By Natalya Jones
By County Grind
By Liz Tracy
By Chris Joseph
By Liz Tracy
By Matt Preira
By Jesse Scheckner
By Michael E. Miller
"Get Like Me" by David Banner
"For me, strip clubs have played a big role in my success," Greezy says. "That's where I get the most spins. That's where I'm welcome at, and you don't have to go through as much of a hassle to get your music played."
In Greezy's case, he used "Shone" 's popularity in black strip clubs as leverage when dealing with program directors at radio stations.
"My record just took off in the strip clubs. Then the underground stations played it, and the main stations had no choice not to play it. It was basically like, 'Everybody else is playing it, so why are y'all not playing it?' "
Next up at the DJ booth is 23-year-old Leo Croissy, AKA Lee Major, a rapper and president of the upstart Liberty City label Boss Grind Records. Minutes later, the DJ spins his new single, "Danger." The beat has a West Coast feel, and a dancer on stage with an ass like a brontosaurus two-steps and shimmies to the music instead of working the pole. It's a ghetto ballet, where pussy-popping and booty-bouncing look like performance art.
"Most of my raw music, I take it to the strip club first to see if the dancers can get a feel for it," Major says while standing next to the DJ booth. "Radio, they want the songs to be mastered and be clean. Certain things I can't do 'cause I don't have money like that. But I can take my songs to the strip clubs and get a real reaction from the people."
It's 3 a.m. Sunday morning inside of B.T.'s Gentlemen's Club, just south of the University of Miami. The dimly lit club is packed with a strange mix of students, middle-aged white guys, high rollers, and average Joes. As for demographics, the club is mixed, with dancers of all ethnicities.
Longtime strip-club DJ Billy Rice works the boards. He plays the gamut: Lenny Kravitz's "I Belong to You," Grind Mode's "I'm So High," T-Pain's "Can't Believe It," Snoop Dogg's "Sexual Eruption," and Pitbull's "Shake." Billy is a pro at reading a room and figuring out if he needs the erotic songs to up the sexual tension or the ones with the better beats to help raise the energy.
"Don't judge me by tonight, though," Billy says after passing me a business card. It reads "DJ Billy Rice — Strip Club Professional." Billy explains that the owners told him not to play too much hip-hop that night. He says he's keeping it safe. "If it were up to me, I'd be playing more street stuff."
To look at Rice, you'd never expect this graying, 55-year-old white guy could be so up-to-date on hip-hop.
"I get stuff from guys that nobody has," Billy brags a few days later by phone. "And with me, I want the new stuff." If somebody asks him for something he doesn't know, Billy says he writes it down so he can look it up later. "Some DJs, you ask them for a song, and if they don't have it, they don't write it down, and they couldn't care less to find it. They won't even go home and download it for free off Limewire. To me, that's just lazy."
His interest in keeping up with new strip-club music has earned him fans. "The other day, I was at DJ Khaled's CD signing, and Flo Rida comes up to me, then Brisco, Grindmode, Ace Hood, all these people are saying hello, 'cause I play their music in the club. Sometimes, I look around and think, 'Who the hell am I to be rubbing elbows with all of these people, Pitbull, Rick Ross, and those guys?' But they always show me love, and I show it right back."
Born and raised outside of Boston, Rice has a heavy New England accent. He initially started out in the late '80s running a mobile DJ business, working weddings and parties. Looking for a change, he moved to Florida 11 years ago and started moonlighting as a DJ at the old Nice and Naughty strip club in Miami. He's still doing it partly for the money but also for the thrill of being the puppet master in a room full of sexually charged, naked women.
"I laugh and joke around — half the stuff that comes out of my mouth is sexual in nature, but I don't date the girls," Rice says. "It's my job to make sure they're making money but also that they always stay safe and don't get in too much trouble." With a hearty laugh, he adds, "Now, if a girl ends up on her knees, I'll say thank you, but I'd never ask for it."
John Todora, the longtime DJ at Tootsie's Cabaret in Miami Gardens, has been the face of numerous strip clubs from West Palm Beach to Miami for a decade. He laughs when recalling the story of how he first got into the business. "A friend of mine was telling me how he'd just trained to work at a strip club the night before. And he goes, 'The guy I was working with made $300 last night and got three blowjobs.' He and I went back and forth about what was better, the $300 or the three blowjobs... But either way, I knew I wanted in."