Amos Larkins II first entered the Miami music scene as a classically trained bass player and engineer during disco music’s decline. A few years later he changed the course of music history by making a cocaine-induced mistake during a hazy all night session — a mistake that birthed the Miami bass genre.
Before establishing himself as a Miami pioneer, Larkins’ initial foray into music began with bass lessons under the late Jazz legend Jaco Pastorius. After excelling at upright bass during junior high school, he was soon attending workshops at the University of Miami with many other famed players. Though only a teenager at the time, Larkins demonstrated a skill level beyond his years and earned himself a stint as a session musician at Miami Sound studio in the early 80s.
From his first studio gigs at Miami Sound, Larkins gravitated toward hanging out with people involved in the Miami club scene. This new peer group gave him the first gateway towards bass music. “I started hanging around these pimps and singing groups and shit, people who were on the streets,” he told Red Bull Music Academy in 2015. “I learned more from the streets that helped me later on in Miami Bass.”
“I was so fogged out that I didn’t even want to hear the music. I never really listened to it and I just assumed it was good.”
In addition to socializing with people connected to the club scene, Larkins also took in musical influences from hit records that would later become staples of Miami bass. One particular song that stood out was Osé’s “Computer Funk”, which Larkins later credited for introducing him to the Roland TR-808 drum machine. “It wasn’t called bass then, but that’s when I first saw the 808,” he told Red Bull. “It just had a thump to it. That was cool, so that’s what got me into the 808. Nobody was calling it bass music, nobody was calling it nothing.”
While he absorbed the sounds of popular electro records and worked his studio gigs, Larkins was hired to produce M.C. Flex & FBI Crew’s “Rockin’ It” theme song for the 1984 Miami breakdancing film Cry of the City. Unfortunately for both the parties, the movie was later re-branded as Knights of the City and their song was left on the cutting room floor. Despite the missed opportunity, the gig still proved fruitful — Larkins’ skills caught the attention of Sunnyview Records, who hired him to produce for them and their smaller labels like Prime Choice and Double Duce.
As Larkins’ professional career continued to blossom, he remained a steady presence in the Miami nightlife. Like many people who frequented Miami’s clubs in the 80s, it wasn’t long before he developed a serious coke habit. “I was a frequent cocaine user and strip-club patron,” he told the Miami New Times in 2015. “So whenever I took breaks to clear my thoughts, I would frequent strip clubs to get inspiration or just to totally get away from the studio for a second to give my ears a break”
“Nobody was calling it bass music, nobody was calling it nothing.”
One such strip club visit in early 1985 kick-started the Miami bass genre. After a night filled with cocaine and champagne, Larkins invited a stripper back to Sunnyview with him to finish a mix of Double Duce’s “Commin’ In Fresh”. Once they arrived at the studio he played the song for his guest and started adjusting different levels, giving particular focus to the 808 bass. “I was playing with the 808 bass settings to record it on the tape and try to see what it sounded like before I made the final pass for the mix,” he told the Miami New Times.
As the music played Larkins and his guest partied in a separate room in the studio and the music soon became an afterthought. After several hours, he realized that the sun had risen and the Sunnyview employees would be coming in for work soon. In his haste to finish the final mix for “Commin’ In Fresh”, Larkins admitted that he didn’t even do a final sound check before recording the song. “I had the volume down super low because I was so fogged out that I didn’t even want to hear the music,” he told the Miami New Times. “I never really listened to it and I just assumed it was good.”
Less than a week later Sunnyview/Prime Choice distributed “Commin’ In Fresh” to local music shops all around Miami. When the record first hit the shelves, Larkins visited a friend who owned a mixtape store at a local flea market. As he walked into the store the owner threw a copy of Double Duce’s new single on the record player. The song’s bass was so low that it sounded like it was going to destroy the store’s speaker, leaving Larkins in a state of panic. “My heart almost dropped out of my chest when I heard that over-compressed bass,” he told the Miami New Times. “Not only was it too long, but it was tearing up the fuckin’ speakers.”
“I didn’t mimic anybody, nor was I inspired by somebody else. It was a mistake, and once I saw that people were into it, I did more records like it.”
Fearing that he’d made a mistake that would cost him his job, Larkins looked around in stunned silence. But as the song played, something odd happened— it seemed like people actually liked it. “I looked around the store to all the people and the strangest thing happened,” he told the Miami New Times. “Everybody looked up asking, ‘Who the fuck is that?’ and ‘What’s the name of that record?’”
Once he realized that he may have stumbled onto a goldmine, Larkins rushed back to Sunnyview to tell label owner Henry James about his discovery. After getting the green light for further bass experimentation, he continued tinkering until he had the Miami bass sound mastered. “I didn’t mimic anybody, nor was I inspired by somebody else,” he told the Miami New Times. “It was a mistake, and once I saw that people were into it, I did more records like it.”
Now — over 20 years since “Commin’ In Fresh” — Larkins has switched to a life of sobriety and is also a vegetarian. Though he has been quieter with his output in recent years, he continues to produce and release music like the 2015 album Amos Larkins Presents: Party Time 1 by Connie. With no social media presence besides a defunct MySpace account and his most recent interview dating back to 2015, it’s unclear what future plans Larkins has for his music career. Whether he decides to put out more music or eventually retire, Larkins’ accidental bass created a genre of music that dominated the southern states (and beyond) for many years and continues to reverberate today.