New Thugs on the Block

Block Bottom Entertainment cranks out the raw, grassroots rhythm and rhymes of South Broward

Screwge majored in business at Southern University, an open-enrollment college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. "What that means is," he explains, "they'll take anybody. You can go straight from prison to school. I didn't have the best grades, so I wound up there."

When Screwge went away for a few days, it came as little surprise that his room had been broken into. A quick hunt for the culprit and a quick stomping when he was found and Screwge found himself in the staggering position of getting thrown out of an open-enrollment college. Luck was on his side, though.

"The dean sort of knew me, so I finished up in New York," Screwge says. From 1997 to 2000, Screwge lived and worked in New York City. Through his job at Manny's Music in Times Square, he got major discounts on the recording equipment that would prove useful once he moved back to the old stomping grounds.

Clockwise from bottom left: Bolansky takes a moment to hear suggestions from the engineer's booth; the star of Block Bottom's next release then puts his skills to the test; Killa Bean stands on the lawn outside a home in Liberia, the Hollywood neighborhood he calls home
Colby Katz
Clockwise from bottom left: Bolansky takes a moment to hear suggestions from the engineer's booth; the star of Block Bottom's next release then puts his skills to the test; Killa Bean stands on the lawn outside a home in Liberia, the Hollywood neighborhood he calls home

When Screwge returned, it was like stepping into yesterday. "None of us had seen a lot of each other," Onyx says. "But when we got back together, it all sort of clicked. And we remembered what we had told each other, and we all still wanted to do it."

The group of friends formed Block Bottom Entertainment in October 2000. "Florida is sort of the bottom of the country," Screwge explains, "And it worked on other levels as well. Where we were at the time looked like the bottom. There was nowhere to go but up." Block Bottom put together two compilation albums, based on skills and songs that had been honed to a sharp edge over years of freestyle rapping. Neither of the CDs was distributed in stores.

Like so many rappers before them, the boys of Block Bottom did it the street way -- selling albums out of car trunks. "We did it however we could," Screwge says. "Anyone who had a car got a stack of CDs to sell. We'd drop some off at stores that sold CDs at the counter. Whatever we could do to get the word out." Despite the lack of distribution, the crew maintains that the last compilation sold 3,000 copies. With no distribution, that is an incredible number. The market, however, was far more viable now than when the BBE crew-to-be was rapping through the halls of McNichol Middle. By the time they formed Block Bottom Entertainment, the hip-hop trails had been blazed in South Florida.

In 1986, while Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys were dominating airwaves with this strange new thing called rap, Luther Campbell began writing his own page in hip-hop history. From the release of 2 Live Crew's first album, 2 Live Crew Is What We Are, the group has gotten slapped for sleaze. A record-store clerk narrowly missed a harsh prison sentence for selling the album to a 14-year-old. Still, the album went gold. The second, Move Somthin', alleviated the fears of agitated parents by offering clean and dirty versions, as did the 2 Live Crew's third release, As Nasty as They Wanna Be. And yet, that record forever placed South Florida on the rap map for its wanton naughtiness.

Even Democratic lawmakers and talking heads, usually representatives of the party more dedicated to free speech, stood up and screamed. Tipper Gore was titillated. Parental advisory labels are an indirect result of "Me So Horny." Between that song, which opened the album in the Crew's traditionally sex-crazed milieu, and other similar offerings such as "Dirty Nursery Rhymes" and "If You Believe in Having Sex," the album got pulled from record stores across the country. Luckily for Campbell, his other talent, aside from coming up with degenerate lyrics, is that of capitalizing on rampant publicity. The follow-up album, Banned in the USA, cashed in on all of the antismut crusading and the unsurprising anticensorship backlash. The Crew slowly fizzed out throughout the 1990s, but on Campbell's 1996 solo record, Uncle Luke, a young rapper who shared lead vocals on the lead-off track, "Scarred," stepped up to bring South Florida back into the limelight.

Trick Daddy Dollars, as he was billed in those early years, impressed more than a few people, among them concert promoter Ted Lucas, who had just started his Slip-N-Slide Record label.

"Trick was like my brother," Lucas says. "I grew up with Trick. He was incarcerated at the time [Slip-N-Slide started], but he always wanted to rap. So when he come home, I really felt he had the potential to be a big rapper like he is, and I invested everything I had into him. Everything just jumped off from there. I put my life savings behind Trick."

Trick Daddy's own debut, Based on a True Story, caused a bit of clamor on its release, though nowhere near the foam-dripping furor the Crew garnered in its heyday.

"His first album sold, like, 300,000 copies independently," Lucas says. "That was major. You sell 300,000 copies independent, you makin' noise. They started giving us calls, but they weren't saying what we wanted them to say, so we put out Trick's second album, which was, and it went platinum and finally made the major companies recognize us. They wanted to sit down and talk then. Everything jumped off from there. That's when we discovered Trina, and she blew up, and we just kept going on."

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