If you loved dancehall, rap, reggae, R&B, soca, hip-hop, sunshine or rain, Best of the Best 2009 delivered. The third staging of the Best of the Best International Music Festival went down as promised on Sunday, May 24th in Bicentennial Park in Miami, Florida, and attracted the ultimate mix of local and international fans and media, all of whom braved the wet weather and slippery grounds to enjoy the show.
The lineup fused Caribbean and urban mainstream sounds and entertained fans from the start of the show just before 2pm to the very end at 11pm, when the city-regulated park was forced to meet its curfew and the lights came up on a crowd that longed for more.


Cocoa Tea
The artist rundown was a secret for fans, and the show kicked off with Miami-based hip-hop artists Shifta, Camar and Atiba, before the advertised roster took effect with Ras Penco and Christopher Martin serenading the afternoon crowd. Dancehall diva Spice brought her hit "Romping Shop" and killed the BOTB stage, the first time performing for such a massive audience. Then The Stones featuring Ricky Blaze with their hits from the New York corridor added some flare with their funky clothing and electro-dancehall sound. Kip Rich and Flippa Mafia rounded things out before the reggae segment. Cocoa Tea took the reigns first, singing his hit "Barack Obama," as the skies opened up over the park. Then Capleton brought the fire, literally shaking the stage with his high-flying antics that left the crowd and rappers watching backstage in awe.


Capleton | Mavado
The much-anticipated hip-hop segment soared as the sporadic rain showers cleared up, with "We the Best" DJ Khaled and T-Pain first hitting the stage. It was a flawless track-set that saw a steady flow of artists every five minutes. Joining Khaled and Pain were Rick Ross, his new dancehall artist Magazeen, Ace Hood, and in the biggest surprise of the night, Sean "Diddy" Combs joined Ross on stage, taking off his white Kangol bucket hat and pointing at the crowd, receiving the biggest forward of the night then departing just as suddenly as he appeared. It was not the end of the segment however, as #1 Billboard artist Flo Rida also made a surprise appearance, joined by his Poe Boy label mate Brisco. Then rap star Jeezy delivered his hits including the chart-topper, "My President's Black," to wrap the smash segment. "I'm glad to be here, I love reggae," stated Jeezy. "The vibe is right, with the roots and culture. One day I'll get into the sound because it's a strong sound...very interesting."


Beenie Man
The momentum of the night continued with the slamming soca sounds of Trinidad songstress Destra Garcia, the only soca act but all that was needed to get the crowd on their feet and rags in the air. Then the self-proclaimed "King of the Dancehall" Beenie Man stormed the stage and mashed it up with his live-band set. The "Energy God" Elephant Man followed him for an abbreviated set as Beenie's Ruff Kut band had to make way for the Alliance's Anger Management band, which closed the show. Following Ele was Tony Matterhorn on tracks for the quick band change, then Serani, followed by Mavado and Bounty Killer, as all three dancehall megastars shared the stage to close Best of the Best 2009.


Bounty Killer
Off-stage highlights included Beenie Man on stage watching the hip-hop segment as the rappers greeted him on stage, the hip-hop stars including Rick Ross who went over to hail Capleton, Busta Rhymes who hung out back stage eating and chatting with his new collaborator Beenie, Flo Rida who walked into the park with his Poe Boy entourage and found his own way backstage, Bounty who wanted to storm the stage while Beenie was on (Beenie was scheduled to close the show but came on early so that he would have enough time to perform his entire set), and Elephant Man who showed up on his own and slipped his way backstage undetected in his pirate costume, complete with hook on hand and parrot on shoulder. But perhaps the biggest stars were the cars backstage. T-Pain arrived in a red Rolls-Royce Phantom, Khaled in a powder blue Rolls, Ross in a navy blue Masserrati, Diddy in a larger-than-life tour bus, while Busta and Wayne Wonder kept it cool in black Escalades.


Elephant Man
Most of the artists made it back to the media tent, which was a bevy of activity and also shelter from the steady drizzle and wet park grounds. The weather also kept media away from the media pit in front the stage for the later part of the show as water posed a hazard with wires on the ground.
All photos : Wayne Lawrence