“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 be that playa with the ice on me / if it costs less than 20, it don’t look right on me.”
I’ll never forget where I come from. The streets need me. If it wasn’t for the streets, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Every state and every city all over the United States, they got people that can relate to the stories, and the things I’ve seen and the things that I’ve been through.
[Baby and I] really got out relationship back on point when his sister was killed in a car accident. Because my daddy was murdered when I was 12 years old. When his sister died. I called the radio station to send my condolences out and he just so happened, he was calling at the same time, so they patched both of us on at the same time. I felt the same way he was feeling. And me and Tamara grew up together. We got off the radio together and we called each other on the phone. He asked me to come by his mother’s house and see him, and from there we kept in touch with each other. You could tell that the love still was there. Because I spent half of my life under that umbrella. Pretty much, him and Slim raised me. I’ve been in the music business since I was 11, 12.
It was a good thing and a bad thing. Sometimes I wish I had the fortune without the fame. If I felt like my child… if I felt like my son had the talent to be the next child superstar, I would let him, most definitely. But I would never want my child to go through what I went through. If I hadn’t lost my daddy at a young age, if my mama wasn’t stuck raising two boys by herself, then I probably wouldn’t have turned out the way I turned out. Not that I’m saying I turned out bad. To me, I turned out to be very successful. And a lot of people don’t get that opportunity, to come from the hood to the suburbs at that age. But I had a lot of pressure put on me at a young age. So you got the good and you got the bad that comes with it.
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Cash Money, Chopper City, Atlantic
Uptown, Magnolia Project
Lil Wayne, Juvenile, Turk (Hot Boys), Soulja Slim, Mannie Fresh and others