Raw Power

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

Mostly Wynwood residents attended that first year, and not one argument broke out. Even the head of the Wynwood police, Lt. Mario Garcia, was quoted as saying, "It was quiet — not one problem."

Raw was inspired to make Hoodstock an annual event, but Hoodstock '95 brought DJ Raw into conflict with a competing hip-hop conference, "How Can I Be Down," that was held around the same time. The "Down" conference took place at the glamorous Shore Club on South Beach, where registrants paid up to $500 to hobnob with Puff Daddy and Mase. Ten miles west, Hoodstock was a free outdoor event held in the ghetto.

Ironically, "How Can I Be Down" was marred by violence, shootings, and street brawls, but Hoodstock was peaceful. While the attendees of the "Down" conference sipped mojitos by the pool, Hoodstock served no alcohol, even rejecting sponsorship deals with Presidente and Budweiser beer. "We had a different agenda than Peter Thomas [founder of "How Can I Be Down"]. We did Hoodstock for the youth, and they were more for the adults," recalls Peter Price who did marketing. "We weren't asking for [trouble], 'cause quite frankly, it was two different festivals. Yet ultimately, if it was a competition, Hoodstock won."


Hoodstock and "How Can I Be Down" soon settled their differences, and in '96, the two conferences worked together on Columbus Day weekend. That year, more than 10,000 people from as far away as Japan attended. The Miami Herald ran a story about Raw and his KOP members with the title "Hip-Hop Acts Give Peace a Chance." Miami New Times made him a personal best in its "Best of Miami" issue.

Raw says he hoped to use Hoodstock's success to go straight. "We was making dope money to eventually get out of the ghetto, to become legit, you know." By then, he was a father of three (one biological son, and a son and a daughter whom he legally adopted after his marriage to Maria Casañas, AKA Yaggi).

"He'd always tell me to do good in school," recalls Raw's son, Raul Medina Jr., AKA Lil' Raw. "He was strict when it came to that kinda stuff."

So in 1996, he even sponsored the Northwest Boys and Girls Club's basketball team, the Falcons, and coached a baseball team for the Miami Shores Optimist Club.

A 29-year-old Wynwood resident who goes by the nickname Felony says he considered Raw the Robin Hood of Wynwood. "He would, like, come through one day with go-carts and have all the kids drive them around the block," he says. "He had an open-door policy to his crib. Kids would come in and play pool, fix themselves something to eat. It was like we lived there."

Felony recalls Raw telling kids to stay in school, finish their homework, and stay away from drugs and violence. "He was like our dad. If you needed anything, Raw would get it for you, no questions asked: clothes, food, rent money, anything. If he saw the local ice-cream truck come around, he'd give him $100 so the kids could go wild on ice cream."

Another Wynwood local, 33-year-old Pastor Sergio, grew up and still resides in a fenced-in, two-bedroom, quaint yellow home across from Roberto Clemente Park. His life before becoming a man of faith included drugs and violence. Raw, he says, "brought Hoodstock to Wynwood, and that's a beautiful thing — there needs to be more positive events like that in every hood."

Asked if he found Raw the drug dealer at odds with Raw the community activist, Pastor Sergio responds, "Back then, everyone was involved in drugs somehow... Even the cops here in Wynwood sold drugs. The entire system was corrupt."

Yet one middle-aged Wynwood man, who wishes to remain anonymous, shakes his head in dismay. Sitting on a beat-up lawn chair on his front lawn, he says: "Drug dealers are scumbags. I don't care what good things you do for the community; you're putting drugs on the streets where kids can get ahold of them."

Raw contends he always told kids to stay away from drugs. "I could've easily took all my dope money and bought a mansion on Star Island or driven a fancy car, but I didn't. All my money I put into hip-hop and to educating the shorties that there's a way out. When the cops came and took me, I was chilling in a modest single-family home. I was never proud of the shit that I did, but, man, someone was gonna do it."

On September 6, 1997, the Miami Herald ran a story on Hoodstock with the heading, "Something Positive in the 'Hood." Ten days later, Raw was in a jail cell.

In a small, modest apartment in Hialeah Gardens, Omar Islam sets up his mom's VCR. As he closes the blinds, he says: "Excuse the quality. It's been dubbed a lot."

Amid scratches and poor sound, a coifed WSVN-TV (Channel 7) newscaster booms, "A popular DJ who served as a role model for kids in Wynwood was arrested today..."

The camera pans over a string of 26 cuffed felons lined in front of the Miami Police Station, most in boxers from the early-morning raid. Some cover their faces in shame.

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