A Block Of Speakers

January 19, 2007

Each year on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, every DJ in Miami brings his and her soundsystem to Liberty City, a neighborhood on the northwestern edge of town, to battle for supremacy. Known as the MLK Day Parade, it has less to do with marching for the man of honor than celebrating music and culture and generally creating the biggest block party in America that no one has ever heard of. Walshy Killa from the Black Chiney Soundsystem (who happen to be in our new issue) was kind enough to be our guide, and even though the police tried to rain on it, the parade undoubtedly went off. After the jump, read Walshy's running commentary to Oscar Hidalgo's mindblowingly awesome photographs.

How do you win a block party sound clash? The old way would be to buy out every speaker you can get in South Florida, get a few generators and drown your opponents out. Their DJ'ing skills won't matter if no one can hear them. But the jig is up on that, cuz now everyone is bringing out 40 to 60 speakers a sound.

Ghetto rules state that all sounds are given five songs to at least test out the sound and get it sounding right.
After that, it's anything goes. While one DJ is playing, if he does not "pull the crowd," other DJs will begin to play creative diss loops such as a baby crying or the chant of "Defense! Defense!" Which totally throws the other DJs off who are usually oblivious to how bad they're doing. If he won't stop, opposing DJs just play music right over him. It sounds like horses running down stairs.

Now that you've gotten the low-quality sounds to pack up and the no skill DJs to go home, the best of the best are left on the block as the sun goes down. Now it's time for the DJs to give their home studio production some shine. Sound systems like Crunch Style Express, Vicious Funk, Triple M, Boogie Trick, Sugar Hill, Jam Pony Express and a hundred others have been doing this year after year after year. But one sound remains the ruling king...the Pure Funk Express DJ's.

Boasting to bring out 108 speaker cabinets every year, they have dominated Miami's underground scene. They have the most popular pirate radio station, and with DJ's like Todo, Bo the Lover, and Lil' Black, they have the home studio booty shake Miami bass scene on smash. They have songs that are so popular that competing DJ's play them as regular songs in regular rotation, or even against them. Everyone knows once you see the red and gold speaker boxes come out the Uhaul truck, that's where the crowd will be. And in this crowd are hundreds of dance crews.

Airbrushed Dickies with crew names on the back and full army gear with war face paint are both signs that you've entered Third World Miami's MLK battling dance crews.

They, like the DJs, have waited all year to get this shine. Hours of practice for a moment's glory. Concrete stage and street spot lights. Every song that comes on breaks the crowd into a synchronized dancing frenzy.

Pockets of crews move there arms and legs a million miles an hour as onlookers cheer on the craziest ones.

Usually, at the end of the day when the dust from all the street-illegal dirtbikes, fried conch, and blown amps has settled, one DJ is left playing. But this year the police were not having it. They were asking for permits and telling DJs they couldn't even unload speakers. Every time the police weren't looking, someone would pull them out, but it never lasted long. This MLK parade saw about two hours of DJs DJ'ing, total. So no clear winners this year, but the stage will be set again this same Monday next year!

Posted: January 19, 2007
A Block Of Speakers