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Label tunes in to bass vibrations

A primer: That booming music you often hear coming out of car stereo systems, where the heavy vibrations turn the car frame into a big tuning fork, could very well be a form of rap called "bass."

Not only is it Florida's hip-hop claim to fame, as much as gangsta funk belongs to the West Coast, but the home-grown genre may help propel local artist Envy ( Hilary Powell) into the national spotlight.

Powell's signing to Mercury records _ announced last week _ was made possible by major label interest in Florida's bass-heavy sound, a lot of which stems from the massive crossover success of the single Whoomp/Whoot (There It Is).

"But you look around the bass scene, and all the artists are male," said Powell, a Lakewood High graduate who resides in St. Petersburg. "There aren't that many females getting pushed mainstream by the big labels."

"It was a situation where Holly Rob and Dr. Ray (Pinellas Park's Rob and Ray Jones) brought her to my attention," said Mercury A&R director Dave McPherson. "I was impressed with what they were doing as producers, as well as the notion of a female doing the style she is doing."

Another prominent female rapper is Bradenton's Lady Nubian, who has had a busy schedule recently, playing shows from St. Petersburg to Tallahassee to Thomasville, Ga. She has released a bass maxi-single titled Keep Pumping.

"Rap can come out of anywhere," said the rapper, also known as Angela Elaine Davis. "As long as your stuff is clean, you can play anywhere, clubs, radio stations, house parties."

Envy will do a special performance for the New 2 Live Crew's album release party at Uptown 21 Wednesday night starting at 10 p.m. Admission is $7. Lady Nubian and Envy will play the WRXB Summer Madness Jam Friday, March 11 at the Manatee Civic Center. Tickets are $10 in advance or $13 the day of the show (add service charge for all tickets). Show starts at 8 p.m.

MORE LOCAL STARS: Keep your eyes peeled for St. Petersburg native Gregory Williams, when Wynton Marsalis comes to Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall on April 15. Williams says he got a call last Friday from Marsalis, inviting him to join the septet for a two-month stint.

Williams appeared on The Tonight Show with Delfeayo Marsalis back in 1992, and has played in the past with Wynton and Marcus Roberts among others.

Another St. Petersburg native, guitarist Lucky Peterson, will release his second album on the Verve label. Called Beyond Cool, it will hit the stores April 19.

HEATWAVE LINEUP: The king of Surf guitar, Dick Dale, will play WMNF's 12th annual Tropical Heatwave May 6-7. Among the others on the lineup: Brave Combo, Hassan Hakmoun, The Laura Love Band, Keri Leigh and the Blue Devils, Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band, The Iguanas, the Jimmy Johnson Blues Band, the Blazers, Man or Astroman? Roadhouse Rockers and the Mystic Revealers. Tickets are on sale for $16. You can order by calling WMNF, 238-8001 or TicketMaster.

CAUGHT IN THE ACT: The Veldt/The Dave Matthews Band _ Chapel Hill, N.C.'s The Veldt play an intriguing mix of soul and atmospheric rock, as they did on the first half of the Cocteau Twins bill Thursday at the Ritz.

But since the Chavis brothers ( Danny on guitar and Daniel on vocals) are dreadlocked African-Americans playing guitar-driven music, they tend to get associated with bands like Living Colour and Bad Brains. Unlike the hard rock-funk of those bands, they lean toward a slightly more understated sound.

"I had one writer tell me that we sounded just like the Bad Brains," said Danny. "I thought "Is he really listening?' "

The Dave Matthews Band played the Ritz on Wednesday with a set that came across as a less electric version of Weather Report. A lot of the musical focus comes from the interaction between Dave Matthews and drummer Carter Beauford, (a regular on BET's Soul of Jazz), creating a backdrop for violinist Boyd Tinsley and saxophonist Leroi Moore. "I used to live in Botswana," said Matthews. "And In Africa every instrument is focused on the rhythm."

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