Although many independent labels appeared in the wake of New Orleans‘s 1991 bounce explosion, Parkway Pumpin’ was one of the first. It was also one of the most influential stables of talent, although the limited finances of KLC (the man behind the boards) resulted in precious few recordings. When Master P relocated No Limit from Richmond, California to New Orleans, most of the original roster (aside from his siblings) was taken directly from the legendary Parkway label.
Most of Parkway Pumpin’s associates never got around to recording with the label. Artists like Fiend, Mac (as Lil Mac The Lyrical Midget), Mystikal Mike (as Mystikal), Mr. Serv-On and Da Hound (of E.X.D., Full Blooded, and Da Hounds of Gert Town) all went on to record popular records at No Limit without having anything released in their time at Parkway Pumpin’. Only one future No Limit Soldier did, Soulja Slim.
The first act to record on Parkway Pumpin’ was 39 Posse, a trio comprised of Shack, DJ KLC, and MC Dart. Shack was born Derrick Mushatt in 1970. He grew up in a large family with nine siblings. When he wasn’t working, he often rapped at parties. MC Dart’s real name is Dartanian Stovall.
DJ KLC was born Craig S. Lawson. He grew up in the Melpomene projects. His father played saxophone and Lawson, nicknamed “The Drum Major,” followed in his musical footsteps, playing in the Green Middle School marching band.
The three met around 1985 when they competed in breakdancing contests. Lawson later moved to a house in Uptown on Parkway. Lawson’s production genius can scarcely be exaggerated and he deserves to be as widely recognized as the justly lauded Mannie Fresh, who was a childhood friend. They both began producing around the same time. A year after Fresh’s production debut with Gregory D, DJ KLC and DJ Treble appeared on MC J Ro J‘s “Ain’t Nuthin Nice” in 1988.
39 Posse released their debut EP in 1989 but caught legal flack over some lyrics and it was quickly withdrawn. They returned to the studio with the intention of remixing the offending songs and ended up recording all new material. They released a single, “Clockin’ / Pumped in Power,” in 1991. In 1992 they released their second EP, which included “Got What It Takes to Make It,” “Ask Them Hoes” and “Pass the Snake.” Around the same time, Parkway also included Corey C., Silky Slim, Lil Elt, and E.X.D. (“Extremely Deadly”).
In 1993, 39 Posse produced E.X.D.’s No Elevation, released by the short-lived In The House Records. They may also have had a hand in Lil’ Elt, DJ Tee‘s 12″ for the same label in the same year, titled “Uptown.”
In 1993, 39 Posse dropped their debut full-length, 39 Automatic. Songs like “Ask Them Hoes,” show KLC’s nascent sound to already be immediately distinguishable from other triggerman-employing producers with his use of deep, sustained bass and martial snares. “Stuntin’ Stars,” “Bitch I’m Dart,” and “Pass the Snake” are like a low budget, gutter versions of later Beats By the Pound produced tracks, with their hard beats and bluesy piano. For fans of No Limit’s production, it’s well worth seeking out.
Lil Elt & DJ Tee‘s “Get the Gat” and “Get The Gat Gemix” from the same year showed KLC easily capable of knocking out enjoyable but standard bounce.
On Parkway Pumpin’ there were obviously no contracts, and artists including KLC himself often simultaneously worked at other labels. Mystikal (now minus the “Mike”) recorded his debut at Big Boy, where KLC also produced a track, “Frank White,” for veteran New Orleans rapper Sporty T.
Magnolia Slim recorded Parkway Pumpin’s sole release in ’94, his debut, Soulja fa Lyfe. To fans of Soulja Slim’s later stuff, it’s immediately clear that this too is the work of someone most commonly described as being “the realest.” Here is the New Orleans superstar who, though having a slightly higher voice, is already mixing crudeness, scariness and humor on highlights like “Kickin it for them Hoes” and “Powda Bag” in a captivating combination that made him so enjoyed by so many.
In 1995, Magnolia Slim recorded The Dark Side EP (produced by KLC and featuring 6 Shot) at Hype Enough. Fiend followed Mystikal to Big Boy and recorded his debut. That same year, Master P moved to his grandmother’s in New Orleans from his mother’s in Richmond, California. Back in California, he’d established No Limit records with an inheritance from his grandfather in 1990. Though in California his solo records and West Coast Bad Boyz compilations were viewed by some as underground classics, he had little traction in the south.
Once he arrived in New Orleans, he quickly signed Mia-X and Tre-8 to his label. In addition to them, P blew up into the household name he is today by signing most of the Parkway Pumpin’ talent, including, most notably, KLC, who as the leading figure in Beats By The Pound transformed No Limit from a little-heard west coast label into a southern powerhouse that sold over 50 million units. In 1998, alleging across the board unfair business practices, nearly everyone left No Limit and most of Beats By the Pound, including KLC, who continued as leader of The Medicine Men.
Tragically, the previous year 39 Posse’s 28-year-old Derrick Mushatt was shot nineteen times at the intersection of Philip and Clara. In 2003, 27-year-old Soulja Slim was shot four times on the way to a performance in front of his mother’s home. MC Dart is still making music in New Orleans, as Poison Dart. KLC also lives on; a few years back he released this amazing song with former Parkway Pumpin’ figure Fiend.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LA, Amoeblog, Boom: A Journal of California, diaCRITICS, Hidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft Contemporary, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, the book Sidewalking, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, CurbedLA, 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?, at Emerson College, and the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Ameba, Duolingo, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, Mubi, and Twitter.
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