Like the crystalline seawater that laps against Miami Beach, music scenes come in waves. And in the past few years, the Magic City’s electronic music scene has seen a rise of new DJs, producers, and promoters who are going beyond the big-room EDM for which the city has become notorious. From skatepark raves thrown by III Points to PROIBIDÆ’s baile funk baladas at Domicile, the new Miami underground is bursting with creativity and hedonism.
“It’s been brewing for quite a while,” says Danny Daze, longtime Miami producer, DJ, and Omnidisc label head. The city has a long history with electronic music of all stripes: Miami bass 808s, glitched-out IDM from Schematic and Chocolate Industries, and of course, the ubiquitous dembow beat essential to the city’s musical DNA. “Sonically, the diverse cultures of Hispanic communities are so strong that you always hear Latin music and everyone speaking Spanish. In a way [Miami] doesn’t feel very American at all,” says INVT, whose UK-inflected kuduro and reggaeton hybrids earned the duo a spot on DJ Mag’s 2023 Artists To Watch list. “A lot of people in our scene have a similar story: first-generation Americans coming from a Latino household, growing up around a melting pot of influences. All these factors have churned out some great artists in many fields, especially music.”
Nick León is one such artist, whose track ‘Xtasis (feat. DJ Babatr)’ on TraTraTrax was a global smash in 2022 and at the time of writing is currently touring his perreo-techno fusions across Europe. León is quick to champion his hometown’s scene, which he argued is “objectively better than New York” in an interview for First Floor. The rivalry remains in the realm of friendly banter, however, with León making regular appearances in Brooklyn and New York’s DJ SWISHA and Kush Jones playing to a packed crowd last year at Jezebel’s One Last Dance, a party to commemorate the closing of Miami stalwart ATV Records. The closing of places like ATV and Electric Pickle has been a setback, but the Miami scene is only picking up steam, with a slew of parties to choose from including Jezebel, Objects Don’t Dance, PROIBIDÆ, suero, Out of Service, Perreo del Futuro, and Sugar Free.
Club Space and its underground neighbour Floyd have become known for their open-minded bookings, while spots like Dante’s HiFi and Sound Bar provide a more heady dancing environment, inspired by Japanese hi-fi listening bars. The newly established Miami Community Radio is a window into the scene’s up-and-coming talents, and even the greenhouses at the Center for Subtropical Affairs have become the backdrop to both ambient music nights and classic raves. It’s not just hype; Miami is the real deal.
There’s an ever-increasing pool of electrifying DJs and producers to get acquainted with. Below, we profile eight key artists from the new Miami underground to get you started. One of those artists, Bitter Babe, has also recorded a blazing 90-minute mix of Miami club music’s many forms to accompany your reading. Dive in.
Laura Solarte, aka Bitter Babe, is a newcomer to Miami by way of Bogota and Berlin, but she has quickly become a crucial part of the new Miami underground’s musical fabric. Her 2020 EP ‘Fuego Clandestino’ with Nick León put her on the map as a reggaeton innovator, putting a cold, futurist twist on the genre’s tropical rhythms. Just a year later, she rocked the decks at Boiler Room Miami with her characteristic blend of dubwise dembow suffused with a neon glow.
Her productions — like her recent track ‘Gimme’ for the ‘Homecore! Miami All-Stars’ compilation on Omnidisc — often inject reggaeton with a cold bass weight, exploring similar sonic territory as other Latin American producers like Kelman Duran and EL PLVYBXY. Landing in Miami by chance to visit her sister and “escape from Berlin”, Solarte hadn’t known there was a budding scene at first. “I had the idea like everyone else that Miami was only this place for tech-house and EDM and there was nothing more,” she says. “But soon enough I realised I was wrong… in a matter of months I met Nick [León], INVT, Sister System, Jonny [From Space], SEL.6, uprokk, Souls Departed, and the others.”
Drawn by the strong communal bonds she felt with these new Miami artists, Solarte decided to stay. “For the first time I experienced a space of community where all were supporting each other,” she says.
Alexandra Muggli came from a musical family. “My parents were both musicians and they collected and played all kinds of music... around the house,” she says. Her father a drummer and mother a singer, Muggli was encouraged to explore music from a young age growing up in Miami. She began hitting the clubs at 16 before naturally falling into DJing, with music production following soon after; her journey with the Coffintexts moniker began around 2018, collaborating with local duo Paperwater and making her own bassy club tools.
Quickly becoming a local mainstay at parties like Jezebel and III Points, she played the same Boiler Room as Bitter Babe in 2021, opening the second day with III Points. Her DJ sets are as eclectic as the influences spinning around the current Miami scene. “Honestly, the wide range of sounds here is so abundant and still expanding, so it really depends on when you find yourself in Miami,” she says, when asked about her favourite Miami clubs and parties. A quick peek at her gig history might be a good start, though: a regular at Perreo Del Futuro and III Points, her sets weave between Afrobeats, electro, and classic techno hypnosis.
