The lineup for Dope Entertainment's Rolling Loud Festival set South Florida hip-hop heads abuzz: the headliners are current favorites Schoolboy Q, A$AP Ferg, Action Bronson and Juicy J.
But on Feb. 28 at Wynwood's Soho Studios, those big alternative-hip-hop acts will share the stage with underground South Florida rappers.
One of those locals is 19-year-old Denzel Curry from Carol City.
Dope Entertainment founder Tariq Cherif says local artists rarely get the recognition they deserve. But Curry has garnered the respect of West Coast music collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, a group known for its frenetic live shows and the Adult Swim sketch comedy show "Loiter Squad."
Curry’s music includes themes of altercations with police and the struggles of poverty.
“This is an artist who has toured the country twice already and sold out plenty of venues and has fans nationwide,“ Cherif says.
Curry gained quite a following in the underground hip-hop scene after the release of his first album, “Nostalgic 64.” On “Nostalgic,” Curry weaves dark narratives over unsettling beats, depicting the aggressive mentality of young men in Miami-Dade County and spinning tales of hopelessness and struggle.
“People have come up to me and said, ‘Yo, “Nostalgic” changed my life, man. I never thought I would see a Florida rapper rap like that,’” Curry said.
Curry believes the hip-hop scene in South Florida is coming alive after years of dormancy.
“South Florida music is on a comeback, because we’re really getting recognized”, he said. “You’ve got [artists] like me, [artists] like Robb Bank$, [artists] like Pouya. Let’s come up together. If it’s not benefiting everybody, I don’t want to hear it.”
Robb Bank$ is a Fort Lauderdale rapper whose cold, no-nonsense delivery over haunting instrumentals has earned a sizeable fanbase. Pouya is a young Miami native whose flows have been compared to the Ohio group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. Both will be performing at Rolling Loud.
South Florida is not regarded as a hotbed for hip-hop. Underground locals like Curry can and do sell out shows across the country, but still aren’t recognized the way rappers from, say, New York or Los Angeles are. If there’s love to be had for the Miami hip-hop scene, it’s coming from the bottom up.
“I know South Florida has a culture,” Curry said. “People don’t take the time to look up South Florida music. It’s either Chicago, Atlanta, or New York. Artists from other states come down to get our money. We’ve been here. We have our culture.”
But the culture hasn’t made the major waves it needs in order to be taken seriously, and this might be in part due to the way locals associate hip-hop with violence.
A Miami New Times write-up on Rolling Loud saw commenters bemoaning a hip-hop festival coming to town.
“And all they saw was ‘hip-hop festival’, and they were like ‘No, there’ll be shootings, there’ll be violence -- we don’t need this in Miami,’” Cherif says. “But [Dope Entertainment has] been doing shows in Miami, Tampa, and Orlando since 2010. We’ve never had a shooting, we’ve never had a stabbing, never had any serious altercation. It’s always been peaceful, and I hate when people look at hip-hop as something that’s strictly violence-related.”
“I think [that’s] stupid,” he said. “Music is music. If you know the show is going to be positive, you don’t have to worry about a negative connotation. None of my shows have ever been shot up.”
Cherif expects about 6,000 people to attend Rolling Loud -- which might make Miamian detractors a bit nervous. But for the local acts, the huge crowd and big-name billing presents a definite opportunity to bring their art to a wider audience.