Hip Hop in South Beach is all about Level, not Styles and music

There’s nothing better than returning to the shadiness of South Beach. Even when it’s hurting financially and creatively, it manages to pull a Traficant and let gusto reign supreme. That’s perfectly fine for all of the Gucci meatheads floating around out there on pills, but when it shows up at the ropes of a hip hop show, as with the Jadakiss and Styles concert last Monday at Level, it’s just ugly.

Press passes had been secured the day of the show after a lengthy process of e-mailing, telephoning and faxing Level nightclub. Your usual “just fax us the names of the writer and photographer attending and there will be no problem,” type of deal.

Of course when the press crew reaches the eternal circus that is Washington Avenue after midnight, any sense of organization and professionalism is erased and replaced with personal and socio-political garbage. You get five guys behind the velvet ropes spinning a variation of “what can you offer me?” and “what list?”

They all retain a cool demeanor, even when a barrage of thugs gush out of the front doors throwing punches and reaching for guns that (luckily) weren’t there. Policemen arrive out of nowhere and escort several of them down the street for a “friendly chat,” only to have them return minutes later promising revenge in the name of “New Orleans.”

“Brah, I mean if you lose your job, I’m sorry but there’s nothing I can do” a doorman says as he ushers four pimply faced females into the club with a scary flash of teeth. When acquaintances ask for passes he nonchalantly opens the ropes, reaches into his pocket and hands each of them tiny paper squares. “Sorry brah, only the manager can let people in and he’s not here.” Sure brah.

The turnout looked disappointing, even at $25 a ticket. Like most hip hop shows in SoBe, it probably didn’t start until well after 3 a.m. – if it even went down at all. You get the feeling that rappers only perform in Miami as an excuse to stay at the Shore Club and club hop the night away.

Who can blame them? When the college press is turned away and real hip hop fans can’t afford the ticket price (not including the requisite hair gel and shimmering button-down shirt needed for entry), any chance to build a scene and hip hop community similar to the ones found in the cities of New York and California is severely hindered.

Maybe things will change, maybe they won’t. Either way this section will continue to cover what goes down in this city to the best of our ability – and next time a hip hop show’s at Level we’ll be sure to style our hair like Justin Timberlake and bathe in cologne beforehand. Because that’s what hip hop is all about, right brah?

Irwin Fletcher can be reached at