“Where They At,” or “Wha Dey At,” is the title of a song generally recognized as the first bounce release, recorded in late 1991 as a cassette-only release by rapper T.T. Tucker, with the late DJ Irv. It was also recorded a few months after by DJ Jimi Payton for producer Isaac Bolden’s Soulin’ Records/Avenue Distribution. To all accounts, these recordings marked the point in time at which New Orleans rap first found its own voice in that raw, celebratory, infectious block-party style.
Bounce’s signature rhythms and call-and-response chants are deeply rooted in New Orleans’ cultural heritage, including Mardi Gras Indian and second-line traditions. The exhibit “Where They At” documents pioneering New Orleans rappers from the 1980’s, 1990’s, and early 2000’s, the period when bounce music melded and interplayed with lyrical hip-hop and gangsta rap in New Orleans to create a unique, hybrid Crescent City hip-hop sound – the newest branch of Southern roots music.
Photographer Aubrey Edwards and journalist Alison Fensterstock, over the course of 18 months, photographed and interviewed more than 40 rappers, DJs, producers, label and record store owners from the New Orleans bounce and hip-hop music scene. This archive includes original portraits and interview excerpts, original video and audio, and collected artifacts including vintage records, tapes, scene snapshots and other ephemera.
Alison Fensterstock is a New Orleans-based music journalist. From 2006-2009, she wrote an award-winning music column for the city's 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 display 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 Press's Best American Music Writing 2009.
Aubrey Edwards is a Brooklyn and New Orleans-based music photographer and educator. Edwards was an award-winning, primary music photographer for the alt-weekly Austin Chronicle from 2004-2008; her present client list includes the United Nations, Magnolia Pictures, Playboy, SPIN, XXL and Comedy Central. She teaches photography and videography in low-income NYC public schools, and runs a continued education photography school in downtown Brooklyn. Her recent work in New Orleans includes guest lecturing with the University of New Orleans photo department, conducting workshops with the New Orleans Kid Camera Project, and completing an artist residency with Louisiana Artworks.
Abita Beer, Abrons Art Center, Adrian Saldana, Alex Rawls & OffBeat magazine, Austin Powell, Chris Robinson, Colin Meneghini, Dr. Ira Padnos & The Ponderosa Stomp, Emil Nassar, Eric Brightwell, Heather West, Iris Brooks, Jacob Devries, Jayme McLellan & Civilian Art Projects, Jeremy Smith, John and Glenda "Goldie Roberts", John Swenson, Johnathan Durham, Jordan Hirsch & Aimee Bussells, Loren K. Phillips Fouroux, Matt Miller, Matt Sakakeeny PhD, Matt Sonzala, Michael Bateman, Neighborhood Story Project, Our Kickstarter Supporters, Patrick Strange, Polo Silk, Rachel Ornelas & the Jazz and Heritage Festival, Scott Aiges, Sean Yent Schuster-Craig, Stephen Thomas, The Birdhouse Gallery, The Soap Factory, Wild Wayne & Industry Influence
D. Lefty Parker | Audio Mastering
Erik Kiesewetter/EBSL | Art Direction & Design
Rami Sharkey | Web Development
Jac Currie & Defend New Orleans | Funder
The Greater New Orleans Foundation | Funder
Ogden Museum of Southern Art | Partner
All the project participants who shared their time, their words, and their support.
“Colder than a blizzard, like ice I last forever /
My touch is so damn lethal, give a chill to the devil.”
Everybody asks me, did you really a take a picture with that polar bear? We actually came to Houston, and we were dealing with Pen and Pixel, same graphic designers that Master P used, Cash Money, everybody was using back in the day. I can't think of the guy who did the cover. He took me to the zoo. He was like, "Look, Kilo, I know you going to be scared." We’re in a truck. We ain't from down here. He said, "I know you might be scared, I just need you to do this, because what I want to do with your album cover has never been done before." He said, "I can put you in there, but I want it to look real." Because I had came up with the "Too Cold to Be a Hot Boy" thing. I said, "All right, cool. I'm game."
He put us in a truck, me, Glenn [co-owner of Kilo’s label, Act Bad Records] and his wife. We was gone. Glenn looked over and said, "Where are we going?" We’re driving and everything. We get to the zoo out there in Houston. "At the damn zoo? For what?" He says, "Okay, I got you this ski outfit. It’s in the trunk. I want you to try it on." I was like, "All right, cool." So we go to the zoo guy who was with the animals. He was like, "You got him?" They were like, "Yeah." I'm like, "What?" I'm still keeping my cool. We go to a polar bear cage with a trainer. I said, "Oh God. What you want me to do?" He says, "All you have to do, if you can just stay still for ten or twenty minutes, I just need to take this picture and we can get out of here." Man, this guy came out here with this big old white polar bear, but he was trained. He says, "He going to lay there." He says, "All you got to do is stand behind him. When you get behind I'm going to put the chain in your hand, you just hold your hand out and do this here." Boy, I was scared. I did it, but I was scared as hell. He took like two or three pictures and we got out of there, like quick. Glenn like, "What’s a polar bear got to do with an album?" I said, "I don't know. You hired the dude. It's your damn money, you paid him. I don't know what this is. The album is ‘Too Cold to be a Hot Boy.' We at the zoo."
My album launched my career as a rapper, and it also launched a lot of other people that was involved from that point on. That was a real polar bear, and I have people asking me that all the time. Actually, I think it gave me some respect. People be like, "If you’re tough enough to stand behind a polar bear, come on, get in here. You can get to rapping." That’s how that story is.
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West Bank, 9th Ward
Early 90's - present
DJ Money Fresh