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A Music Journo Says Goodbye to South Florida's Bullets, Hip-Hop, and Love of Rock

The party's over.

They finally figured it out.
After 24 months, New Times realized that it has been paying me to party hard with music celebrities. They've been shelling out cash for me to dance at night clubs, to hang out at rock concerts, and to simply dive in and write about South Florida's music scene.

It was a great scam, and in the process, I've drank myself blind at blues concerts, herbally medicated myself with the legendary reggae stars, and hung out with some of the best DJs on the planet - all on the company's dime. In short, they've been paying me to have a lot of fun.

It's a trick that I've pulled off (with varying degrees of success) for two years - writing about the most talented musicians, local or national, that I would discover each week, often delving into the

craziest aspects of our music culture that few other reporters had the werewithal to explore. But that no longer continues. This is my last blog.

I'm headed to Seattle to cover

music for New Times sister paper, Seattle Weekly. It's an

exhilarating and intimidating task to embrace, but I can't fully focus

on Seattle without thinking about all that I've learned here in South



When I first started this job two years ago, I was overwhelmed by it. I

was told before arriving that all the locals cared about here was rock

coverage. As a Detroiter, that didn't bother me, but I knew that meant

there was a lot more to discover.


In the past two years, South Florida's hip-hop scene has ballooned from

a regional gem that folks all over the South were beginning to

earnestly respect, to a national phenomenon that's dominating urban

airwaves all over the country. While we're not the only paper in town

that has noticed, I'd like to think nobody has covered the musicians

and producers who are making it happen better than we have. I'll never

forget being at Rick Ross' 2nd Annual Be Out Day last August and

literally running alongside rap celebrities with a tape recorder in

hand, getting quotes as bullets were still falling from the sky. I

wanted to make sure I got the story told accurately and captured the

essence of the shooting so that folks knew what really happened.


Likewise, there are thriving Caribbean communities here that I've been

humbled to write about and the myriad music genre's attached to them:

salsa, Latin jazz, reggaeton, reggae, dancehall, soca, kompa, etc.


In that sense, it has been a two part education: one on trying to become

a respectable pop music critic - a journey that will inevitably take

years - and secondly in learning to find under-reported communities and

consistently get their stories told.


I know I've got a lot more to learn, and I thank all the readers who kindly,

and not-so-kindly, let me know it. That type of accountability is

invaluable for a young music editor, and it's greatly appreciated.

Throughout it all, I've enjoyed myself, learned from tremendous

editors, and had a great team of local writers on my side to help the

print and online sections here at the paper shine. Although I've won

some statewide and national journalism awards since joining the staff

here, those accolades, at the moment, feel really small. What matter

most is the kick-ass musicians that continue to make South Florida an

important destination.


If anything disappointed me during my tenure here, it's the lack of

support many of these acts receive in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Folks often mistake this part of SoFla as a musical wasteland filled

with little more than booty beats and dive bar bands - and the music

scene here suffers because of it. Folks are more willing to pony up $25

to see a national touring act than they are to support a local band

that isn't even charging cover. When that part of the music culture

here ceases to exist, things will thrive, and we'll be able to import

more talent than we export.


There are too many stories than I care to think about that I'm leaving

unwritten. This year is poised to become a good year for so many music acts

here, and I'm sad that I won't be able to stick around and experience it.

But I'm sure I'll be reading about many of them in glossy national

magazines. But I'm leaving this blog in

capable hands. Arielle Castillo, who works as the music editor at Miami New Times and co-edited this blog with me, will be coordinating coverage full time.


The music will always be here, but it's time for me to step aside. The road awaits, so I'm out of here.


Thanks for reading.

-- Jonathan Cunningham

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Arielle Castillo
Contact: Arielle Castillo

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