Last summer, a Miami rapper named Bizzle walked on stage at Club Skye in Ybor City with $1,000 in crisp $1 bills, and proceeded to make it rain.
That is, he tossed fistfuls of money into the crowd and watched as fans clambered over one another to grab dollar after dollar.
"You would think the guy's a millionaire," said Tampa's DJ Christion, the host of that night's party. "He does it everywhere he performs. The first year he did it, he threw out $5,000 in ones. I even joined in with him. He gave me a stack, and after half the stack, I was like, 'This ain't for me. Take it back; you have fun.' It feels too crazy."
In the hip hop world, making it rain - that is, hurling cash into the crowd - is not a new phenomenon. The phrase "make it rain" dates to at least 2006, when it was popularized by Fat Joe's Grammy-nominated single Make It Rain. In fact, at this point, the term is pretty stale; it's sort of like hearing your dad use the phrase "Bling bling!" to describe his new iPhone.
But that doesn't mean the money showers have stopped.
Locally, a good place to catch rappers making it rain is DJ Christion's Birthday Bash, one of Tampa's hottest annual hip-hop parties, which takes place Thursday at Club Skye. Last year, in addition to Bizzle's crowd-pleasing spree, artists passed out bottles of Patron tequila and Ed Hardy sparkling wine from the stage.
"It's monumental every summer," said Christion, whose guest list this year includes Flo Rida, Fat Joe and Trick Daddy. "You're gonna see them make it rain. You're gonna see the money in the sky."
Notorious rainmakers include Nelly, boxer Floyd "Money" Mayweather, and Plies, the megaselling Fort Myers rapper who lives in Tampa.
"In this economy, people look at those artists like a Peter Pan," said Wild 94.1 program director/DJOrlando. "Once they get money, they like to share it, whether it's at a strip club or a show. It really just shows that they're of the people."
At November's Last Damn Show concert at Tropicana Field, Plies pulled Orlando on stage and handed him a stack of $100 bills worth $10,000.
"I looked at him like, 'What do you want me to do with this? You can't just hand me money in front of people! This is illegal!'" Orlando said. "He's like, 'No, man, you gotta give it out. You decide where it goes.'"
This posed a problem for the host, who felt nervous handling a stack that large. "It was too much pressure for me," he said. "I tried to throw it, and it all landed on security, so they ended up making like $1,000. ... He's like, 'Hey, I got another $10,000. You want to do it again?' I'm like, 'No! Just start singing!'"
So where does all this cash come from? It's not like a performer can hit the nearest ATM before a show to withdraw $1,000 in singles.
Orlando said rappers often ask to get paid in cash at the door. "They all take cash day-of, because they know they're going to go out that night, and they want to fund their frivolity for the night," he said.
For bigger-name artists like Diddy, Rick Ross or DJ Khaled, someone from their crew will actually make a bank run that day to get plastic-wrapped bricks of ones, tens, twenties or hundreds.
"It's really just a marketing tool," Orlando said. "These guys have discretionary income, and what better way to make sure you're on the blogs and YouTube, to make sure you made a scene at the club, so people want to come support you? They see you doing those things that set you apart from the masses."
But with low-level rappers like Bizzle getting into the rainmaking game - he brought his stacks to Club Skye in a plastic Ross shopping bag - headliners are looking for more creative ways to share the wealth.
"Trey Songz is bringing people onstage now and making out with them, pouring bottles of water on them, licking it off of them," Orlando said. "That works, too. It's a lot cheaper."
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DJ Christion's Birthday Bash
Flo Rida, Fat Joe, Trick Daddy, DJ Khaled, Ace Hood, DJ Drama, Cool & Dre and more are scheduled to perform at DJ Christion's annual bash. It takes place Thursday at Club Skye, 1509 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City. Tickets are $15-$25. (813) 247-6606.