It was nasty, it was loud and it was abrasive. During its heyday the Miami Bass sound pulverized the nation’s eardrums as it took control of its collective groin.
Culminating in the arrival of 2 Live Crew, Miami Bass set the stage for generations of artists that were to come such as Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz and the hedonistic collage that is trap music.
On each occasion that a sub-bass rattles a rib-cage homage must be paid to the movement that was started by Amos Larkins II.
History states that the producer’s work on MC Ade’s “Bass Rock Express” constitutes the first bass track.
According to Larkins II, he stumbled across the sound while partying with a stripper as he finished up Mighty Rock’s “We’re Coming in Fresh.”
“It all started with ‘We’re Coming in Fresh’ by Mighty Rock who was a part of the group Double Duce back in da day” Larkins told Miami New Times.
“This was the record I produced where I made the mistake of leaving the 808 bass hum too long. Sad to say, the Miami bass sound was all a mistake and unintentional. I have to blame it on too much cocaine and a stripper that I invited to the studio the night I was mixing this record.
“I remember her and I playing around in my office, and I could hear the song playing, but I wasn’t really paying much attention to song and the volume was very low. I was paying more attention to her ass and those gorgeous tits she had, because, oh my god, she was so fine. Then I remember hearing the tape stop, so I ran to the control room to rewind the tape, and without even checking the sound or any of my tweaks, I went back to the office with my stripper girl and continued drinking scotch, doing lines of cocaine, and playing adult games with her booty.”
Now clean and sober, the sonic pioneer detailed how both he and the public reacted to his mistake after he heard the track over the speakers at a friend’s mixtape shop.
“I’ll never forget walking in the store and my friend the record store owner putting on “Cummin in Fresh.” Oh, fuck, my heart almost dropped out of my chest, because when I heard that over-compressed bass. Not only was it too long, but it was tearing up the fuckin’ speakers. That’s when I said to myself, ‘Oh, shit, I did a major fuck up. I didn’t check the bass. [Sunnyview/TK Records owner] Henry Stone is gonna execute me.’ I mean, it was humming like bass from hell, so I looked around the store to all the people and the strangest thing happened. Everybody looked up asking, ‘Who the fuck is that?’ and ‘What’s the name of that record?’
“From that point on, I just started perfecting the bass sound on future records, and that’s how Miami bass was born. I didn’t mimic anybody, nor was I inspired by somebody else. It was a mistake, and once I saw that people were into it, I did more records like it.”
It didn’t take long for the aggressive sound to spawn a scene of its own that united DJs, MCs and sexually charged songs together.
The once-dormant South Beach section of Miami Beach reached international acclaim in part on the back of artists that sprung from the streets of Liberty City and other local hoods.
Miami Bass arrived at a time that the local entertainment industry took hold of the area just as it was becoming a mecca for clubs, fashion and art.
The soundtrack that the likes of Jock-D, Breezy Beat MC and Splack Pack was the preferred backdrop for an area that loved its sex, drugs and loud music.
Miami clubs such as Pac-Jam and Bass Station were the playground for both the artists and the crowds that fed off of the music’s call-and response chants and bombastic energy.
Pre-dating gangsta rap by approximately three years, Miami Bass provided an antidote for the good-guy rap that was drowning hip-hop in simple syrup.
At the time everything about it was dangerous. Clubs and cars from Miami pushed the sound up 1-95 to the Orlando, Florida where the Central, Florida circuit gave the music deeper roots.
And then there was the mighty Luther Campbell. Campbell a.k.a. Uncle Luke and Luke Skywalker became the ambassador for both the city and the movement.
With David “Mr. Mixx” Hobbs, Campbell launched 2 Live Crew into infamy with Fresh Kid Ice and Brother Marquis. 1986 brought the opening salvo of The 2 Live Crew Is What We Are.
But it was 1989’s As Nasty As They Wanna Be that turned the country upside down. Led by multiple anthems such as “Me So Horny”, As Nasty As They Wanna Be remains the genre’s pinnacle album.
The movement surged before giving way to the head knocking playbook that Dr. Dre’s Death Row Records set forth.
Subtle and not-so-subtle disses, censorship and other assorted controversies pushed 2 Live Crew’s momentum backward.
During the group’s epic run, Campbell told Kevin Klein Live via BET, that there was only one person that threw a party that was so wild that even he had to leave.
That person is Donald Trump.
“Me, Mike Tyson and Eddie Murphy, we were invited to his mansion in West Palm Beach one time. And he had all these women running around,” he explained. “It was so much going on to the point that I couldn’t take what was going in that room and I left.” When asked to describe what exactly made him leave, Luke’s response was, “It was some wild things going on. It was some things I can’t even say over this radio.”
It’s a weird twist of fate seeing that various government agencies literally came after 2 Live Crew for their lyrical content.
All seasons come to an end.
The sound adapted and carved out a new lane with ironically the same sort of playful themes that they once replaced.
Tag Team’s “Whoomp! (There It Is),” and Quad City DJ’s” C’mon N’ Ride It (The Train)” became the new faces of the genre that once spoke of the “Miami Skeezer.”
Even the 69 Boyz 1994 smash “Tootsee Roll” failed to recapture the edge of the platform that once commanded attention from anyone within listening distance.
Miami Bass did not die. It caught fire, got hot and flamed out in less than 15 years.
Its influence continues to touch hip-hop in various ways.
One of French Montana’s career defining hits “Pop That” samples and takes inspiration from Uncle Luke. Gucci Mane, Lil Wayne, Fergie and Ludacris are others that have sampled or interpolated Miami Bass tracks for their work
In that regard, Miami Bass will continue to pummel its way through the culture for decades to come.
Listen: Salute To Miami Bass Playlist