NEW ORLEANS, LA.- The Ogden Museum of Southern Art
/University of New Orleans presents Where They At: New Orleans Bounce and Hip-Hop in Words and Pictures. This exhibition celebrates the founders, architects, and players in New Orleans hip-hop and the uniquely regional rap known as bounce music, a phenomenon that evolved from the citys housing projects. Photographs, oral histories, and video footage compiled by photographer Aubrey Edwards and journalist Alison Fensterstock document the passing of seminal beats from New Orleans music traditions to a new generation in the late 1980s to create this new voice in Southern roots music. This multi-media exhibition draws a line to the present-day New Orleans diaspora, as Hurricane Katrina has scattered a once tight-knit bounce and hip-hop community whose music only existed at home a home that has been redefined physically and culturally. Where They At will also be exhibited during SXSW in Austin, Texas, and the full archive opens in New Orleans at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art (925 Camp St., New Orleans), where numerous events spanning several months are planned.
The exhibition features photographs taken by Aubrey Edwards and Polo Silk of bounce performers, including Juvenile, DJ Jimi and Katey Red, and of landscapes where bounce performers grew up, lived and performed. Audio-visual stations offer footage of live performances and oral history recordings by members and tradition bearers of the bounce community. Ephemera, such as LPs, tapes and posters document the material culture and its adaptations over time. A full online cultural archive will be launched in conjunction with the exhibition, serving as the only resource of its kind in hip-hop research.
New Orleans is the source for many forms of indigenous American music, including funk and the street music of Second Line bands and Mardi Gras Indians. Bounce is the newest manifestation of that Southern tradition. Mardi Gras Indian chants, brass band beats and call-and-response routines equally inform bounce music, which almost invariably samples the Showboys Drag Rap (a.k.a. Triggerman) and Derek Bs Rock the Beat or Cameron Pauls Brown Beats. Featuring lyrical patterns that focus mainly on sex, parties and dancing, it invites even demands audience participation by calling out dance steps or prompting replies.
In the 90s heyday of New Orleans hip-hop, female rappers like Mia X, Ms Tee, Magnolia Shorty and Cheeky Blakk appeared in significant number with songs that were just as bawdy and aggressive as their male counterparts. Often, their tracks served as answer songs that challenged male MCs sexism in a way that created playfully ribald conversation, such as Silky Slimms Sista Sista or Mia Xs Da Payback.
The prominence of queer members of the bounce community, such as Big Freedia, Sissy Nobby, and Vockah Redu, defies the myth of insurmountable homophobia within hip-hop culture, and speaks to a curious tradition in African-American entertainment in New Orleans, which has accepted and celebrated queer and cross-dressing entertainers for over half a century. Katey Red, a Sissy, was signed to the prominent bounce record label Take Fo.
Where They At is the title of a song generally recognized as the first bounce release, recorded by DJ Jimi Payton in 1992 for producer Isaac Boldens Avenue Records. (The song was recorded earlier the same year as a homemade cassette-only release by rapper T.T. Tucker, with the late DJ Irv.) To all accounts, these recordings marked the point in time at which New Orleans rap found its own voice in the raw, celebratory, infectious block-party sound that would go on to influence artists at the top of the game. The chants Jimi originated on that track, Do it, baby, stick it and Shake that ass like a salt shaker are still quoted by bounce artists and DJing parties today, and Jimi famously used his mother and grandmother as backup dancers.
Alison Fensterstock is a New Orleans-based music journalist. From 2006-2009, she wrote an award-winning music column for the citys alt-weekly, The Gambit. Her writing on roots music and New Orleans rap has appeared in MOJO, Vibe, Q, Paste, Spin and the Oxford American Music Issue. Recently, she wrote the text for Unsung Heroes: The Secret History of Louisiana Rock n Roll, an exhibit currently on view at the Louisiana State Museum. She is the programming director for the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation. Her Gambit cover story on gay and transgendered bounce artists in New Orleans, Sissy Strut, was selected for an honorable mention in Da Capo Presss Best Music Writing 2009.
Aubrey Edwards is a New Orleans- and Brooklyn-based music photographer and educator. Edwards was the primary music photographer for the alt-weekly Austin Chronicle from 2004-2008; her present client list includes the United Nations, Magnolia Pictures, Playboy, SPIN and Comedy Central. She teaches photography and videography in Brooklyn schools, as well as with continuing adult education. Her recent work in New Orleans includes guest lecturing with the University of New Orleans photo department and conducting workshops with the New Orleans Kid Camera Project.