On November 4, 1984, Nat Moore found himself orbiting five feet above Astroturf, his helmet on reverb. He had just been vectorized by two Jets defenders from opposite directions. Beer-blooded fans in East Rutherford, New Jersey, were astonished. The Dolphins receiver appeared to be levitating, an All-Pro in need of an exorcist. Yet he still retained the football, the only bit of reality on Nat Moore’s person at the moment.
ESPN couldn’t resist overdubbing chopper noise during highlights. That year, Nat Moore would be best remembered for his heliocentricity rather than for receiving the NFL’s first Man of the Year Award for providing “outstanding service” to a North Miami community decimated by riots, racism, and a highway. Kids who wanted to torch the seat of justice could enroll in one of the Dolphin youth football programs — or they could just skate backward to “Ring My Bell” at one of Nat Moore’s teen clubs.
What the NFL failed to recognize were Moore’s outstanding contributions to the birth of Miami bass, a rap extremity that enhanced player quality of life: spandex, jock jams, the strip club, the Luke party, the maximization of trunk space.1 This was the first hip-hop genre that appeared to be solely dedicated to fusing a subwoofer waveform with the human rear end, as if trying to develop a new biotechnology called Bottom, making these exaggerations of low end indistinguishable from each other.
Bass was hot air, a low-pressure system in a city constantly on the verge of being blown away, in a sinkhole with a notorious history of property boom and bottoming out, where swamp was hyped as land, a distortion of reality that once went for a song. (One of Miami’s pioneering developers, Locke Highleyman, was described as using the dredge to “amplify his backyard.”) The Miami bass appellation would ultimately replace the city’s name with Booty, which was appropriate — at times, the only thing appropriate — in a landscape that had been pulled out of its own ass by dredgers. Miami was essentially made out of bottom. Addressing Miami’s real-estate freaks in 1936’s The Big Money, John Dos Passos once wrote, “They try to tell us the boom ain’t sound.” That same year, Roosevelt’s WPA established Liberty Square — the future home of Miami bass — as the first federally funded public housing in the South.
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