For some reason, the Bounce scene, born nearly 20 years ago, seems to be undergoing a minor critical reassessment as it inspires curiosity in a new generation of fans amongst the young, the Euro, the old and new. I can only guess why. I suspect that part of it is a development of the ongoing, time-delayed, middle class fascination with vulgar, good-time booty, that, as with booty bass, gogo, ghettotech and juke house before, takes a little longer to catch on beyond the music’s traditional base. Or perhaps it’s just the curiosity factor due to the prevalence of so many openly gay rappers, who have been the subject of articles in The Village Voice, The Guardian and The New York Times — although their readers are unlikely to run out and buy the latest Sissy Rap record. There was even a piece on Bounce for NPR’s stomach-turning attempt at hipness, What’s the New What? …Just the title of that show makes me feel like I’ve been kicked where it hurts.
On the other hand, sites like Louisiana Rap, Nola Bounce and Twankle and Glisten have done a good job in documenting the scene and suggest a much deeper, more honest appreciation that makes me happy. I’ll be honest, the idea of a politician claiming to like Bounce would make me die a little inside. Yet, I’d love it if all these underappreciated, undercredited artists who made Bounce happen got some well-deserved acknowledgment and attention. With films like Ya Heard Me documenting the scene and Youtubers like 1825 Tulane Ave and Whatheallman tirelessly keeping Bounce in your ear, I guess I can live with the idea that some ironic, comb-over-wearing member of the Dumpster Click is going to be into it too. Anyway, for the time being, if you look up “New Orleans Bounce” on Youtube, you’re (currently, at least) unlikely to be confronted with the image an American Apparel/Vice Magazine disaster doing the Eddie Bow.
By the early 1980s, rap had spread to every reasonably large American city, each of which responded in part with scenes of their own. Almost universally, these early artists were highly imitative of their New York inspirations. New Orleans’s New York Incorporated (formed in 1984) and Ninja Crew (formed in 1986) were no exceptions. Within a few years, Miami’s Maggotron and MC A.D.E. were creating Electro-indebted Booty Bass and Houston’s Geto Boys and L.A.’s NWA were making Gangsta Rap — all highly regionalized in their identities. Early New Orleans rappers like Tim Smooth, Warren Mayes and 39 Posse began incorporating various elements of the hip hop of the day, but for the most part, didn’t verbally or musically represent the Crescent that overtly.
But it wasn’t until Bounce that New Orleans crafted a truly unique brand of hip hop, largely based on the samples of two seemingly unlikely records whose journey to New Orleans remains obscure. New York rappers The Showboys released “Drag Rap” in 1986 to resounding disinterest. The first half of the track is very much in the vein of Run DMC, but the latter half kicks off with a synth cowbell-punctuated beat that forms the basis of almost all Bounce. The other track, perhaps even less likely to find its way to New Orleans, was British rapper Derek B’s 1987 single, “Rock the Beat.” An instrumental version of it, labeled “Brown Beats,” was included on legendary DJ Cameron Paul’s mix, Beats & Pieces. These two singles became the backbone of almost all Bounce, although, despite what you often read, they were by no means the only ones. You hear a lot of Rebirth Jazz Band, John Carpenter‘s Halloween theme and the Jackson 5 in Bounce as well. Just check out http://bouncebreaksarchive.blogspot.com/ for a fairly comprehensive list.
Bounce, it is often noted, is based on repetitive, simplistic, call-and-response lyrics (mostly ward and neighborhood shout outs and dance call outs) and built (primarily) on just the two aforementioned singles. One thing that seems conspicuously absent from discussions of Bounce is the Dancehall-influenced flow of the rappers. In the early ’90s, that influence was everywhere, from acts like Fu-Schnickens to songs like Ice Cube‘s “Wicked,” which (like many others of the day) featured a guy toasting at some point.
Despite what the national media often suggests, Bounce isn’t the widely-heard, late ‘90s New Orleans rap coming from labels like Cash Money and No Limit, although they, along with other New Orleans rappers like Devious, Dog House Posse, Kane & Abel, Mia X, Ruthless Juveniles and others occasionally incorporated Bounce aspects or recorded individual Bounce tracks.
Now a lot of haters and moaners will hate and moan about how Bounce is responsible for killing rap. Supposedly it does this by shifting the emphasis away from the (supposedly progressive) artistry of simple, rhyming couplets delivered with an unvariably 4-4 beat toward Bounce’s polyrhythmic, lyrically abstract, fun chants that owe more to the Second Line; Bashment, slave-created music forms (e.g. field hollers and ring shouts); and children’s street culture like playground songs (e.g. “K-I-S-S-I-N-G”), clapping games (e.g.” Mary Mack,” “Miss Susie,” “Stella Elle Olla”) and jump-rope rhymes (“Fudge, fudge, call the judge,” or “Three, six, nine, The goose drank wine”). This unpretentious rootsiness horrifies stodgy purists, creaky fuddy-duddies and cultural watchdogs but is ripe for enjoyment both from p-poppers and subcultural anthropologists who can hear that Bounce expresses more personality in one silly line than most “serious” rappers do over entire careers of insecure, self-absorbed, macho fantasy.
