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Book Reviews
The History of Miami Hip Hop
By: John Cordero - Microcosm Publishing, $16.95

Description: In the late 90s, the music scene in Miami was at the infancy of becoming the multi-million dollar cultural and artistic force that it is today. Musicians like Pitbull, DJ Khaled, and countless others staked Miamiís claim as the newest Mecca for Hip Hop heads and graffiti artists.

The book features never-before-seen photos of 1990s stars RZA, Ghostface Killah, and Method Man of Wu-Tang, Andre 3000 of Outkast, Black Thought of The Roots, Phife of A Tribe Called Quest (R.I.P.), Lilí Kim, Aaliyah (R.I.P.), and artists that achieved global celebrity in the 2000s, like Destinyís Child, The Black Eyed Peas, Timbaland, DJ Khaled, and many more.

Verdict: In the late í80s, South Beach was still mainly a retirement home with lots of cheap real estate and a large homeless population on Lincoln Road.

Just prior to that, the two decades of í70s and í80s found disco was giving way to freestyle, hip hop and bass music. All these sounds were coming together and influencing each other, as a new generation in Miami began to develop.

But things were beginning to change. Miami Beach was about to become the party destination we know today. Cheap real estate, an influx in models, and the emergence of Miami Vice all brought in tourists and new residents.

During this time, The Cipher was created. An independent newspaper that followed the scene and included reviews, interviews, essays, photos, and more, The Cipher was the choice source for discovering Miamiís underground.

The History of Miami Hip Hop: The Story of DJ Khaled, Pitbull, DJ Craze, and Other Contributors to South Floridaís Scene, to give it is full title, chronicles the ups and downs of this legendary rag during its short tenure.

Author John Cordero presents both a memoir of his time as one of the newspaperís creators, and an anthology of some of The Ciphers greatest hits. Both a love letter to The Cipher as well as 1990s Miami, this narrative is an essential chapter in the history of Hip Hopís third coast.

Built upon the story (or, at least, one of the stories) of how the then-18-year-old Khaled Khaled (yep, so good his parents named him twice!) came to work at Odyssey Records, a tiny store in the Carrollton Shopping Plaza in Mid-City New Orleans in 1993, we get to envision a skinnier, but not skinny, baggy clothes-wearing frame that kept fidgeting behind the counter.

During his early days there, which was owned and run by Gary Holzenthal, Khaled had been sneakily (or not, depends on who you talk to, I guess) using the office phone to contact record labels in New York.

Cut to the chase, and Holzenthal quickly discovered that it was indeed Khaled who was running up his phone bill, and so ended their professional relationship.

Some 20 years later, Holzenthal turned on the TV and saw a very different Khaled Khaled. I donít know when he discovered where the switch was, but as soon as he found it, he flipped it and he turned on DJ Khaled.

Another stand out name is obviously the aforementioned Pitbull aka Armando Christian Perez, an American rapper and businessman who began his career in the early 2000s, recording reggaeton, Latin hip hop, and crunk music under a multitude of labels.

And not to go personality-by-personality here, but something else that I myself was also knee deep back in around that time, was Miami bass (also called booty bass) emerged around the 1980s as the new bumpiní kid on the block party.

Its sonic predecessors (reggae, old school hip hop, and electro funk) had paved the way for a welcoming party scene that would give Miami bass a home.

Notable founders of the genre The 2 Live Crew brought heart-pounding beats, sexual overtones, and hype man vocals in their tracks that are still dominant in clubs across the world today.

Indeed, they perhaps sum up the historic emergence of Miami bass best in their 1986 hit Throw the D; Thereís a brand new dance and itís coming your way / it was started in Miami by the ghetto DJs.

All this, and oh-so much more, information is brought forth here in John Corderoís quite magnificent book, and coming complete with some truly flashback-sumptuous, of-the-day photographs, there might not be a better book on subject matter to hand on the market today.

About the Author - John Cordero was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1977 and immigrated with his family to the United States in 1989. His family settled in Miami, FL in 1995, where he became immersed in the Hip Hop scene.

From 1998 to 2000, Mr. Cordero co-founded, edited, and published The Cipher: Miamiís Hip Hop Newspaper, an independent monthly publication that chronicled the emerging Hip Hop scene in South Florida. He is a US Navy veteran.

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