In Floridian slang, a “jit” is someone younger than you, usually a child. Jook phenom Fwea-Go Jit has been at it in Florida’s scene since middle school, learning VirtualDJ and mixing in the hallways for his classmates. “I got put on to all the underground Miami music from pep rallies, Myspace pages, watching Miami dance videos on YouTube, and downloading music off of JamGlue,” says Fwea-Go, who credits DJ Donnie for showing him the ropes. With his SoFloJook compatriots Tre Oh Fie, DJ Schreach, DJ Jam, and ShesCreams, Fwea-Go continues to refine the jook sound, while dance crews like Aint No Chill Ent hone the associated kinetics.
For the uninitiated, jook — not to be confused with Chicago juke — is Florida’s answer to Jersey club. A club genre influenced by the region’s Caribbean immigrant communities, jook melds ‘80s booty bass with dancehall and frequent call-and-response vocals. “It’s damn near impossible to come to Miami and not run into a Haitian, Jamaican, Bahamian, Dominican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, any West Indian, African, European, and Asian all within a five-mile radius,” says Fwea-Go, whose parents immigrated from Dominica.
His take on the genre skews melodic, chopping up R&B vocals into syncopated club anthems. For Fwea-Go, Miami’s appeal lies in “the invigorating bass in our music, the unorthodox flows over soulful melodies accompanied by Afrocentric drum beats, the DJs and how they mic check, the numerous dance moves, the extravagant proms, antique and foreign cars, the racing with police on I-95”; it’s these influences and more that are embodied in the spirit of SoFloJook.
Jonathan Trujillo is a visual learner. “I started [producing music] by purely watching my best friends Nick León and Adam [aka Bear] make music in front of me,” he says. “Just being around them all the time in the studio, I naturally picked it up and taught myself.”
That was years ago. After guidance from Danny Daze, a steady stream of singles and EPs, and many hours in the DJ booth, Trujillo has gone from friend and fan to a resident DJ at Club Space and member of III Points. His latest EP for Omnidisc, ‘No Swim Advisory’ was a tribute to the role of water in Miami’s ecosystem, with tracks like ‘Hurricane Party’ and ‘Wetland’ infusing techno and 2-step with an aquatic fluidity.
When it comes to Miami’s venues, it’s Floyd all the way for Trujillo. “Floyd is my home, it’s where we have our monthly party Objects Don’t Dance (often shortened to ODD), it’s where I learned to DJ and become who I am,” he says. By “we”, Trujillo means Sister System and True Vine, with whom he started ODD. Known for its unique lighting set-up, ODD features stellar line-ups of local and out-of-town talent; January’s edition brought Yu Su and Anthony Naples to Floyd. Trujillo’s quick to shout out Jezebel, PROIBIDÆ, and suero as some of his favourite parties in Miami’s scene as well. “It’s hot and sexy,” he says, on the Miami underground. “No other way to describe it really.”
SEL.6’s musical journey began in her early teens, fiddling with a Yamaha keyboard and making beats on trial versions of FL Studio. “I have my family, especially my mother, to thank for introducing me to so many different sounds at such a young age,” she says. Growing up in Broward County in South Florida, SEL.6 was raised on a wholesome diet of Miami bass, electro and Florida breaks from her mother’s CD collection. “I still refer back to this collection and continue to rip music from them till this day,” she says.
While the bass-driven elements of her music come from a regional lineage, the emotional ambience of her work is inspired by the soundtracks of video games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Her start in the Miami scene was at local rap shows, producing tracks that were more hip-hop influenced. “After my stint in that scene I grew restless,” she says. “That’s when I started to explore my creativity more and develop a sound that felt more genuine to me. In doing that, naturally I was introduced to and around more people with a similar vision.” Those people included the folks at Space Tapes, which released her ‘Siren Songs’ EP in 2018; you can hear the early hip- hop influences in the use of ethereal samples and lo-fi percussion in this early tape.
These days, SEL.6 reps PROIBIDÆ as a resident DJ. “This party is extra special to me mainly because of the effort put forth to keep the legacy of bass music alive, which is something I’ve always wanted to personally accomplish in my work as a producer and DJ.” With its focus on baile funk, which has its origins in early Miami bass, PROIBIDÆ represents multiple bloodlines of bass across borders reconvening in the Magic City.
Alexis Sosa-Toro is another essential selector who grew up in the Broward suburbs. Her love for electronic music came out of an internet-fuelled obsession in high school. “I’d spend hours on the internet, reading articles and listening to mixes; I just happened to be lucky and stumbled into all the right places,” she says. Moving to Miami shortly after graduating, she became Sister System and began throwing parties with her friends. “At the time there were more DIY spaces, which made it feasible.”
