The following is a recollection of facts from the year 2003. It was without a doubt the year that propelled Drum & Bass to the forefront of electronic dance music. This is a record of that experience as best to my ability to recall. Each of these entries are part of the sequel to Full Moon Nights called Magical Maydaze. Names have been changed and aliases used to protect identities. Dates and details may not be accurate considering it was 20 years ago.
Miami, FL – September 2003
Four months back in Miami. The Drum & Bass scene was in full effect. This one was a warehouse party that was put together I think after the original venue fell through. This was somewhere in NW by downtown. Basically a random door you wouldn’t even notice. I believe this was someone’s house or something. Memories of panicking and having to go outside cause earlier that year was The Station night club fire and this was taken from the dj booth. The exit was the top left-that just led into a narrow hallway and then into a living room that was just as packed and then the exit. I tried my best to emcee and just jam to the music because the place was getting more and more packed and everyone was dancing. Cause 4 Concern was one of the first groups that marked the new modern wave of DnB in 1999 and this was their second or third time in Miami. It was a big deal and was the first time I was like oh shit Miami is built different when it came to DnB and along with Torque (a premiere weekly Drum & Bass event in Orlando), Florida had become the DnB Gateway to America.
If you didn’t pay attention to the grime you were probably better off but it some instances you either couldn’t help but look or was forced to cause you were waiting for people in front of you to move. The accident on the highway effect so to speak. That’s what it was like to get in and get out. I recall feeling suffocated waiting in the hallway that led to the dance floor hoping that wasn’t the exact moment someone set some shit off or a fight broke out. It would not have been pretty.
But once you did make it into this living room kind of spot, People took a moment to breathe or even pause and chill on a couch. One memory burned into my cortex was how my stoned roommate Jim who joined me to this party like he did many times since we frequented the same electronic dance music scenes. He was an IDM DJ for a local college radio and I recall him finding a spot at the end of this couch and claiming it right before I left him for the dance room to join the other emcees. It was still early and the local DJ’s were warming up the crowd that was already super thick. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw tbh.
That’s not Jim. That’s some random dude but it was just like that. Anyway once you got past this person’s living room you got to an open area that had been converted into a dance room. A DJ booth of sorts was set up in the back and as many speakers as they could find and it filled the room with loud ass Drum & Bass. This is what these times were all about. If you could put aside the realization that there was just one exit, you were in for a treat. Cause 4 Concern was back in Miami. One of the godfather duos of DnB and I want to say it was the first since back in Miami in a few years. Part of me wants to think it was their second time but I ‘m not sure. Burn was down with C4C so I’m pretty sure they were here pre-2003 for a Winter Music Conference party or maybe for Torque, the premiere Drum & Bass party in Florida that took place in Orlando. But I know this time around it was all Burn. He was the top organizer and promoter for many the drum and bass parties post 2003 and was the single reason Dubstep later blew up in South FL. Many point to Beatcamp because they were first to bring DnB to Miami but his streak of events that year and beyond at venues like Black Sheep and the Get Low dubstep parties make him a legend in the South FL EDM scene.
This was something different and something of a throwback. Most parties by now were on the beach and when you walked into here you were like on shit this is a rave party. Yet I always caution and correct because the Drum & Bass scene by now was more than a rave party. These gatherings were purely music focused as opposed to the often drug/party focused events of the pre 2000 era. I don’t want to say that the original raves weren’t about the music because they were, it’s just you can’t deny it’s relation to drug culture is strong. You had to be about the music first because these parties don’t get started if there isn’t a record to have a needle dropped on, but the Trance and Breakbeat rooms were where you found the traditional raver while in the DnB room we referred to ourselves as Junglists.
A difference is there was a lot of energy expended at Drum & Bass parties and even I found myself saying early into the transition of being a raver to a pure junglist is that I could not roll to every party. Not only were they too frequent but also these parties got hot as fuck and they were very high energy. It’s an aerobic workout every time and you have to have plenty of water and stamina. Many ravers who dropped and came to DnB parties found themselves to be a fish out of water after the first record drop when they realized how much energy you expel. You had to be very vigilant of your core temperature and rehydrating. Ravers have always been dealing with high energy events but Dnb was just that much more simply because the BPM were that much higher. Rolling and Enhanced Ravers preferred the slower tempo of Trance/House and Breaks cause when the drug would hit hard you just would want to lay back and chill. The Drum & Bass Room was often too much for that.
