MIAMI — Sunday night after the VMAs, the A-list parties outnumbered the amount of Moonmen Jay-Z won. Heck, the A-list parties seemed to outnumber the problems Jay-Z raps about in his current hit record.
Outkast had people doing the A-Town stomp at Mansion, and P. Diddy held an extravaganza at the Ice Palace, where Doug E. Fresh, feeling like he's still "the world's greatest entertainer," jumped on the mic. Fat Joe celebrated his birthday with Lil Jon at the Opium Garden, while Jadakiss celebrated going platinum and his VMA pre-show performance at Crobar with MTV's LaLa. Even D12 had people lining up for their post-show pool parrrrr-tay at the Delano.
So with so many stars in town and so many functions to attend, what do you do? "Get out early and hit as many as you can," advised Miami native Trina.
But with a logjam of cars in the streets and traffic at most party doors unbearable if you get there late, you could really only hit one or two functions. The shindig everybody — including Ludacris and our own Sway, John Norris and SuChin Pak — had to hit was the afterparty held in honor of Usher Raymond IV.
Two nights earlier, to get to Usher's private yacht party, you had to drive onto a ferry, take the ferry to an island, and then follow a man in a golf cart to another checkpoint. There you would get out of your car and pile into a golf cart, where a woman would drive at top speed to the boat, giving you minor heart palpitations with all the near misses of poles and trees ("Don't worry, I've been working here 11 years, I know this island pretty well," she said).
All that adventure seemed like a breeze compared to what it took to get into the Shore Club for Usher's VMA soiree Sunday night. A bouncer screamed and howled at people, telling them to back up from the barricade as they tried to politick their way in with the woman holding the guest list.
While outside it was a zoo, inside it was more like a circus. "What is that? A lion?" one guest asked the beast's trainer as the animal lie calmly on a red carpet. "No, it's actually a panther," the woman, clad in body paint and a bathing suit, answered the astounded man.
In the back VIP area, Usher was living like a king. There was a table that seemed a mile long, and food and liquor covered almost every inch of it like a tablecloth. At the head of the table was an actual throne, flanked by bodyguards dressed in black who kept watch while King Raymond stood up and took pictures.
Seemingly a little overwhelmed by the never-ending line of bodies trying to get near him, he took a breather and was alerted that "the performance was about to start."
"Y'all have to see this," he announced. "Everybody come on."
Usher led the VIP section to an Olympic-size swimming pool, where Christina Aguilera was led in to say hi to Mr. Entertainment. A few minutes after they started talking, the Neptunes came in and joined them. Everyone started taking photos.
Then the theatrics. Acrobats climbed to the top of two structures that hung over the pool and then flipped and swung from ropes. Woo ha!
The spectacle turned back toward the floor at poolside, but the spotlight wasn't on Usher and his pals, or even on Lil' Kim, who was walking nearby. A muscle man wearing black paint and shiny black pants with lights going down the sides had walked up and cleared a path from himself. He looked to be close to seven feet tall, but that's because he was wearing PowerSkips — springy, pogo-stick-like devices that allowed him to flip and do back flips over people, which he did.
As the man walked around, you got a real sense of how huge Shaquille O'Neal really is. The Diesel walked by with his wife, towering over the man standing on PowerSkips.
A little later, Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson walked in as Usher was on his way out. In the hotel lobby, the R&B star met producer Just Blaze, who had fought his way in only to see the star of the night was about to jet. The two discussed some future shows they may do together before Usher, seemingly exhausted, flopped down on a couch because of some bad news: his ride wasn't there.
The Maybach pulled up to the door less than a minute later, but Usher couldn't leave just yet. One more well-wisher — video director X — had to give him props.
Back on the streets of Miami, even in the wee morning hours, it seemed like no one wanted to go home. 8Ball, the Black Eyed Peas' Will.I.Am and producer Rich Nice all dined separately in the same Cuban restaurant, and while walking outside you could easily bump into Dres from Black Sheep, DJ Kay Slay or Talib Kweli.
The night before the big show, it seemed like all of Miami had one thing on the brain: partying.
The streets of the South Beach strip crawled with more people anxious to get their groove on than the myriad clubs, bars and hot spots could bear. Lines snaked down the block for the Blender magazine bash, held at the ultra-fine Japanese restaurant Nobu in the Shore Club hotel, where partygoers scarfed sashimi with the likes of Tony Hawk, the Neptunes, Christina Milian, Bam Margera, Nick Lachey and Jessica and Ashlee Simpson.
A few blocks away, Paris Hilton, who also made the rounds at the Stuff magazine party earlier in the evening, served as late-night hostess of her own bash at Mansion, thrown to honor fashion photographer David LaChapelle's strides in directing videos such as No Doubt's VMA-nominated "It's My Life."
Jay-Z is still in a San Tropez state of mind. The man who once referred to himself as Young Yacht on the radio (because of his preferred mode of transportation) broke out the big boat on Saturday for a private reception of around 75 people.
P. Diddy, meanwhile, invited 50 or so fabulous people to his Miami mansion Saturday night, including Bruce Willis, Hilary Duff and Busta Rhymes.
Pitbull, a performer on the "2004 VMA Pre-show by the Shore," had his own list of guests coming out and showing support when the Cuban MC got on the mic at his album-release party for M.I.A.M.I. at Crave. Fellow hometown upstart Jacki -O came through, as did rap's most acclaimed yellers, Lil Jon and the Ying Yang Twins.
And oh yeah, let's not leave LL Cool J out. He's not up for any Moonmen, but he gets an award for best promotional item. At a few of the parties this weekend, girls dressed in special T-shirts have shown up to put the word out about L's upcoming DEFinition LP. The shirts didn't have "Coming Soon" or a release date plastered on the front — instead, they had mini TV screens across their chests playing his "Headsprung" video.
Catch all the sizzlin', star-packed VMA action direct from Miami on August 28. MTV News' preshow kicks things off at 6:00 p.m. ET/PT, followed by the big show at 8 p.m.