Before the popularity of 80s culture and Latin influence became a reality, Miami’s musical identity was defined primarily by soulful roots and jazzy rhythms. When the world’s greatest musicians flocked down south for a bit more expressive freedom, it was Miami’s beaches and jam-packed clubs that drew their attention and local collectives like RnBae have been keeping that soul alive with their consistently awesome gatherings, getdowns, and Miami musical spotlights. Celebrating their third year on December 20th, we asked them and the team at Gramps to help lead us through some pivotal points in Miami’s musical history. Take a tour:
If you haven’t heard of the legend that was Blowfly, we highly suggest you do some serious research. Not only was Clarence Reid a prolific and influential producer (working with the likes of Betty Wright), but he released many a hit through the catchy stage name. Most of which were pre-Weird Al, raunchy versions of classic hits (think: “Sh*tting on the Dock of the Bay”), but include the original, self-pressed 1964 version of “Blowfly’s Rapp” in South Florida, laying credible claim as the first rap record.
If ever a more powerful singer in gospel history, Aretha Franklin marked a conscious change in music with her presence. Amassing an epically extensive collection of soulful hits, the songstress’ affect on music history can still be felt today. But we’re looking back at a lesser known moment of Miami music history: her first concert here at the ripe age of 15. It happened at Northwestern High School for $1.25 per ticket.
In 2014, the documentary “Deep City: the Birth of the Miami Sound” was released, sharing a glimpse of Miami’s own special flavor of Motown with the world. The biggest star of the Miami Soul Sound was Betty Wright, whose hits including “Clean Up Woman” and “Shoorah! Shoorah!” were classic R&B tracks recorded locally, — until edging into disco with “Where Is the Love,” which earned a GRAMMY for Best R&B Song.
Miami’s music scene actually boasted local record labels that rivaled some of the bigger music hubs like Detroit and Los Angeles. One of them, TK Records, was responsible for giving the world the magical sounds of the funk and R&B outfit, KC and the Sunshine Band, all the way from Hialeah. Originally a Junkanoo band, their sound evolved after the rising popularity of funk and disco in the 70s and 80s.
For a great time, Overtown was seen as a kind of “Harlem of South Florida” brimming with music halls and nightclubs that drew some of music’s greatest names. A richly cultural neighborhood where legends like James Brown broke into the scene, a seminal meeting place for Sam and Dave, and even a frequent favorite of the godfather of R&B, Ray Charles. One key moment in Overtown history was Sam Cooke recording what is considered to be one of the greatest live albums of all time: Live at the Harlem Square Club right here in our hometown.
What started as a Soundcloud playlist, RnBae has grown into a platform for soul and R&B music to thrive in three staple cities of Miami, Atlanta, and NYC. Since 2016, they have hosted a monthly party featuring emerging R&B acts and soul singers like Manu Manzo, Twelve’len and more. This Friday, December 20th, RnBae turns 3 and they’re celebrating in true funky fashion: with tons of amazing tunes and 100% free. Bring your baes (or find one there) to their usual stomping grounds at Gramps and enjoy live, sulrty performances by Carson and Aymber with DJ sets by Kumi and Lumin. RSVP here.
Cover Photo: The Standard Hotels.