#Vice #Breaks #Miami #90s
Original Story featured on Vice.com
Explaining the Florida electronic music scene in the 90s isn’t easy. It has its own weird vibe that made it unique to anywhere else in America. Before Ultra Music Festival took over the world, there was a trance scene and a house scene, just like any other city – Sasha was a regular and Tiësto was around very early on. What made Florida raves different, though, was a very specific, homegrown breakbeat sound.
When I tell people I like breaks, they either shudder or laugh. They just don’t understand. Florida has always had a very sleazy vibe, but only one that has spent a lot of time in America’s dongle can recognize it immediately through the music. Think strip clubs, truck stops, highways, break-dancing and the beach, all in one genre influenced by the likes of 2 Live Crew, Miami Bass and Latin Freestyle.
Here’s the breakdown: DJs in the Central Florida area (Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville) had more of a trance and progressive house influence. DJs like Rick West (RIP), Huda Hudia, Sharazz and Kimball Collins were staples in the scene, and you could buy their mixtapes at places like Uncle Sam’s or Painted Puppy.
Breaks in South Florida, though, had a Miami electro-bass sound, often lovingly referred to as “that ghetto bass.” Local DJs like R Fresh, Merlyn and Scratch D of Dynamix II would mix an Anthony Rother song with a Gucci Crew song followed by a freestyle song, and every rave massive sideroom with a big headliner would be popping off with loyal, local ravers that just wanted to hear their town’s sound.
One DJ who brought the scenes together was DJ Icee, who later became DJ Icey (yes, a local ice cream store came after him and made him change his name). He was one of the first to produce the quintessential Florida Breaks sound. Icey started as a resident at a nightclub called The Edge in Orlando, Florida. In 1993, he started his own record label called Zone, which is still around today. In the time before iPods, all of the stuff on his own label was pressed on vinyl. By 2001, he was charting on Billboard lists alongside The Crystal Method and Uberzone, playing the role of the low-key funky breaks dude.
Another South Florida act to make it worldwide was Dynamix II. They started out in West Palm Beach in the 80s using vocoders, samplers, and an emulator. In 1986, they signed to Miami Bass Station Records and released “Give the DJ a Break”, a track that went gold, selling 600,000 copies in America and hit #50 in the UK charts a year later. Their music has been sampled by acts like The Chemical Brothers and you can hear their music in DJ sets today.