The vibe was thick. The air was hot and humid and you could taste everyone’s sweat. Most people respected the space and smoked cigarettes outside but there was a thick ass cloud of squares and weed inside as people in the front passed blunts and joints that made their way back into the dance room. You couldn’t really smoke cigarettes (although many tried and did) because someone would always bump into you and you’d end up burning someone and knocking out the cherry. I was always packing so when I finally made my way to the DJ booth to emcee I squeezed next to MAD and we passed a bowl of green before hitting the mic. At this time I was still living at home with the rents having moved back home from college. It was difficult being a weed smoker because I was coming from a place of pure freedom. I had my connections that I had made over four years and coming home I was relegated to regs and hood weed again. What was my saving grace was my current connect was a DJ I had known from the Orlando scene that moved to Miami. Barry Neo was from Philadelphia and we were both Torque regulars. We bonded when we recognized each other in Miami at a party earlier in the summer. After moving down we were both trying to forge our own names in the scene that was dominated by Miami natives and we quickly got along over music, weed and our O-Town connection. He sold crippy and high grade chronic which was a god send that kept me from having to meet up with hoodrats and gangster dudes in the hole or at a gas station always looking to rip. Barry Neo was down to earth and chill and always eager to listen to mine and Chavez’s latest track.
I can’t remember but I might have actually given MAD a ride to this party. Or ride home. I was driving a black Hyundai Accent manual speed that was brand new but didn’t have AC or a radio which is why I was able to get it super cheap at like 3k. I installed a tape player and would use a tape adapter to connect a CD player. I met MAD at a party in Fort Lauderdale where the first DnB parties of the summer 2003 took place. Curt Richardson was a producer like many of us, and Chavez had met him over the net while pushing his first tracks out to labels. Curt had started his own DnB label and was trying to make his own mark in the scene by doing his own parties and signing up Chavez to be released on his label and play at a small weekly in Hollywood.
Like mosts artists when high levels congregate they seem to attract more and around the same time Duchess had arrived. Duchess was a female DnB emcee and probably one of the first in Miami and by my standards one of if not the best. A defining pioneer for female American DnB emcees, she was at every DnB party and emceed for most of the biggest DJ’s that played that year and beyond. Admittedly and embarrassingly I forget the other emcee (pictured with MAD) but I do recall him being super down and a popular Broward emcee that I remember teaming up with often when I attended parties in Hollywood.
Being a Drum and Bass emcee at the time was probably the best. There was fewer people at the time willing to walk up and take the mic to emcee over a DJ that’s being paid. Now a days if you aren’t known by the promoter or by the emcee on the flyer that night chances are you aren’t getting on. Back then while guarded and sacred you could still get a shot on the mic . Often an emcee was needed to get the party going and hype up the crowd when a drop doesn’t hit like a dj wants. That’s not to say an emcee can’t be a trainwreck worse than a dj off beat. If you were going to get on the mic at this time in Miami you had to bring it because everyone was pretty high level and once you crossed the stage there was no going back. I credit MAD big time because here was this kid who was younger than me already rapping on the mic at a pretty decent level and he was cool enough to hand it to me when I asked. There was no way he could know that for the past four years I had been emceeing up in Orlando during DnB parties and get togethers of my own. I spent countless hours in my bedroom in college singing and emceeing while making beats with Drew and Chavez and we had just put out our first tracks. I had numerous journals filled with rhymes that I had written through out college for the endless amount of freestyle battles that happened during frat parties and I was ready to unleash every verse on Miami.
SIDE BAR: Thinking about it now I have to say Rollins College between 1999-2003 was I’m sure like many placed littered with great emcees. We would have battles in my dorm room at PHut or at Chi Si and then TKE after I met Crazy Chris, who was without a doubt the best emcee on campus. There was this other Chris in Chi Si and this other dude that was friends with Crazy at TKE that was also super tough to go against. I would always get ragged on for writing but as time went on I started to see how many of them repeated the same words and phrases and because I wrote I always was dropping something different. The battles would always end with me and Crazy who was just a master of freestyle.
BACK TO THE STORY:
Cause 4 Concern hit hard in 1999 when Drum & Bass was establishing itself as the 3rd room in the rave scene. Miami had a drum and bass scene built by the Beatcamp pioneers but the scene was still small by 2001 standards as there was a firm trinity in Miami, South Florida and beyond with Trance, Breakbeats and Drum & Bass being the premiere EDM genres that played in the clubs. Within those genres were many sub genres and when I left for college in 99′ Two Step, Darkcore and Neurofunk was the most popular styles of Drum and Bass in Miami. They fit right into a post Neon 80s Miami and turned it into techno Blade Runner by the beach. The off beat rhythms and emphasis on percussions appealed to the many young Latins and Hispanics of both the Rock and Hip Hop cultures who all shared Salsa and Merengue backgrounds.
