Throwback Is Comin' Back

Pirate radio, a Holiday Inn that isn't, lots of cops, and cagey promoters

Due to the pirate nature of his radio show, DJ Showtime does a little bunny-hopping around the FCC. So last Sunday, he's on 89.7 FM. On Monday, he's nowhere to be found. Tuesday, around lunchtime, he's bounced over to 89.1 FM and is playing the latest Trina single. She's rapping about ladies getting their own. "Niggas ain't shit with their dick and balls," she insists.

The rest of the afternoon, Showtime, one of the uncertain number of DJs working at this protean radio program, spins aggressive Southern hip-hop: the dirty thumping crunk of a Confederate apocalypse, the kind of beats that you beat someone up to. "If you don't give a damn...," Lil Jon barks on the YoungBloodz nihilistic single "Damn," "then we don't a fuck!" His anarchic scream is terrifying.

Showtime loves that jam. He plays it at least three times a day, rapping over the hook and sometimes the whole track. When he's not singing through songs, he stops the music mid-rap to take requests, talk about girls as fat as Trina, and tell someone named JC to get his act together and call the station. It's entertaining but can be irritating, especially when you like what he's playing: "Just let it run, nigga," a caller demands.

"You got it," Showtime responds and starts the track over.

By the first chorus, Showtime's shouting again:

"It's going down this Friday night, 'Throwback Friday' at the Holiday Inn brought to you by Jamaitian [Entertainment] and New Money Entertainment. Live bands. All ages. Be there... Now turn the volume up on this motherfucker!"

Wednesday through Friday: He's broadcasting live on 89.5 FM. With increasing regularity, Showtime cuts into his usual mix of Pastor Troy, Lil' Flip, and J.T. Money to remind us that you'd better be at the Holiday Inn after the Blanche Ely/Stranahan High football game.

According to Showtime, it's the only place you need to be Friday night.

Callers are confused. When? Where? What Holiday Inn?

"Bitch, I told y'all the one on Powerline and Commercial," he repeats. "Across from Miami Subs."

Finally, September 12, 2003. Throwback Friday, a celebration of old-school NBA jerseys. Somehow, Showtime will get his listeners out of their houses to the hotel. Indeed, in South Florida, the American mecca of pirate radio, he's just one of many outlaw DJs who skitter across the dial to play illicit marginalized music and attract listeners to parties. Hundreds of stations broadcast from back rooms, honky tonks, and even cars. Authorities, who earn megabucks from radio station licenses, trawl the streets looking for them and in recent years have closed down as many as 20 in a single month in the region.

Friday's event was the first of at least two held at the hotel. It would include lots of black performers, lots more patrons, and quite a few police cruisers.

Around 10 p.m. comes the jump-off. Showtime's talking shit from his makeshift studio. A caller asks for directions to the Holiday Inn in Oakland Park. "It's by the Waffle House, nigga," he snarls, probably looking for a six-hour mix to throw on the air so he too can get to the party.

But the Waffle House is temporarily out of business, so it's easy to miss. The Holiday Inn is also no longer the Holiday Inn but, as of two months ago, I-95 North. So that too is easy to overlook. The 600-plus people hanging out in the parking lot, spilling into traffic, however, are not. A red Chevy, riding high on gold rims, takes a left before the light, breaking through the sea of Air Force 1s. A silver Honda CRV follows closely behind.

For that very uncool/reliable CRV, navigating through the crowd is nerve-racking and embarrassing. Visibly confused, possibly angry faces stare at the white passengers through unfortunately untinted windows.

In a Bonfire of the Vanities moment of paranoia, the Honda brakes. If the driver runs over anyone, especially that 6-year-old girl who just won't move out of the way, there seems to be potential for a riot of Rodney King-sized proportions. This is not a particularly overwhelming feeling, and it is probably as misguided as the person who brought a 6-year-old kid to the party in the first place. But with empty bottles of Remy and Hennessey tossed about and the most racially charged, sexually-aggressive, bass-thumping music the South has to offer rumbling through every subwoofer, anything seems possible.

The fear passes as the CRV eases into a spot next to a sparkling blue Impala with a spotless white interior. It's something to behold.

Dee, owner of that beautiful blue machine, and his buddy, T, are sporting Clippers and Celtics throwback jerseys, respectively. Dee's throwback matches his ride, which matches his Air Force 1s, which match his umbrella which, it goes without saying, is the type of color-coordinating of which dreams are made. Although T's jersey is not technically a throwback, it does complement his metallic money-green Caprice with custom green upholstery, which, as it happens, subtly highlights his limited-edition Heineken Air Force 1s.

