The Secret History of Hip-Hop In Miami – Part I: Enter The Wrekonize Factor

tony muhammed When an up and coming local emcee known as Wrekonize won the second MTV2 MC Battle in November, it grasped the Hip-Hop world’s immediate attention to not only him, but to the big question “What kind of Hip-Hop do they have in Miami?” Obviously, Wrekonize did not fit the profile of what many deem as the norm for what has come out of Miami Hip-Hop historically. What has been typical has been either the booty shaking, bass filled, sexually-oriented sounds of Uncle Luke or the bounce-oriented materialism found in a Trick Daddy or Trina type song. This young artist is light skinned (or “white”), clean cut, with a complex traditional culture (or “true school”) flow that would blow away most emcees in the spot light today. In finding out more about his background, it would lead many people to scratch their heads even further.

Originally from England (of both English and South African descent), Wrekonize moved with his family to Miami Beach at a very young age. He remembers how his parents were very much into the East-Coast Hip-Hop that was around at the time, with artists such as Heavy D and the Boyz and Guru when he was heavily pumping the Jazzmatazz in the early 90s. Soon after, he and his family moved to Broward where there was nothing close to there being a Hip-Hop scene at the time. During his high school years in the late 90s, he would visit Miami, constantly in search of a true Hip-Hop scene. He found flyers in various spots promoting underground B-Boy events held at the Polish American Club. He began attending them and became very moved by the emcee battle portions of the venues. This was so much so, that he decided for himself to polish up his rhyming skills and begin entering in some of these battles. He recalls participating at one of the very first Who Can Roast The Most? Events, in which he was knocked out of competition early because competing emcees were more known since they all went to Miami high schools, therefore in a better position to gain favoritism by local judges. But he didn’t allow this to keep him down. In a very untraditional way, he would prepare for battles at home by “picking objects in a room and describing them or finding things to talk about with different people.” He describes the sharpening of his rhyming skills as “a train reflex that you have to really keep up with, if not it will get real dusty and you’ll get real slow.” Yet, Wrekonize did not start making a name for himself in the local scene until another battle rapper by the name of H2O befriended him at the Who Can Roast The Most? events, in which they hooked up and formed the Illiteratz along with a third emcee and began to “infest all the jams.”



After a while, Wrekonize indeed began to become recognized for his skills and would win a considerable amount of battles. It led to the point that many held him as practically unbeatable. His reputation pushed him to enter a contest advertised by 103.5 The Beat, in which the winner would compete at the second MTV2 MC Battle. After winning the determining battle at Envision Studios in North Miami, it was off to New York, to compete at the national level, and eventually to ultimate glory. Wrekonize described the experience as being “great.” He added “MTV took real good care of us.” He mentioned how better organized the second battle was compared to the first (broadcasted in September) and how much wittier the battlers were. He also said that the battle “was more of a battle of nerves,” considering that he was out of his “natural surroundings” in competition with emcees totally unknown to him and crowded by cameras, which affected his performance at times. At the same time, in a positive light, the venue did not hold the same amount of people as other more grueling events he has competed in like Scribble Jams, which had an audience of thousands. He stressed that “The Cameras hid the fact that so many more people were actually watching.”

Reflecting on other aspects of the battle, Wrekonize mentioned how MTV awarding him $25,000 for winning “looks legitimate.” Yet, the promised deal with Rocafella that came along with it is “still in the dark.” He admitted “I really don’t know how they were going to work it out.” He continued “Throughout the whole battle it was weird. The judges (all artists on Rocafella) had an incredible amount of plug ins about their CDs coming out, which was disrespectful. It became a theme throughout the battle.” He explained how the battle had an added ending after the cameras were turned off. He stressed “When it all went down, Damon Dash gave us a pound and gave us a mixtape, like ‘Here, go buy our albums.’” Determined to capitalize on the experience regardless, Wrekonize firmly stated “It was a little strange, but we came back to Miami with the attitude that we’re going to continue to do this with their help or without their help.” And this, he has shown and proved, by receiving considerable press recently from the Miami New Times and XXL and making appearances on TRL and Video Mixx.

Wrekonize’s producer, Nick Fury, points out that “For a long time now, Miami has had no presence in Hip-Hop.” He describes the styles emulated by Trick Daddy and Trina, which is what is normally expected to come out of Miami, as “more of an amalgamation of different styles, which is off the Hip-Hop tree, but it is not the core essence of what we do.” He added with “I think with Wrek winning the battle, it reaffirmed what we always knew. We have ill emcees down here. Everyone saw that Miami won this.” Nick mentions several Miami Hip-Hop artists that expressed an organically-pure (or true school) flavor in the mid-90s such as Mother Superia and Society who were signed to record deals and appeared on programs such as Rap City and Teen Summit but then disappeared from sight before given the opportunity to make some major noise. Living true to his ideology, Nick makes it his profession to not only do production work for artists, but develop them intellectually and steer them on the right path. At his studio he teaches all whom he mentors, including Liquid Shield producers Da Deala and Profile, about the true history behind Hip-Hop and the music that has accompanied it. Such artists and producers all express great appreciation for having such an inspiration in Nick.

True indeed, not only do Wrekonize and Nick Fury attest to a huge Hip-Hop underground scene that has been neglected in terms of exposure, but also others such as Funk Jazz Lounge resident DJ Snowhite sheds light to the darkness. In 1997, she launched her South Beach venture “Faatland,” a Hip-Hop/poetry open mic venue with live band performances, which is still on the tongue of many in the underground circuit. She started the venue in response to the demand that was around for an open mic Hip-Hop spot after Fat Tuesdays shut down in 1996; a demand that was fueled by the underexposed true school flavor that many Miami Hip-Hop heads expressed. Snowhite commented about why the underground scene has never received the exposure that it rightfully deserves “I blame it on radio. Everything you hear is controlled. People only know of those they hear. How can other emcees have support and gain recognition if they can’t even be heard? How many out here know about Mother Superia, Mangu, Mic Tha Rippa, and countless others. The other Hip Hop music is not corrupt enough to be on the airwaves or picked up by major labels.”

Crazyhood Productions’ DJ EFN has a different opinion about the radio’s impact on Miami as he has seen how it has shaped Miami culture in recent years – going from times in which no Hip-Hop was being played on the air waves to the way Miami is today, with three competing Hip-Hop playing stations. He expressed in an interview that radio has promoted cross-interest in the different forms of Hip-Hop expression in Miami and how he eventually wants his own radio show to teach about the true history of Hip-Hop. EFN stressed “That’s needed to turn Hip-Hop more of a culture in Miami.”

Stay tuned next month for part II.