“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.
“So if you’re with me let me see you toss ‘em up like this / from Algiers to the Fischer, from the Cut Off to the Chris.”
I had what was called Closet Castle Productions. What I did, I lived in an efficiency apartment at the time. I’ve been on my own since I was 14. I had an efficiency apartment which is what I could afford, ‘cause I was DJing. I had this large closet. All my equipment, and all my lights and everything I would bring to the different schools I would DJ at, and stuff like that. Everything was in this one closet with my recorder where I would bring the rap groups and get the beats together - so I called it Closet Castle Productions. That was the beginning, and I started a label with the same name. From there came "I Got Game," and "Bring Da Heat," and "True 2 Da Game."
When I started in the very beginning there weren't any labels. Each thing that I was doing is, all of these people are my artists. Not mine in a possessive way, but just the simple fact that I was instrumental in helping it to happen. If you know the person who has the money, who believes in you, I will produce it. I will show you where to get everything you need for your label, your license, your UPC number, your tax ID number, everything about it. Your publishing and everything like that. I hook you up that way, then produce your hits that I know will work. That’s when everybody tells you, "Man, that is a hit, or you see the club going crazy, you’re coming back and spending more money with me anyway, so it’s advantageous to set you up correctly to make your own money and do this and that. This way as I'm doing more people, I'm not just an Algiers producer. I'm not just a West Bank producer. I’m New Orleans. I’m the one that when you hear the beat that I did, these are the songs that prepare people to become independent artists.
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C&M, White Lable, Closet Castle, 3d Power; Big Boy, Mobo, South Coast, Tombstone and many more as a freelance producer
West Bank; Algiers, Marrero
Tre 8, Bust Down, Code 6, Ms Tee, Westbank Coalition, Ruthless Juveniles, Lokee, Joe Blakk, L.O.G. and others