“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.
“On the mic, I’m collected and calm / so before you run up, remember - putcha Ballys on.”
I actually left school to be a Gong Show artist. That Gong Show, it brings back so many memories. If they enjoyed your music they would ball up money in small little balls and they would throw the money at you. If you were real good it would be raining money. They were five nights a week. There was the Social Club, the Phoenix, the Other Side, Mr. B's, Flirts, I could make $500 a night at Gong Shows just in tips.
A lot of people think bounce music was kind of like the beginning of hip hop in New Orleans but actually in my opinion it wasn't, but it was the beginning of a definitive style in New Orleans rappers. Prior to that you had the Ninja Crew. These guys had a national record deal and they actually were successful, they just didn't put out a national record and it just sat on the shelves. They did pretty good. That was Gregory D, who is still around, Sporty T who was killed recently, and DJ Lil Daddy who was like 14 years old driving a Mercedes Benz. He was killed maybe about five years ago. Then you had these DJ crews that would show up in hundreds, and maybe a thousand people would show up to see them. You had New York Incorporated, who had Mia X and Mannie Fresh, just to name a few. A lot of these groups would gain notoriety doing high school dances. Everyone knew if they were spinning records at these dances, it was the place to be.
We kind of had a buzz going on on the West Bank. Tim Smooth's neighborhood, Kennedy Heights, used to be at war with my neighborhood in Lincolnshire in Marrero. They would actually fight and shoot at each other. Tim and I, people would always say, "Bust Down, you’re good, but they got this guy named Tim Smooth. I think he can get you." Tim later on told me people would tell him the same thing, "Tim, you’re good but there is this guy named Bust Down - I think he’ll get you." We just ended up meeting and being friends because it was beyond a hood rivalry. We loved hip-hop, and we felt like no one could deal with us.
West Bank, Lincolnshore
Late 80's - present
Tim Smooth, Ice Mike