BITCH, STOP TALKIN’ THAT SHIT – BOUNCE’S GOLDEN AGE
With such a limited lyrical lexicon, DJs and producers like Polo, Precise, DJ Duck, DJ Money Fresh, Mannie Fresh, Henry the Man, E-Jay, and DJ Irv should get at least as much credit as the MCs for the creation of Bounce. Because, at least as important as calling out every ward, project and (on rare occasions) Southern state is the curiously powerful pull of those beats that just grab you.
Bounce really began in late 1991, when TT Tucker and DJ Irv recorded, but never officially released, a song they’d perfected at Ghost Town, the blueprint for the genre, “Where Dey At?” It was so repetitive, so infectious and so gutter, it captured the hearts and minds of thousands and so it began. Sadly, the duo never much capitalized on their pivotal role, with TT Tucker in and out of the clink and DJ Irv tragically shot and killed.
DJ Jimi (featuring Jimi’s mom) – “The Bitch’s Reply”
Everlasting Hitman – Bounce! Baby, Bounce!
1993 was the year that Bounce really exploded. Moving beyond its simplistic origins only slightly, groups like UNLV helped popularize the genre by adding elements of Gangsta Rap and soon inspired many similar releases by other acts, especially across town, over at the brand-new Big Boy Records, which escalated into a heated Gangsta Bounce rivalry.
UNLV – “UNLV Style,” “Eddie Bow”
In 1994, national interest in Bounce was first shown when Scott Aiges wrote an article on how much more popular the genre was in New Orleans than nationally promoted artists. The tone at the labels wasn’t so much interest, but concern. They wondered why people were buying tapes out of trunks instead of the “Heatseekers” on the Hot 100? On April 22, in a tragedy for Bounce, his friends, fans and family, local legend Edgar “Pimp Daddy” Givens was murdered in the 9th ward.
In 1995, No Limit moved from Richmond, California to New Orleans where the Bounce scene was, by then, huge… at least, regionally. No Limit released a compilation of both Bounce and non-Bounce artists, Down South Hustlas — Bouncing and Swingin’ and began to successfully build on the New Orleans rap scene, ultimately signing a major deal with Priority, then flush with cash off the success of The California Raisins. Over the next few years, their Pen & Pixel-decorated CDs flooded the national market and media interest in New Orleans exploded as Southern rap began to completely eclipse the east and west coasts.
Dolamite – “Hustla, Hustla”
On February 6th, 1996, another Bounce pioneer, Floyd “Everlasting Hitman” Blount was tragically murdered in Fisher. Around the same time, with UNLV’s hit “Drag ‘Em in the River” and No Limit’s Beats By the Pound-crafted, bottom-heavy, electronic-based rap, the media began to inaccurately ascribe the term “Bounce” to these nationally popular New Orleans releases. Over the next few years, the word “Bounce” was to be tossed like so much Mrs. Dash by many a non-southerner trying to add a little spice.
Kilo – “The Ward Song”
Magnolia Shorty – “Monkey on the D$ck “
Kilo – “The Ward Song”
By the end of the millennium (following their meteoric rise in popularity, major label deals, and subsequent mass defections of talent), Cash Money and No Limit were both reduced to being primarily family affairs. At the same time, national interest in Southern Hip Hop began to shift to Atlanta, Houston and Memphis — scenes that owed heavily to New Orleans’s sound and successes.
A new generation of Bounce artists began to expand the production pallet of Bounce, ironically, toward the increased use synthesizers and programming popularized by Beats By the Pound and Mannie Fresh, who’d helped popularize (in some ways at the expense of Bounce) New Orleans’s non-Bounce successes. The new crop of Bounce artists, despite moving beyond their Triggerman-and-Brown-Beat-sampling forebears, nonetheless undeniably carried the Bounce torch when, to some, it must’ve seemed all but done and dusted. In addition to all of these artists remaining active today, there are newer acts in the same vein, like Da Block Burnaz, keeping the classic N.O. Bounce spirit alive, whereas most rappers chase passing fads.
Gotty Boi Chris – “Dip Low”
The defining development of modern Bounce and Sissy Rap is the increased aural insanity. Faster tempos, lyrics reduced to chopped and repeated phonemes, punishing dissonance, cacophonous clangor and frequently blown out production have turned what was once a distinct-from-but-recognizably-related-to-hip-hop genre into something that sounds like a hybrid of Gabber and Gnawa. The end result is almost avant-garde, and more deserving of the hype and description that Konono No. 1 generated a few years back with their comparatively familiar, down-to-earth approach. No doubt the increasingly insular nature of Bounce is only part of what keeps it out of the mainstream, despite recent media attention.
Big Choo – “Get Low”
Katey Red & Dem Hoes – “Tiddy Bop”
Hot Boy Ronald – “Walk Like Ronald”
Any corrections or additions will be incorporated. Peace!
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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