POC have also always loved music backed by heavy bass and Miami is often referred to as The City of Bass. The birthplace of Booty Music and co-home to Freestyle, the city was ripe to be taken over by dance genres like Trance/House and Breakbeat but there was large population with in dance music that lusted for something harder, darker and faster. Something both organic and technological with animalistic vibes. Neo primal beats that did more than move you side to side. This was a communal experience that you couldn’t escape. A modern day mechanical conga line of sorts. An orgy of dancing bodies engrossed and high on adrenaline. There is no doubt there was a different energy in the Drum and Bass room than in the Trance and Breakbeat rooms which were still littered with Candy Kids and Ravers from the yesteryear. At this time many people were looking down at the raver because they had brought a lot of heat down on the party and club scene with numerous overdoses across the state and an impending anti-rave law (see The RAVE Act) making it’s debut (introduced by Joe Biden BTW), so Drum and bass was an escape from the Vicks and the glowsticks. I still had a soft spot for the rave scene but for many there was a division between the DnB scene and the Trance/Breakbeat scenes and they would go out of their way to let it be known. There are purists in every scene but I totally understood why they did it here. They were protecting this space from irresponsible people and most of all from delinquent crowds attracted to the music and the women of the scene but unwilling to let the bullshit go at the door. The Jungle and Drum & Bass scenes did good to root out most of the trouble makers and we were lucky to experience so many gatherings without any major problems. These drum and bass parties redefined the Miami music scene and this was just the beginning.
Cause 4 Concern was one of the first big DJ groups to come to Miami in 2003 and along with Fierce who was considered a huge artist in the Drum & Bass scene, they helped put Miami on the map early and get people excited for a growing scene that was backed by a growing online community on the FloridaDnB. Eventually I will talk about the night Fierce destroyed the Polish American Club but for now we gotta stay on target.
The party lasted deep into the night and surprisingly went without a hitch. I thought it was a miracle cops didn’t show up cause we were loud. This was before I regularly started wearing earplugs and I remember the walk back and hum of bees in my skull. Even though I spent the remainder of the evening outside cause the packed bodies and heat was overwhelming, it was still a great time. This was one of the parties I remember being as close to that scene in the Matrix in the caves as possible cause the AC was either broken or just not enough or both. It didn’t matter it contributed to the vibe.
As I look back writing this I know this party in particular probably was forgotten especially since there were so many jams that year and beyond, yet I hope that some people remember it or at least are reminded of it now. This was a epic event that year and wasn’t even the best party I went to. It was just so communal, so intimate that energy pressed against your soul. I think this was the party that had the most core of the scene that year as it was a who’s who of the DnB underground.
The local DJs were stars this night cause they kept everyone into it as Cause 4 Concern showed up late and literally had just arrived off the plane. The dudes looked exhausted but still showed up and dropped the latest hits from the Drum & Bass mainland. The United States was considered second rate and inferior to British and UK Drum & Bass who had birthed the genre out of early Garage and Dance groups merging Ragga with Electronica. Being able to book the biggest names in the states would put you on the DnB map which was just beginning to mold itself. A lot of producers knew this and like a gold rush they moved to obtain whatever programs they could to create beats to try and get DJ’s to drop. There were many FL locals who had their beats played in the UK and soon a bridge was built for a premiere scene to grow. People were coming to FL because often it was DJ’s only stop on the East Coast and the best vacation spot for a DJ.
When I made my way back to the living room area I was relieved to be able to breathe and be within a few steps of the exit. I could feel the cool air from out side so I mingled with some locals before noticing Burn outside who I wanted to talk with. On my way out I remembered Jim and wondered where the hell he had gone. I came with him and it had been hours since I first got there and made my way through the crowd to emcee. When I turned I noticed Jim sitting on the couch in the same spot I last saw him. He had not moved and I wondered if he had a bad time but he said he was too stoned to move and spent the whole time talking with a bunch a people and had this debate with this dude about international underground films and IDM, so he had a wail of a time. Jim was ahead of the game musically speaking and he was deep into IDM back in high school and by now had amassed one of the most solid record collections in Miami. It wasn’t big but it was meticulously curated and filled with rare tracks from many underground IDM producers that would blow up a decade later.
I asked of he was good to go and we walked outside to mingle with other DJ’s and producers who were all getting air. I saw Burn and thanked him for the party and he said it was just some get together nothing special. We spoke more and said our goodbye until the next jam. Jim then suggested we get tacos. Still can’t remember if I gave MAD a ride home.
Words and Photography by A. Anico (EL TOPO/@NICO/PMCRW/Studio Mogura)