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Local Rap's Last Stand

These days, Broward County isn't the haven for hip-hop that it once was. OK, maybe it never really was a haven to begin with, but things have gotten much worse for the genre over the past few months. Around this time last year, lovers of true school hip-hop could go...
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These days, Broward County isn't the haven for hip-hop that it once was. OK, maybe it never really was a haven to begin with, but things have gotten much worse for the genre over the past few months.

Around this time last year, lovers of true school hip-hop could go to the Poor House and check out their monthly Art of Moving Butts party or hit up Roxanne's on Main every Wednesday for their weekly hip-hop party called the Breaks. With talented MCs and DJs on hand, like Butta Verses, Dynas, Wrekonize, Immortal, and K-N-S, there was a sense of community and love for underground rap. And more important, both venues were prime spots for actual performing, not just for club DJs to spin Top 40 hip-hop and little else.

Every now and again, national big names would fall through like Souls of Mischief, KRS-One, Grandmaster Dee, or DMC from Run D.M.C., sometimes to perform, occasionally to just chill. Dee once told me while hanging outside of Roxanne's that it was the only place he'd found since moving here from Atlanta that reminded him of the old days in New York where the vibe was right and hip-hop was king.

But things are much different now. The Art of Moving Butts stopped throwing parties because the hosts got tired of running it and since Roxanne's on Main mysteriously burned down after it was purchased by a new owner, it's been hard for promoters to find a permanent home for a hip-hop weekly.

The biggest problem is that venues don't really want live local hip-hop. They'll try it, but typically, it doesn't last. Mex-One and Felix of the Unique Styles Crew, threw some successful parties at Teenie Weenie Martini's in Fort Lauderdale for a little over a month, but the owner of the building was none too pleased with seeing 150 b-boys and b-girls stuffed inside a tiny martini bar that's only supposed to hold 49 people. Hell, there was a time when hip-hop heads temporarily set up shop at Sonny's Stardust Lounge (a cool country and western bar on the outskirts of Fort Lauderdale) for a few shows, but that didn't last either.

Admittedly, neither spot was the right venue to host a hip-hop night, but a lot of promoters can't get bar owners to even talk about doing anything related to the genre. Right now, club music runs the show — which is ironic, since a lot of it is hip-hop anyway. But regardless, people show up for club music and buy drinks while it's playing, and, while I hate to admit it, you can't consistently count on the hip-hop crowd to do either. It's also ironic that, at a time when media interest in hip- hop has reached a high, the genre seems to be at its lowest point in SoFla.

Thankfully, a new hip-hop weekly has arrived in Broward County and it's starting to gain some traction. Devoted promoter Jasper Delaini of Audible Thriftshop, Dirty Dem of rap crew Word Perfect, and Limelight of Brokensound Blvd have all banded together to start a new Wednesday night gig called the Get Down. Last week I decided to go check it out, so I drove to O'Malley Sports Bar and Grill in Margate, where the Get Down is hosted, and got a good feel for the synergy that these guys are trying to create.

Unlike a lot of residencies, their premises are a little different.

"Each night has a different theme," said Delaini as we chilled by the bar at O'Malley's. "One week is an MC challenge, another week is all live shows, the next is open format with, like, rap trivia and giveaways or whatever. It's our way of mixing it up and giving people something different each time they come out."

Last Wednesday was a tribute to the Native Tongues crew (the famed New York collective consisting of De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Black Sheep, the Jungle Brothers, etc.) and the vibe inside was definitely one of community. There probably weren't more than 45 people there when I showed up around midnight, but on a drizzly, foggy night in the middle of the week, that wasn't a bad turnout. I walked in half hoping to see a few members of the Native Tongues hanging out, since Afrika Baby Bam from the Jungle Brothers and Maceo from De La Soul have both "retired" down here and call South Florida home. But no luck. Maceo is out of town, and Bam, who told Delaini that he would be there, never made it. No matter. DJ KEMS held it down just fine and a few MC's, like Surgeon General, Limelight, and a couple of random fools, jumped on the mic, started rapping jokes, and eventually had everybody in stitches.

Could the place have been more crowded? Sure. But Wednesdays have been a tough draw at O'Malley's for awhile, and now they've got hip-hop to help fill that gap. It's hard to say how long it will be there, since this is just their fifth week promoting the night, but Limelight thinks it's headed in the right direction.

"Yeah man, we're starting to build a buzz," he says. "More and more people are coming out... tonight's a little slow, but word is getting out there that a new hip-hop weekly has started."

Next Wednesday, Willie Evans Jr. from the Alias Brothers, the "N" Word, and Tough Junkie are coming down from Jacksonville to perform, along with a few local cats like the Benchwarmers and Kylla Bus. It's definitely a trek for the Jacksonville artists, but Delaini is hoping to build an alliance with other hip-hop artists throughout the state, and the Get Down is a big part of it.

"We want to get artists from other cities and bring 'em down here so that people can get a feel for hip-hop artists in other places and vice versa," Delaini says. "Hip-hop seems like it's dead right now but we want to keep the scene growing. Hopefully people will come out and support us."

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