Things have changed, with many spaces having shuttered in the wake of the pandemic. “There’s not a lot of venues in Miami, but there are a good amount of passionate independent promoters that are organising some of the best parties here,” she says. These days, her party ODD with True Vine and Jonny From Space brings out the best in Miami and beyond. “We’ve always just wanted to bring our friends together, and invite some of our favourite artists to play in our hometown,” she says. “It’s a project that we hope to expand into multiple creative disciplines in a natural trajectory of time.”
Danny Daze was a big musical influence for Sosa-Toro. “He’s constantly reinventing himself, while honouring influences of Miami’s rich history,” she says. And outside of the foggy club, Sosa-Toro finds an invigorating energy in Florida’s swamps, climate, and other aspects of its unique ecosystem. “Being in nature is what stimulates and inspires me,” she says. These influences come full circle on ‘Feel It In The Heat’, her sultry contribution to the ‘Homecore!’ compilation curated by Danny Daze.
Tre Oh Fie grew up in the Turks and Caicos Islands before his family immigrated to North Miami, imbibing a cocktail of influences from Junkanoo music, soca, dancehall, and local hip-hop. “At the time, South Florida jook was already popular and I fell in love with the sound and dance movement,” he says. His introduction to the scene was through the late DJ Ghost, and he would later collaborate with producers like Fwea-Go Jit, DJ Chipman, and Major Nine.
His style often kicks jook’s syncopated rhythms up to 170 BPM, making high-octane club tools from pitched-up R&B vocals and pep rally percussion. “My inspirations come mostly from new songs out of the Caribbean,” says Tre. “Jersey club is also a big inspiration and has had a huge effect on South Florida dancers.” Florida’s jook scene provides a link between the Philly-Jersey-Baltimore corridor and the diversity of rhythms in the Caribbean.
“My friends DJ Schreach, Fwea-Go Jit, DJ Jam, Miren [ShesCreams] and I formed a crew and started pushing the name ‘So Flo Jook’ to represent our new sound and movement,” says Tre. With both Tre and Fwea-Go providing tracks to Danny Daze’s ‘Homecore!’ compilation as well, the SoFlo sound of jook is starting to make headway in the global dance lexicon.
With familial roots in Peru and Venezuela, MJ Nebreda made her way to Miami via London and a handful of other cities. The producer and singer-songwriter melds these worldly influences in her neoperreo anthems, drawing from UK garage, baile funk, and disco on her latest EP 'Amor En Los Tiempos De Odio'.
Producing music since she was young — initially as a hobby — she worked as A&R at a major label before getting more serious about her own music with the help of some friends. “At first, I was throwing a party for every song I released,” says Nebreda. “The parties were a hot mess, but I got to meet a lot of the people I work with now, and made a lot of friendships as well!” Booking DJs like Happy Colors, MS NINA, and Coffintexts, Nebreda quickly carved a niche for her club-influenced pop in Miami. “It feels nice and means so much to me that the city I migrated to and that I feel the most at home in is allowing me to participate in its culture,” says Nebreda.
For her, that culture includes everything from sweaty nights at Club Space and Dante’s, as well as the International Noise Conference at the erstwhile Churchill’s Pub, which might encapsulate the diversity of sounds on display in the city. “[The International Noise Conference] still has been one of my best things I’ve seen in Miami,” she says.
Listen to Bitter Babe's New Miami Underground mix, and check the tracklist, below.
Sosi Posi ‘La Tierra’
Sosi Pos ‘Movimiento’
Nicholas G Padilla ‘????
Near Dark ‘Dreamt Of This’
Jonny From Space ‘Half Empty’
Sister System ‘Feel It In The Heat’
Tre Oh fie ‘Whatchu Kno’
Lil Matrix ‘Tu Te Imaginas’
Tre Oh Fie ‘Do The Damn Tang’
El Gusano AKA Goiz ‘El Claxxon’
Coffintexts ‘Muy Bien’
Juanny Depp ‘Sevigny’
MJ Nebreda ‘Quedate’
Roiju ft Nicholas G Padilla ‘Altura’
SEL.6 ‘Trio 99’
Le Poodle ‘Doghouse’
Fwea-Go Jit ‘Make It Do’
Jonny From Space ‘Perky’
Juanny Depp ‘Ecko UNLTD’
El Gusano AKA Goiz ‘Alfa’
Bitter Babe ‘Nadie Lo Puede Parar’
Nicholas G Padilla ????
Roiju ft. Mauricio Arambula ‘Clock Dub’
LOKA ‘Energy Work’
Tidur ft. Opal ‘Celestial Hiccup’
MJ Nebreda ft. Nick León ‘Bubalú’
SEL.6 ‘Good Grief’
Fwea-Go Jit ‘Up Above’
They Hate Change ‘X-Ray Spex’ (co-produced Nick León)
Greg Beato ‘Kaboosh’
INVT ft. Coffintexts ‘Humo’
Antpuke ‘Don't Play With It’
La Goony Chonga ‘Abanico’
With special thanks to Suzi Analog and Elias García, who also provided music for this mix.