“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’m not the one you can beat;
I’m the one you’re tryin’ to be like.”
In music back then, the thing was to battle. My people, we would just find where the coldest rappers was. They would start messing until they got the best rapper to come against me because I was the best rapper. We would go from concert to concert, talent show to talent show, neighborhood to neighborhood. It wasn't on the radio or nothing. It was just somebody saying…remember the Ninja Crew? Sporty T? "I got somebody who can get Sporty." That’s usually how it kicked off.
The best time was parade season, because everybody was walking around. We went to schools, illegally come on your campus just for a rap battle. Catch y'all at lunch. Sneak over and risk detention or something just so I can get your best rapper and y'all know you can't get Tim Smooth.
Bounce came in about 1992 or 1993. T.T. Tucker. I remember the night. The number one DJ out here was Davey D. Davey D. is like, "Tim, they got this dude doing this bounce thing. It’s like project music, man, ‘cause everybody’s calling from the project wanting to hear it." I'm like, "Okay." This is old school. I almost want to battle them! I don't know what they’re talking about. He said, "Him and Bust Down just had a concert, and if this boy make a record, they’re going to change the rap game in New Orleans, period." Davey D told me this. I said, "Man, you are a god damn liar." He said, "It don't have nothing to do with if they good or not, it’s just the effect that this is having on people." I remember looking at Davey D like Davey D was crazy. It went down just like he said. Before the Hot 8 at 8, the top eight songs of the city, they would play Slam It or Jam It, an hour before. You would call in, you liked it or you don't. When they put T.T. Tucker, the bounce music, on Slam it Or Jam It that night, he went from getting jammed to number one over everybody and he stayed there. That motherfucker stayed there. Excuse my French. Stayed there – him and DJ Irv.
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Yo!, Rap-A-Lot, Mobo
West Bank, Kennedy Heights
Bust Down, Mystikal, Tre 8, Ice Mike, Insane