Raw Power

Just released from prison, Miami hip-hop icon DJ Raw is ready for the takeover

Carlos Miranda, a 28-year-old Cuban hipster who works in the Design District selling high-end Swedish furniture, recalls the hip-hop landmark. "It was like a hip-hop information hub," he explains. "There were fliers for upcoming parties, radio shows, Zulu Nation meetings... plus, you'd find all the newest joints coming out of New York back then. I bought my first Wu Tang Clan album there, on cassette."

Along with the latest hip-hop records, one could also find DJ Raw and the Knock Out Posse's first release, "Lunatic State of Mind," a grimy, bass-driven hip-hop track filled with lyrics of the everyday ghetto struggle: hustling, violence, and the all-too-familiar police brutality.

The album was released on Raw Records in 1992. One venue for Raw's music in fact belonged to him: the legendary WJHH-FM (91.7), a pirate radio station ("We're Just Hip-Hop") with a 50-foot antenna. "We had it inside a school bus," Raw explains, "and called it the 'Old Skool Bus.' A buddy owed me some bread, and he ran a garage; he told me I can have anything I wanted."


The years 1994 to 1997 were the golden era of pirate radio in Miami. "I had to blow out a couple of transformers to get it right," Raw remembers, "but eventually, everything worked out of the bus, and we were always on the move."

Once Raw even parked his WJHH school bus right in front of WEDR-FM (99.1 Jamz), which back then wasn't known by its contemporary title of "South Florida's only station for hip-hop and R&B." There, he took over their channel feed for an hour, playing everything from De La Soul to NWA.

"They started it," Raw fervently declares. "They said something on the air that was like, all guys that ran underground radio stations were drug dealers and thugs!"

Well, wasn't it true?

Raw pauses, "Yeah, but I didn't want anyone else to know about that!"

In fact, he admits to using WJHH to advertise. "It was like a cell phone back then. We'd reach right into your car, and we'd scream on the mic, 'Five-seventy-five, suckers!' which stood for how much the price was for a stack for that day," he explains, referring to a kilo of coke.

The afternoon sun is brutal. An ice-cream truck sings through the neighborhood as four teenaged boys pound their Nikes on the melting basketball court. Then when a break is called, 15-year-old Oscar, his lean body lost in an oversized "G-Unit" T-shirt soaked in sweat, takes a swig of water and starts to rap, holding his Zephyrhills bottle as a microphone.

Wynwood fo' life, where true hustlas be hustlin'

We in da hood tonight, making somethin' outta nothin'

Wynwood, nigga, we in da hood, nigga!

One of the boys, sporting an Afro the size of the basketball, shouts, "Your rhymes are wack, just like your free throws!"

Oscar responds with a middle finger. Asked about his lyrics, he shrugs, "We always call this place Wynhood. This is the hood right here."

The boy has heard about Hoodstock from older relatives. "My cousin went one year and saw all these people like Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, Ice T... oh, and he met his baby mama there too." Oscar then pauses and sheepishly asks, "Yo, if Hoodstock is coming back, you think I can get up on stage and spit?"

On October 13, 1994 — Columbus Day weekend — Roberto Clemente Park was filled with live music, dance, and art. About 1,000 people, from teenagers to grandparents, were in attendance. As for admission, concertgoers were asked to bring cans of food, which would be donated to a local food bank.

Rudi Goblen, founder of the internationally renowned break-dance crew the Flipside Kingz, was 15 years old at the time. "I brought like three cans of black beans, and bam!, I was in!"

It wasn't easy to stage Hoodstock. Wynwood then was a predominantly Puerto Rican, low-income neighborhood between Overtown and Little Haiti. "Gangbanging, violence, drugs... it was not a place to be after dark," Raw recalls. "The city was like, 'Go ahead, let's see if you can pull it off.' It was like they were testing us, just waiting to see some shit go down."

Raw knew he couldn't do it alone, so he turned to Omar Islam for help. The 40-something-year-old, toughly built, five-foot-nine Colombian, a founder of the Florida chapter of the Zulu Nation, had met Raw in '92 at a hip-hop party he threw called Hip-Hop Delight.

"The saying 'Each One, Teach One' — that's hip-hop," Islam states. "It shows the ghetto youths that there are different avenues in life besides selling dope on the corner. Hip-hop was never about bling this and bitch that. That's what corporate America created. Hip-hop is an outlet and a guide to living a good and respectable life. And that's what Hoodstock promoted — hip-hop can change the world."

Kurage was in charge of Hoodstock's entertainment. "We had no idea what we were doing," he remembers. "Raw just wanted to throw a free jam in Wynwood!" The all-day event showcased 26 local talents and featured live graffiti painting, break dancing, and several hour-long seminars on the music business.

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