“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.
I used to go to Odyssey Records in the Carrollton Shopping Mall. Every time I got five or six dollars I was going to buy a 12" record from Odyssey. I just noticed that all the records I was buying was from certain labels. It was either Def Jam or Profile. So every time I saw this Def Jam wax with the Def Jam label or Profile wax with the Profile label, I didn't care what it was, I was buying it. Nine times out of ten it was something I needed. When I got home and put it on the record player it was like, "Oh, I need this record. This record going to be hot." Back then, we didn't have the rap thing, they didn't have any New Orleans rappers. The only thing we had was the Def Jam records and the Profile records. We couldn't look at Aaron Neville and then compare him to LL Cool J. We just looked at it like, "Well, we could be an Aaron Neville one day, but we can't be a Cool J because we don't see him."
It was [Juvenile’s] reputation brought him to where I was. If you were going to make it rapping, nine times out of ten you were going to run into me at that time. I was producing [DJ] Jimi and Jimi kept telling me about him. "Man, they got this little guy. He be in the club. He be doing this." I'm like, "Well, you need to be doing that." He said, "I can't do it." I said, "Well, you need to go get this the person who’s doing it." The first day I met him we did "Bounce for the Juvenile."
[Marshall Sehorn] found me from the reputation going around the city. It was like, "Who is this guy Precise?" The guy who ran [Sound Services] studio was doing a lot of engineering work for Marshall. He told them, "There’s this guy over at my studio, I don't know what he’s doing, but he keeps business. He keeps me out my own studio. All the guys love him. They come to him to do the rap stuff."
Allen [Toussaint] was cool. He didn't understand what we was doing, though. They looked at us like, "Hmm." But we were bringing in money. That’s what changed his opinion about us. He didn't have nothing against us personally. It just was, "Those guys come and do what they’re doing." We’re doing what you was doing, what you was doing when you were younger! Trying to live out our dreams and do what we love to do.
Gamtown, Big Boy, Rap-A-Lot, Brutal, South Coast and others
Uptown, 12th Ward, Hollygrove/17th Ward
Early 90's - present
DJ Jimi, Devious, Mellow Fellow, Juvenile, Mystikal, The Ghetto Twiinz and others