The birth of bounce, hip-hop’s distinctly New Orleans offspring
It took until the late 2010s for the rest of the country to discover the distinctly New Orleans brand of hip-hop known as “bounce,” but it dates all the way back to the late 1980s and early 1990s, when New Orleans musicians began producing a style of highly energetic, sexually charged call-and-response music that — as imminently danceable as it was — began getting frequent play at block parties. In 1991, MC T Tucker and DJ Irv recorded the track “Where Dey At,” which is credited by many with being the first bounce recording. Since then, bounce has bounced its way into the American consciousness.
“Twerk” may have been a national buzzword in 2013, but followers of bounce in New Orleans found nothing shocking or different about the then-newly “discovered” dance, which has long been a part of the bounce music scene. Today, Big Freedia is one of the biggest names in New Orleans music and one of the biggest names in bounce music across the country. Additionally, the song “Express Yourself” put local bounce artist Nicky da B into the limelight with producer Diplo.
- The distinctive call-and-response lyrics that characterize bounce music has its roots in the city’s Mardi Gras Indian and New Orleans second-line traditions.
- The 2013 documentary “That B.E.A.T.” sums up the genre in less than 10 minutes. It describes bounce as a stripped-down version of rap, featuring a “Triggerman beat” and a “Brown beat” that a deejay loops.
- Cash Money Records, one of the most recognized music labels in the country, originated in New Orleans in the 1990s, just when bounce music was getting big in the city. Bryan and Ronald Williams founded the label in 1991, and Mannie Fresh produced many of its early hits.
- After 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, Big Freedia was noted for being one of the first performers to return to the city, performing nearly every night — and sometimes twice a night. Freedia’s international success is often credited to this tremendous energy and work ethic.
- New Orleans journalist Alison Fensterstock and photographer Aubrey Edwards are responsible for creating an oral history and archive of bounce artists, music and other artifacts. The project was shown in galleries across the country and also exists in perpetuity online at Wheretheyatnola.com.
- Another effect of Hurricane Katrina on bounce music was the forced export of it to other cities, as New Orleans residents relocated by the storm brought bounce with them. Now, these cities have small bounce scenes of their own.
New Orleans is perhaps best known in the music world as the birthplace of jazz and as an incubator of early rock ‘n’ roll. You can also put bounce music on the list, which only adds to the city’s reputation as a cradle of American music. The call-and-response of bounce, the emphasis on the importance of one’s neighborhood, the party-like atmosphere — all of these are wholly New Orleans, and they help make bounce irresistible. As Mannie Fresh, says in “That B.E.A.T.”: “Most people who come to New Orleans, the first time they hear it, they embrace it. … Then when you see how people react to it at a party, you already hooked on it.”