The secret history of Tampa Bay's biggest hip-hop showcase

Jazz lovers have Clearwater Jazz Holiday. Eclectic types have Tropical Heatwave. And hip-hop hounds have Wild 98.7's Last Damn Show. • The Tampa hip-hop station was born in 1998 and hosted its first Last Damn Show music festival the next fall at Tampa's Ice Palace, now the St. Pete Times Forum. The idea was to bring together that year's best acts for "hits and hip-hop" — the station's motto — which in 1999 meant Busta Rhymes, DJ Skribble, 702 and up-and-comers Destiny's Child and Eminem. After three years at the Ice Palace, the show moved to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, where on Saturday the concert's 10th anniversary lineup will include T-Pain, E-40, Gym Class Heroes and other new-millennium A-listers. • There have been some snafus along the way. After the station broadcasted LDS1 live without a delay to bleep the profanity, a watchdog group called for the Federal Communications Commission to yank Wild's license. Then there are artists who split their pants backstage, artists with legal woes, artists who flake out at the last minute. • But it's all worth it after the final encore. • Tbt* spoke with the folks behind Last Damn Show for a history lesson on how Tampa Bay's biggest hip-hop show came to be. — Dalia Colon dcolon@tampabay.com

The early days

Navaho, Wild 98.7's morning news director: I was 15 or 16 during the first Last Damn Show. I kid you not, the buzz around school was the Last Damn Show: "Who's going to the Last Damn Show?" And everybody went.

Special Ed, morning producer: I remember before it was even Last Damn Shows, they were called Another Damn Shows. We used to have them at clubs with about three or four artists. It's crazy to think about. It used to be with Run-DMC and Freak Nasty, and now we're putting almost 30,000 people at Tropicana Field.

Orlando, program director and morning show host: The Last Damn Show was Y2K, basically, because the world was supposed to end once midnight hit and all the computers would crash, planes would start falling and whatever. Well, since the world was going to end, we said, "We need to have one big show. One great show. The Last Damn Show." That was LDS 1. The world didn't end, so we decided to just make it the biggest concert at the end of year, so it's the Last Damn Show of the year. We just pick whoever's hot, and then we try and supplement it with some people that people are excited about. We always have a local artist.

Tarpon Springs native 2 Pistols, who performed at LDS 9: I went to Last Damn Show 8, and I couldn't even get in. I was going to get in and pass out some flyers and stuff. ... I went from not getting in the building to being on the stage the following year, so it was kind of crazy. Them putting me on that show just kept things going. As soon as I got on that show, every time I'd go on my MySpace, girls were adding me, adding my song to their page. I'm like, "Yo, why I ain't got no deal yet?" As soon as I got on that show, right after that, I got a deal.

The planning

Beata Czechowski, former Wild 98.7 assistant program director and music director; now director of rhythm/crossover promotion for Jive Records: When I left Wild, the one thing I was the happiest about is I did not have to book another one of these shows.

Drew Fleming, Wild 98.7 marketing: It's months and months of exhausting work. We kind of brainstorm about the acts, the right recipe of acts. We brainstorm on anything production-wise we want to add into it. And then it's trying to track down these managers, agents of these artists who aren't the most organized.

Czechowski: If they're prompt in getting back to you, if it's a smooth transaction, if it's very business, then you're going to be fine. But you can tell when people aren't — I hate to say it, but you can tell when their cousins are their managers. It's very clear.

No-shows

Czechowski: Sometimes things happen and you can't control it. One year we had Jessica Simpson when her song Irresistible with Bow Wow was a big song. Her grandmother passed away that weekend. She had to cancel off the bill, and so we just moved the lineup around.

Orlando: Mase, when he went to being Pastor Mase, his deal was he could never miss church.

Czechowski: The day before the show, he says that he doesn't want to do the show because he has church the next day. Mind you, we got him for a very low rate, because we were one of the first stations to get him. ... By the time our show came around, he was already getting about $20,000 a show, and we were paying him like a quarter of that. ... So I found a flight to get him there the next morning for church, and then all of a sudden he's like, "No, I'm not going to fly. If you want me to come, I need a private jet."

