“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.
“Nuthin’ but fire flow, every time I lay ‘em down / prepositional phrases, adverbs and a lot of nouns.”
The rapping is primary. It’s the first thing. Just talking about the reality and the life that’s here in New Orleans, and everything that I dealt with. Then the political stuff just comes out of the life, or the community stuff. I made songs that talked about the injustice and the poverty in New Orleans. I think it’s just political in itself from just creating the music. But it’s a reality that I'm speaking about. Then folks hear it, and folks are singing it. You’re kind of doing the work, not necessarily intentionally, but I think after Katrina I got more into it. To actually represent it and be on the street and be a part of all the other grassroots organizing and campaigns.
A lot of the records like "Stingy" - it’s just a real record about how I feel about my woman. I'm not a person that really likes to share. I'm just staying I'm stingy about that person. That record is just as political as "Black Man" to me. It’s going against the grain that everybody else making records is saying. “I want an independent woman, I want her to be independent from me or whatever, or men, or males, period.” I'm saying I don't want that. I want the woman that depends on me. I want her to know I'm dependable, and talking about family and kids and that type of stuff, and providing for the woman. I just put it on the bounce beat so I could get another audience, and capture the folks who might not necessarily get the record if I put it on a different track. I'm not going to put myself in a box. I'm not going to be the Sess 4-5, political activist, where you can't do no fun records or something like that - because I'm an artist first. I'm doing the music that comes to my heart, to my mind. I'm just creating that. I'm a person that will take a stand also. If I feel passionate about a situation I'm going to speak on it. Participate. Just come out on it. I love the music first. That’s what I do.
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Nuthin But Fire, Untouchable
9th Ward, Desire Project, Florida Project
L.O.G., Ms Tee, 5th Ward Weebie, S.A.C Mafia and others