Jubilee's guide to Miami bass
The Magic City has a long history of homegrown styles that demand attention. Chief amongst these is Miami bass: a rough and tough blend of electro, hip-hop and rowdy low-end energy. We asked one of the scene’s modern heroes, Jubilee, to chart her 10 essential Miami bass tracks
“An 808, heavy sub-bass and a snare that isn't shy. Sometimes a really dirty vocal.” These are the key ingredients of any Miami bass track worth its salt, according to Miami native, Jubilee. Though she’s lived in New York for almost two decades now, Jubilee has remained a proponent of the classic sounds of her hometown — pushing an eclectic and energetic blend of Miami bass, electro, breaks, dancehall and more via her DJ sets, productions, and ever-popular ‘Magic City’ compilations.
Miami bass itself kicked off in the mid-‘80s. Influenced by the electro of Afrika Bambaataa, producers like Amos Larkins II and Maggotron built sparse, punchy beats utilising the now-legendary Roland TR-808 drum machine, while groups like 2 Live Crew added sexually explicit lyrics to get people moving on the dancefloor. As the sound grew in popularity, so did a culture for co-ordinated dancing, and cars souped up with massive soundsystems.
For Jubilee, Miami bass was pretty much “a way of life” growing up. It was heard on the radio, in the street, even in school. She knew the dance moves and kitted out her own car with 10-inch subwoofers. “People definitely started making music with cars in mind,” she tells us, pointing to Lady Tigra’s ‘Cars That Go Boom’ and MC Nas D & DJ Freaky Fred’s ‘It's My Cadillac (Got That Bass)’ as two personal favourites that epitomise the subject.
“The bass in Miami Bass took car soundsystems to another level. You could hear them from blocks and blocks away and they would set off every car alarm on the street. Police went wild for these drivers too. Every thriving local genre seemed to grow with a car culture, though.”
When she moved to NYC in 2003, things were naturally a bit different. Jubilee would occasionally hear the odd Miami bass track at parties like The Rub or Hollertronix, or within her group of South Florida pals; however, “it wasn't nostalgic to anyone else so it never stuck”. “The first time I ever saw it on a big stage in NYC was when I saw Diplo play it at Webster Hall and I was sooooo excited,” she recalls.
As the old adage goes: If you want something done, do it yourself. And that’s just what Jubilee did — even if it meant throwing empty parties at first. Over the years, her passion for the sound, and crossing it over with other genres, has helped draw a new audience — something she believes has been aided by the recent explosion of interest for breaks and electro across the dance music spectrum.
Jubilee points to several stalwarts of the scene as key factors in keeping the sound alive. PappaWheelie was “practically the Miami Bass bible in NYC”. Danny Daze “has kept it real from day one”. And, turntablist DJ Craze still played Miami Bass sets “when people wanted only jungle from him.”
She also highlights the likes of Skee Mask, Jensen Interceptor and DJ Stingray “because they could all be Miami cousins, for sure”, while new Miami-based artists include Gucci Bass (check out his ‘Lunar Operations’ EP on Divine Audio) and duo Basside, who make “really fun [L’Trimm]-inspired girl/Miami bass rap and put on a really great live show. SOPHIE did a few things with them a few years ago and I have done a few events with them and I love them.”
Then there’s Otto Von Schirach: “He's on Monkeytown but there is literally no one more Miami than him. “There are also a bunch of new acts coming out of Miami that aren't purists when it comes to the genre, but you can totally feel the influence in their music and their mixes,” she continues, “Nick Leon, Ashley Venom, Internet Friends and more.”
Whether it’s through old heads or new talent, Miami bass is certainly back on the menu — and if Jubilee’s own dedication to the homegrown sounds of the Magic City is anything to go by, it will be for a long time to come. If you’re wondering where to start with Miami bass, or you fancy a trip down memory lane, Jubilee has put together a list of 10 essential tracks to wrap your ears around. Crank up your system and dig in!
“This song shaped my whole DJ life, I swear. It was hard to pick between this one, ‘Esa Morena’ and ‘Journey Into Bass’. ‘Esa Morena’ was the Latin Miami Bass classic that inspired a whole wave. ‘Journey Into Bass’ seemed to be on the radio more and had the ill video. But ‘Red Alert’ is still something I play to this day that sounds brand new, even though it’s almost 30 years old. DJ Laz was on the radio introducing me to all of this stuff, and he's still DJing in Miami now."
There is an incredible episode of [hip-hop podcast] Mogul that explains how this song went from a (dirty) cha cha slide-style dance routine at parties/clubs full of teenagers in Liberty City, to a brand-new song that eventually became a hit and evolved into 2 Live Crew becoming an actual touring group. It was the start of Miami Bass. Also made with an 808, duh!”
“Anquette was a young feminist icon act that Luke [Luther ‘Uncle Luke’ Campbell of 2 Live Crew] signed. This one is a classic dancefloor hit that shouts out all the great club cities along with the neighborhoods of Miami. They even inspired ‘Roll Song’ by a breaks group called Trip Theory where they shout out pills in the style of ‘Do The 61st’. They were also known for the hit ‘Janet Reno’ about men that don't want to play child support. Such a banger.”
“Dynamix II was huge in the rave scene. They were known for a heavy electro bass sound and heavy sampling. Obviously very different from 2 Live Crew and all of the ‘booty’ music rap groups that came from Miami, but they did have what they all called the ‘ghetto’ bass in common. The beauty of all of these styles of Miami music is they were all played in skating rinks, dances, block parties, etc.”
“Another middle school dance classic. I can't believe I used to listen to this song when I was as young as I was. Sorry mom. This was a huge hit with a very early appearance by Trick Daddy. Luke eventually left 2 Live Crew and went on his own. He released a solo album and this was the main single.”
“I can't even describe how important this song is to people that grew up in South Florida in the ‘90s. If a DJ drops this to this day, the second they hear that intro everyone just screams. The comments on the [YouTube] video alone explain the memories this song has. Walshy Fire did a really good job explaining Uncle Al [on Billboard] and he was a legend in the city.”
“Dis N Dat, Quad City DJs, 69 Boyz and so many other things came out of this whole crew, but I feel like ‘Tootsee Roll’ is the one that made it the farthest and way out of Miami. Again: Heavy bass. Dance routine. Rap over dance sounds. Classic Miami. I feel like this era of dance inspired a whole Spring Break movement later on in life.”
“OK, so Tre Oh Fie is so important to the kids of Miami right now and I can't really pick my favourite song by him because there are literally hundreds, but I chose this one because, a) It’s been stuck in my head since the Super Bowl and, b) it's featuring a tonne of other artists in Miami that are putting out music for young people to dance to.”
“Still going so strong thanks to the internet and it genuinely being one of the best songs ever. Yes this was from Atlanta... but very inspired by Miami Bass. Atlanta and Miami are cousins when it comes to this kind of music. I have a funny association with this song because when I was in high school my first period was above the dance class and the class did a dance to this song. So I heard ‘My Boo’ on REPEAT for an hour through a floor."
“He is on my first album but is a crazy weird liaison to all this stuff. He really has his own thing going on but has worked with Blowfly, Brother Marquis from 2 Live Crew, has done an offi cial remix for Gloria Estefan, but is also on Monkeytown and has records with people like Modelektor (and me).”