It was a hot Friday night in Fort Lauderdale and Dred Scott had hip-hop on the brain. It'd been a while since I'd found a comfortable place to enjoy beats, rhymes, and life in Broward County, and I was getting frustrated.
The lull in hip-hop-related events around these parts is starting to frustrate a lot of people. Aside from an occasional gig at Sonny's Stardust Lounge in Fort Lauderdale, a country-and-western bar with an open mind, there hasn't been anything for the urban crowd to fasten on all summer.
It didn't help that Roxanne's on Main axed the one hip-hop weekly that Broward County was known for, The Breaks, back in May — and then caught fire and closed. There hasn't been a place since where the b-boys and b-girls can gather. All the hip-hop shows are down in Miami now, just like they used to be.
Can't Stop, Won't Stop
Broward can do better.
So I was elated to hear that the Unique Styles Crew recently started a weekly at Teenie Weenie Martini's in Fort Lauderdale, specializing in old school hip-hop, funk, and '80s freestyle, hosted by affable local b-boys Mex One and Felix. The idea is that DJs spin jams while breakdancers entertain and house band Fusik jumps in throughout the night to play funk — all in an upscale martini bar.
I saw a flier from the show the week before promoting the b-boy battle "Civil Wars 4: North Florida vs. South Florida." Crews from Jacksonville, Tampa, and Orlando had come down to our turf to battle crews from Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
The fact that this was happening in an upscale martini lounge sounded too good to be true.
Last Friday night I made my way to Teenie Weenie's, on U.S. 1 just north of Oakland Park Boulevard. Close to 200 kids were crammed inside and spilling onto the sidewalk and into the parking lot. All seemed happy and peaceable. In fact, it was the most positive energy I'd seen at a music event in a long time. Teenie Weenie's doesn't have that name for nothing, however — its capacity is less than half the size of that crowd.
I could tell Mex One was proud when I saw him at the door. "It's great to see so many people here all getting along, dancing and having a good time," he said, grinning.
It's hard to find places for breakdancing, Mex said, "so even though this place is small, we're glad to be here."
Inside, the b-boys and b-girls were top-rocking, floor-rocking, and doing windmills and backspins as screens around the bar showed videos of breakdancing competitions. A few older patrons sat at the bar drinking highballs and martinis, while other folks sat on the bar in shell-toes and matching tracksuits.
Into all this stepped the building's owner, Robert Roselli. And he threw a fit. He was cursing. He wanted it all shut down.
When Roselli stepped outside, ostensibly to call the police, Mex tried to stop him.
"I told him, 'Hey, we're not destroying anything and we're all being peaceful,' " Mex said later, "but he wanted to shut the whole thing down. When they see people in their late teens and early 20s and the word hip-hop is involved, people always think the worst."
Roselli was mollified for the time being, and the party went on until closing time, but Unique Styles won't be invited back to Teenie Weenie's to host events again any time soon.
"It's the wrong venue for their events," Roselli told me this week. "It's too small."
What if they scaled it down? I asked.
"They could never do it," he said. "The capacity for the bar is 49 people. They could never have only 40 people and do anything substantial."
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Felix, however, was unconvinced that size alone was the issue. "I feel like they don't know anything about hip-hop," he told me this week, "and they think we're all gang members or something when they see people dancing like that.
"I know that hip-hop will keep on going, and we'll find another place," he continued. "Probably bigger than this one. We don't rely on someone to keep hip-hop alive. We'll do it ourselves one way or another. That's the way hip-hop is."
And that's when I heard those deathless words creeping up: can't stop, won't stop.
It's been a hip-hop motto for more than 30 years. Because for more than 30 years, hip-hop has been hitting speed bumps, from too-small venues to fear of people dancing — and that won't stop either.