Orlando: We put the jet there, he missed his time, the jet was gone, we had to replace it with another jet, and it was waiting for him, and he still didn't get on. And so from that day until now, we have not supported Mase since then. We have not played a Mase record.

Fleming: T.I. had his, uh, criminal issue. (In 2007, the rapper, a.k.a. Clifford Harris, was arrested on federal weapons charges.) So at the last minute, we got on the phone with Lil Wayne's manager, whom we have a good relationship with, and said, "Can Wayne come?" Wayne could not come on Saturday, but he could come on Friday. So we, in turn, had to move everything to Friday, which meant the stage hands, the union, the production, the video screens.

Czechowski: It's a gamble. This year, for example, a couple radio stations have had Lil Wayne, and he's shown up two, three hours later. They've had to hold shows over two hours for him. So booking Lil Wayne on a Last Damn Show is a gamble. But is the risk worth the reward? With Lil Wayne, of course it is. You're always trying to see around the curve, and you always have Plan B ready.

Backstage drama

Orlando: We had Master P and Mystikal on the same lineup, and they used to share a label, No Limit. They had a bad rift that was announced two weeks prior to the show. But they were both on the lineup in separate set times, and our marketing director was caught in the crossfire. It was Mystikal on one side, and the vehicles pulled up with Master P getting out, and they locked eyes and he was in the middle. He said you could just feel the tension, and when I walked up, he was like, "Dude, get one of them out of here now. Get one of them out of here now." Then Master P looked at Mystikal and said, "Let's go. We need to talk." They walked in a room, and all the entourages just thought there was going to be a big blow-up, and they went in there and they had their words and you heard some shouting and stuff, and no one knew what was going to happen. They walked out and went on and did their shows. I think that was probably the last time they spoke.

Star-struck moments

Special Ed: I've got a good one, actually. I'm a huge fan of Diddy.

Gordie, morning show co-host: Oh, Jesus.

Navaho: Here we go.

Special Ed: It's a big story. It's called The Diddy Bottle. I'm a big fan of Diddy, and I really wanted to meet him when he came (to LDS 4). For a lot of artists, you do get to meet them backstage, but with Diddy, he came with like 20 security guards. So it was almost next to impossible. But Orlando and our assistant program director at the time, Beata, had set it up to allow me to go into his dressing room and meet him after the show.

Orlando: When he left, Diddy was like, "Man, that guy was really a big fan. You know what, I want to do something for him." He went (on his bus) and pulled out this Cristal bottle, and he signed it. He's like, "Can you give this to make sure he gets this?" And when they gave it to him, he just — the heavens opened up.

Special Ed: Now it's sitting in a glass case.

Orlando: He's got an ADT alarm on it! (laughs) He's got a spotlight on it. You go in his house, and it's like harps next to it.

Special Ed: But how many people can say that happened to them?

Orlando: (to Gordie) Did you tell them about you stalking Beyonce? Basically, Beyonce and Destiny's Child did Last Damn Show 1. It was 10 years ago, and Gordie fell in love with Beyonce and started sending her flowers.

Gordie: I was before Jay-Z.

Orlando: He was star-struck. Couldn't interview her, just couldn't talk. Every time we had to ask her a question, he was just sitting there staring at her. ... Her father, Matthew Knowles, had to call me and say, "Hey, can you get your boy to calm down?"

Paco Gomez, morning show co-host: The other one we had that was a good one was when me and (Gordie) actually saw Trina (at LDS 2).

Gordie: We saw her changing. Yeahhh. Her pants split down the back.

Paco: She went behind the curtain to change, and we just happened to be right behind her as she was changing.

Gordie: Happened to be.

Paco: That was a good memory.

Last Damn Show 10

The lineup: David Banner, E-40, The Dream, The Game, Gym Class Heroes, Nina Sky, Plies, T-Pain, Tay Dizm, Tom G and Young Jeezy. The show starts at 5 p.m. Saturday at Tropicana Field, 1 Tropicana Drive, St. Petersburg. $20-$49. Tickets are available at the Tropicana Field box office and at ticketmaster.com. Friday's pre-party and Saturday's after-party will both be at Club Skye, 1509 Eighth Ave., Ybor City. Get details at wild987.fm.

The secret history of Tampa Bay's biggest hip-hop showcase 11/06/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 6, 2008 5:30pm]

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