For several years in the ’90s, before Master P moved to New Orleans and gobbled up most of the talent of the legendary Parkway Pumpin, Big Boy Records was one of the main creative and commercial rivals to uptown’s fledgling Cash Money. Over the course of the next few years, they released some of New Orleans’ indisputably finest (and under-recognized) bounce and rap music. They also got caught up in all-consuming rivalry with Cash Money that raged in tit-for-tat diss songs while at the same time many of their stars departed for bigger labels. When Cash Money and No Limit signed multi-million dollar deals with major labels, Big Boy floundered, only to be reborn years later on a smaller scale,
Big Boy Records was founded by Charles “Big Boy” Temple and the talented producer, Leroy “Precise” Edwards, who was responsible for most of the varied but always warm, solid and organic sounds. Others involved in the production were ” David “D-Funk” Faulk and Brian “Big Bass” Gardner.
Big Boy’s first signee was pioneering New Orleans raper Sporty T (Terence Vine). The Gentilly resident had previously been a founding member of The Ninja Crew — New Orleans’s first rap group to record. In the early ’90s, inspired by hits by Juvenile and Everlasting Hitman’s bounce hits, he moved in that direction as well. The label’s first single was “Sporty Talkin’ Sporty.” Though bounce, it had an uncharacteristically heavy sound for the genre. After it sold 4,000 copies, Big Boy sought out more talent.
At an inital audition, young rapper Misdemeanor initially failed to impress Taylor. But when joined by his partner/childhood friend/17th ward neighbor, Kangol Slim, the duo, Partners-N-Crime, become the first group signed to the label. PNC had been friends with the Cash Money crew and their stars, UNLV, but were eager to diss them after being singled out and accused of jocking UNLV’s style. Partners-N-Crime released PNC, which contained songs that fueled the Big Boy/Cash Money rivalry.
After recording their debut, Trespassing, for Hollygrove Records, Black Menace (J-Dawg, Threat and DJ Laz) came to Big Boy and released Really Doe. After its release, DJ Laz left.
Sporty T released his Jackin for Bounce ’94 album. MVP released In the Projects. Silky released Bouncing in a 6-Tray.
G-Slimm’s West Coast-influenced Fours Deuces & Trays sold well. Partners-N-Crime released PNC 3 (with Prime Time as a full member). However, the label’s first huge success came from a recently returned Gulf War veteran, Mystikal (Michael Ernest Tyler). The 12th Ward native had originally been with Parkway Pumpin as Mystikal Mike. Then he was poached by Big Boy, who released released “I’m Not That Nigga” and a self-titled debut which sold 300,000 copies. Apparently bolstered by this considerable windfall, Big Boy made most of their promotional videos in the wake.
Although seen as the cornerstone of the label, Sporty T left Big Boy, started his own label and released The Saga Continues. Nonetheless, 1995 proved to be one of Big Boy’s most prolific years.
Black Menace released “Say, David” and Drama Time. Partners-N-Crime’s (featuring Prime Time) released Pump Tha Party (Puttin’ In Work) with ““Pump Tha Party” making a second album appearance after finding success as a single. 17th Ward rapper Fiend released Won’t Be Denied with the single “Baddest Muthafucka Alive.” Two sisters, ex-drug dealers/ex-cons from the 9th Ward known as Ghetto Twinz (Tonya and Trementhia Jupiter to their mother) released Surrounded By Criminals. Mystikal became the second artist to leave Big Boy and signed with Jive Records, who re-released a slightly different version of his debut.
Although Sporty-T returned to Big Boy and released It’s All Good, 1996 was a year of mass defections.
PNC and Drama Squad moved to South Coast Music Group. G-Slimm, on the cusp of signing a deal with Relativity, was shot and killed. The Ghetto Twiinz moved to Rap-A-Lot. Aside from Sporty T, the only noise coming from the label was from an R&B foursome, Elaté (who released their self-titled debut), and Insane, who released Camp 4 Life.
1997 was pretty much the end of Big Boy. Fiend left for No Limit. After Juvenile bragged in “Soulja Rags” that he was a “Big Boy headache giver,” Chuck Temple ordered Sporty T to retaliate, resulting in argument at which resulted in Sporty T calling Baby, wanting to come to Cash Money.
Ultimately, Sporty T did end up recording a Cash Money-diss in which he offers Big Boy for a high price. His final release for the album is Sporty T’s Street Soldier (Respect It Or Check It) featuring said track, “Juvi (You Ain’t No Soldier);” it was his last for the label. J-Dawg released Smokin’ & Rollin’ and The Dawg House. Big Boy also released The Compilation Album — We G’s. After that, nothing more came from them for several years.
In 2001, Sporty T was shot five times in the back by an ex-girlfriend. Luckily, he lived. Tragically, he was less lucky in July 2008 when unknown AK-47-toting assailants killed him in his Gentilly FEMA trailer.
Big Boy 2.0
In 2004/05, after years of silence, Big Boy returned with a slate of new releases including a Greatest Hits compilation, Da Block Burnaz‘s Overheated and Dangerfield‘s Dangerfield. Hardhead‘s Hardhead followed in 2005. In 2007, J-Dawg (now Jay Da Menace) returned with I Could Hold My Own.
While Big Boy may be just a footnote in southern rap history, they played an essential role in the dirty south’s rise. And while they may have lacked a signature sound, they did maintain, through all the drama, a high rate of consistency. Although their albums are rare, they’re all worth checking out.
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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