Puttin' the Breaks On
Puttin' the Breaks On It was like the Bronx circa 1982. A pair of graffiti artists were busy doing up a wall outside the nightclub. Meanwhile, a couple of b-boys were inside trading moves on the dance floor. A DJ held it down with beats older than half the audience. It was like a Fort Lauderdale version of Wild Style, the classic film that chronicled New York City hip-hop in the early '80s. All that was missing was an old-school MC battle, like the scene where the Cold Crush Brothers traded barbs with the Fantastic Five on a b-ball court. The Cold Crush Brothers... remember them? There was one guy at the club who sure did, and it was no mere coincidence that I was reminded of the group. The headlining MC was none other than Cold Crush Brother Charlie Chase. The club was Roxanne's on Main (3148 NE 12th Ave., Oakland Park). And the event? The weekly Breaks night that goes down every Wednesday.
What started in late July with resident DJs Robby Riggs (AKA, DJ Trippin) and Isaac Alexander grew to include a couple of familiar faces in the Broward hip-hop scene Jasper Delaini (Secondhand Outfit MC and owner of Audio Thrift Shop Records) and Lex One of Real Life Dialect. And in the two months since they've been involved, the Breaks has played host to a handful of local hip-hop stalwarts Butta Verses, Jabr Jaw, DJ Immortal, Dee Dubbs, Protoman, 32 Oz Crew, Doc Sus, and, of course, Secondhand Outfit and Real Life Dialect.
"The night's getting progressively better," Riggs said, well aware of the challenge he faces to keep a weekly event from falling flat. "Hip-hop parties are notorious for doing well off the bat, but then people say, OK, where do we go next?' But more people seem to be coming out each week. The crowd represents a good mix of the rap spectrum, both radio fans and underground types."
But like any decent party, there are a few haters who think it's too loud so said the BSO deputy who showed up at the Charlie Chase show, responding to a noise complaint.
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"I've given them many warnings," he told me. "It's ridiculous. I'm finally writing up the bar."
But according to everyone I asked including Alexander, who now owns the place there hasn't been a disturbance since Roxanne's moved the party inside several months ago.
"I've had good relationships with cops since I've been in charge," Alexander told me a few days later. "As far as I know, the first official noise complaint was [the Charlie Chase show]."
Fortunately, there were no such disturbances the following Sunday, when Broken Sound Boulevard made its debut on the inside stage. In the past couple of months, I'd heard quite a bit about the group of local MCs (now backed by Riggs), whose brand of sample-happy, throw-yo-hands-in-the-air songs are a welcome relief to the overproduced fluff on the radio. BSB originally planned to do its first show at the end of August, during a Breaks night. But that fell on the same week as the Ernesto scare and was headlined by an out-of-town act (Atlanta's Mars ILL). So BSB's gig was postponed a month and a half. It seems to have paid off they were tight and had loads of stage presence. But that's how all the performers were that night from Delaini's tireless, on-the-mark political screed to Protoman's animated story-telling and Lex One's anecdotal rhymes, I was damned impressed. Seriously. It was one of those moments where you realize the injustice of pop music how groups like BSB routinely get overlooked by trend-hopping record execs who say that "smart music doesn't sell." Well, that's because you're not selling it, fuckface. With any luck, BSB will soon outgrow the small stage at Roxanne's that is, if they can keep up with its growth.
By the time you read this (well, by this Friday, anyway), the performance space inside Roxanne's will have doubled. It turns out that the neighboring "Flooring Warehouse" has been part of Roxanne's for a while now; it just hasn't been utilized. But that'll change this week when the wall that separates the old warehouse from the club the one that runs along the right side of the stage gets knocked down. And it comes just in time for a performance by Detroit electro-rockers Adult, who christen the new space with a show this Friday, November 3. The expansion is necessary to keep up with the club's growing popularity.
"That room is already part of the bar, and it hadn't been used for years," Alexander said. "Pretty much everything over there was already set up, so we just need to knock down that wall."
It's not just the club that's been gaining momentum recently; Alexander himself has become something of a lynchpin for Broward's indie party scene. The DJ and host of Crush Thursdays first hooked up with Roxanne's this past March, when he launched Phoenix, Crush's Friday-night equivalent. But in July, Alexander's involvement with the club became a full-time venture when he bought the damned thing. Though Crush still takes place at the Rumor Lounge on Fort Lauderdale Beach (Thursday has always been punk night at Roxanne's), at least regulars of the historically nomadic party don't have to worry about losing yet another venue. Now there's a backup plan a home, if you will, and Phoenix has found it. This is not something that just happened, of course. Roxanne's success is as much about elbow grease as knowing what songs to play. Just ask Delaini.
"South Florida's not the type of place where you can just play good music and expect people to come out," he said. "It takes a lot of hard work."
That it does. But the crew at Roxanne's makes it look easy and does so with loads of style Wild Style.
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