Machine."
9:40 p.m. DeMarco, dancehall's version of Akon, took it to the mat with his hit, "Fallen Soldier," which got a rousing "Puuuuuulllll up!" from the crowd.
At 9:50 p.m., the moment we'd all been patiently awaiting had finally arrived. Backstage, staff was in a frenzy as internet mishap and technical difficulties threatened to make this Vybz Kartel via-satellite appearance a hot, bleeding mess. Thank Jah, though, Digicell's internet connection held true in Jamaica and the Gaza Emperor himself, Mr. Vybz Kartel, saluted the crowd from the comfort of a TV station back in Kingston with a "Hello Miami!" Strangely enough, the 10,000-plus crowd erupted in screams and cheers. It was weird to see that a man projected on a giant jumbo screen was going to cause this much hysteria. But we're talking about Vybz. He is Jamaica's Lil Wayne, a superstar in his own right.
Without much ado, Vybz thanked his fans for being there as clearing his visas to perform stateside has become nearly impossible these days. Regardless, Gaza went full on, as if he were literally on stage, giving 110 percent and laying down hit after hit. From the boisterous "Clarks" to then "Ramping Shop," "Biycle," "Jeans & Fitted," and "Dumpa Trucks," Vybz did all the hits.
And if Vybz wasn't the climax of the evening, reggae royalty Stephen and Damian Marley took over the stage at 10:15 p.m. with family hit "Traffic Jam" before moving onto "The Mission" and "Jah Army." After getting all riled up for Vybz's virtual performance, the crowd was slightly muted during the Marleys' set. Maybe we Miamians are a bit spoiled. Or maybe the hardcore dancehall community just isn't down with the mainstream culture of the Marley brand. Whatever the case may be, Stephen and Damian's last track, "Welcome to Jamrock," was a bonafide crowd pleaser and a nice capper for their brief 15-minute set.
Next, even more reggae royalty hit the stage as Di Genius, Stephen McGregor and Chino -- offspring of reggae legend Freddie McGregor -- did a quick set, dropping their latest hip-hop infused track, "Protected," among others.
Then the clock struck 11 p.m. and his imperial dancehall majesty, Shabba Ranks (or as the ladies scream, "SHABBA!"), reigned supreme. It was like witnessing reggae history in the making. Not only did Shabba kill it for Best of the Best, but he massacred every other performer that hit that same stage. Shabba sang, danced, and gave the audience a full-bodied cardiovascular workout.
And as if performing "Respect" and "Trailer Load of Girls" wasn't good enough, Shabba brought on muthafuckin' Maxi Priest! And the two sang their 45-year-old hearts out with their classic 1991 hit "Housecall."
Midway into Shabba's set, a Rihanna look-alike came onstage, singing, "Twice My Age," until Shabba ninja-attacked her from the back and dry humped her into a panic. And with that display, Shabba addressed the crowd: "To all the mothers with underage children, this is the time when you need to close their eyes and ears."
As promised, things went from PG-13 to XXX as Shabba made love to the stage and undressed himself like a hardcore Lovah Lovah. And he brought down the house. The 10,000-plus crowd incessantly screamed "SHABBA!" And Mr. Loverman ended his sweat-inducing set with the track, "Ting-a-Ling," that certified his standing as the original G of reggae music. All you young folks, observe and bow down to the master. Shabba ain't nothin' to fuck with!
As 11:40 p.m. clicked past, the crowd started heading for the exits until host Jabba snatched up the mike to announce that the show wasn't quite over. And inside the press tent, everyone observed that, according to the official set list, the last artists scheduled to hit the stage was the Cash Money clan featuring Lil Wayne himself.
Now, the crowd was never given word of the YM family's supposed set, so folks were flocking out of the park. And meanwhile, local dancehall funny man, Bruck Up, came through, doing an awkward dance that basically consisted of voguing and crawling like a tiger. This was definitely not Young Money. And after five minutes of what could've been a comedy routine, the stage lights went up and the hosts looked around in confusion.
I guess Weezy was a no-show. Maybe we're better off meeting him court-side at a Miami Heat game than Best of the Best.
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The Crowd: A rainbow coalition of weed smokers, Ed Hardy bedazzlers, Nicki Minaj-style groupies, and Jamaican Tupac Shakurs. In other words, residents of Miami.
Random Detail: One of Mixx 96's DJs drops YC's big tune "Racks" as Walshy Fire takes to the mic and says, "If you have no idea what the hell they're saying in this song, everybody put your hands up!" And 7,000 hands shot up into the air.
Overheard in the Crowd: Around 9 p.m., news of Sean Kingston's jetski accident got out. Folks were still somber from the news of Will da Real One's murder the night before. As you can only imagine, many were questioning their mortality. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Sean.