Music News

SpaceGhostPurrp and Gunplay Will Stamp Carol City on the Hip-Hop Map... or Die Tryin'

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Eventually, though, he took his lawyer's advice and returned to Miami, turning himself in to police October 10. He was released on a $150,000 bond and placed on house arrest, and spent the next three months making new tracks, playing Xbox, and contemplating the life sentence hanging over his head.

His trial was set to begin this past February. But before jury selection, prosecutors dropped the charges. Woodside had left town and refused to continue cooperating.

Gunplay insists he's become a better person through the ordeal. "I've realized I can't deal with niggas like I normally deal with them in the hood," he says. "If you put words in my mouth, I can't punch you in the mouth, break your kneecaps, or do any other stupid shit."

Before he heads back inside to record another track, Gunplay shows off his newest tattoo: a razor blade slicing his left wrist, and blood pouring out of his vein.

"It means the old me is dead," he says. "The stubborn, disrespectful motherfucker who got money one day only to be broke the next is gone. I stopped not giving a fuck all the time. Sometimes, you have to give a fuck."

Ben Bell rides through the parking lot of a dilapidated public apartment complex at NW 185th Street and 29th Avenue. He points at a crumbling façade.

"These apartments used to be called the 'pink and white buildings," the Carol City music producer says. "This is where Flo Rida was born and raised. He shot one of his videos over by the basketball court."

The CD player in Bell's beat-up white Chevrolet Caprice blasts tracks by one of his own artists, Beast Mode. "Carol City was once a thriving middle-class, mixed-race community," he rhapsodizes. "Now we've got countless murders on a daily basis, and the crime rate is at an all-time high."

As its native sons teeter between violence, prison, and rap greatness, the town that birthed them is still fighting its own struggle for stability. More than a decade after its gang wars ended, Carol City has never come close to regaining its distinction as a safe middle-class black neighborhood.

In 2003, Carol City became part of the newly incorporated Miami Gardens. But the killings continued. By 2011, Miami Gardens was second in murders per capita in the county, with 24 killings, trailing only nearby Opa-locka. The next year, Miami Gardens notched 25 more homicides. By comparison, Hialeah, which has roughly double Miami Gardens' population of 110,000, had just four murders in 2011 and seven in 2012.

The crimes are often just as gruesome as the gangland killings of old. In a 32-hour span last month, unknown shooters killed a 12-year-old girl and injured her grandmother near their home on 42nd Avenue. Two other men were critically wounded in a hail of gunfire while they were at a McDonald's drive-thru at NW 27th Avenue and 183rd Street.

Bell wishes Carol City's success stories would do more to build up the community. "You can divert a lot of that negative energy into something positive," he opines.

For now, SpaceGhostPurrp and Gunplay might be too focused on beating their own demons and notching hip-hop success to worry about their hometown's fate.

After his two run-ins with the police this past November and January, SpaceGhostPurrp and his Raider Klan signed with the William Morris talent agency, which booked them for gigs at Ultra Music Festival in downtown Miami in March and Coachella in April.

But SpaceGhost's prospects have taken lumps in recent months. In June, hip-hop blogs buzzed with the news that he'd parted ways with talented Klan artists Denzel Curry, Sky Lex, Chris Travis, and Eddy Jordan. wrote on June 17 that "SpaceGhostPurrp's unpredictable streak is precisely what got people interested in the first place, but it seems like these days it might be bad for business."

Yet SpaceGhostPurrp dismisses the criticism, insisting the remaining eight members of Raider Klan, six of whom hail from Miami, form a strong core. Their recent marathon recording sessions have produced dozens of tracks, which SpaceGhostPurrp and Kadafi will whittle down into Raider Klan's album set to release on Empire Records next year.

"I'm trying to elevate the hip-hop movement in Miami," SpaceGhostPurrp says. "[I need to] stop worrying about what the haters say about us."

Gunplay isn't rushing to put out his debut, which he now expects will hit stores next summer. When he's not shooting videos for the songs on his mixtape Acquitted, he passes the time by taking his son to football practice, posting 15-second videos of himself acting a fool on Instagram, and penning lyrics.

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.