It's 11 p.m., and Dee's still relaxing by his car, two-waying some lady he knows. He's not going inside. She is.

"Motherfucker's $10," he says. "Why would I pay $10 when I can see that outside for free?" He points across the parking lot to a girl sporting a white Nuggets throwback as minidress. With the old Nuggets logo -- a pixilated Denver skyline silhouetted before the Colorado Mountains -- it's one of the coolest, most expensive jerseys. "Yeah," Dee says, "niggas'll murder for those."

The miniskirted girl says she has driven a good ten hours from Georgia. Nancy doesn't get Showtime in Atlanta, but her sister-in-law, Tania, told her she had to be at this gathering. Like Dee, T, and pretty much the majority of the crowd, the two girls aren't planning on paying the cover. They're having fun hanging out and being seen. "Plus," Tania says, sucking on a cherry Blow Pop that matches her hot pants that match her Chuck Taylors, "whatever's in there, we got it out here."

By 11:30 pm, Tania doesn't have much choice but to stay outside. According to the hotel's catering and sales manager, Maria Hernandez, the ballroom has already reached maximum capacity.

Three hundred and fifty people are on that dance floor throwing bows, which, for anyone who hasn't been in the pit at a Southern rap show, is basically early '90s slam dancing, just sexier. Where the mosh pit predominantly attracted guys bearing grudges against their parents, here, girls are very much in the mix. Ladies grab their ankles, and guys (at least, those not pushing each other around) get behind them, basically standing there, while their partners do things with their legs, thighs, and asses that you see only on videos on 106th and Park. Despite its cathartic anger and intensity, this is dance music. It's about having fun and hopefully getting laid.

It's also about getting drunk and smoking pot, which the doorman, a brother of significant size, respects but won't allow inside. Decked out in fatigues, he finds a blunt on a dread in a Bullets jersey. "You can take this back," he screams at the kid over Bonecrusher's "I Ain't Scared (Remix)," which is blaring from the ballroom, "or I'll throw it out." The kid hands him ten bucks and says not to worry about it.

It's apparent from the empty airplane-sized-bottles of Moët & Chandon that Throwback Friday is a success. It's also obvious that the police are not going to allow this to go on much longer.

When there's a war between partygoers and law enforcement, the latter, unfortunately, triumphs. "We received a call about a fight earlier in the night," Jim Leljedal explains of the 11 or so cop cars that showed up next to the Waffle House around midnight. The public information officer for the Broward Sheriff's Office says the department received two calls that night, one saying, "You'll need more cops for this." So they sent every patrolman in the area, Leljedal says. Yet there were no arrests and no reports.

With an army of policemen blocking 4900 Powerline Rd. at 2 a.m., it seems reasonable to believe that there won't be anymore Throwback Fridays. But Maria Hernandez isn't so sure. She says that I-95 North has renegotiated its contract with Leo Jean of Jamaitian Entertainment. "We've figured out ways of controlling the crowd," she says. "[Next time] all the attendees will come in from the side entrance, and there will be additional security -- we're basically doubling our security." The three police officers and four hotel security guards who were present will be joined by six Jamaitian crowd controllers, Hernandez assures.

Throwback Friday will go down again, at least one more time.

Well, maybe it will. The people at Jamaitian, an unsurprisingly dodgy organization, claim they don't know Throwback Friday's future. At the number Hernandez provides for Jamaitian, Leo Jean is not in, and the guy manning the phones is dubious of questions.

"I don't know you," he says. "So you ain't getting my name."

As far as getting to the bottom of the history and future of Throwback Friday, or even the proper spelling of Jamaitian for this article, he's even cagier. "Well, I don't know about that," he says. "I don't know if Jamaitian wants you writing about it. I don't know if we do more parties."

Later, Leo reiterates this point: "We're not trying to be in no newspapers," he explains, "so don't do nothing on us. You got that?" With that, he hangs up, again refusing to spell Jamaitian.

Fortunately, though, back on 89.5 FM, Showtime says that listeners have no choice but to show up at the corner of Powerline and Commercial at week's end. Throwback Friday is definitely on. And it's clear from last week's turnout that listeners respond, so party or not, there will be a crowd. "It's popping again this Friday," he shouts, interrupting a verse of Ludacris' "What's Your Fantasy?" "Bring your bitches!"

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