New Orleans bounce music has been part of the mainstream for years now, most recently making an appearance in Beyoncé’s NOLA-centric “Formation” video. And its associated dance style, twerking, has become a household term, thanks to Diplo and Miley. But bounce and twerking have been a Gulf Coast cottage industry for more than two decades, and the various wards and projects of Southeast Louisiana are their epicenter (and, often, their subject matter).
Born at block parties throughout Southeast Louisiana and based on the “Triggaman” sample (which samples the Dragnet theme), bounce is unapologetic party fodder, functional music for dancers and — most important — participatory. It's not exactly for bedroom listening. Call-and-response — a style employed by many other New Orleans subcultures, like the Mardi Gras Indians — is a defining quality of the first decade of bounce. As bounce grew, it became one of the few rap subgenres anywhere that has historically left the door open for women and queer rappers to thrive.
Old-school veterans like DJ Jubilee established the quintessential bounce style, which — much like early hip-hop itself — was less concerned with conventionally narrative lyrics in favor of a simpler and more direct style of calling out different projects and different localized dance routines. The newer waves of bounce artists, ushered in by cross-dressing divas like Katey Red, Sissy Nobby and Big Freedia, often trade the call-and-response for higher tempos and wilder, busier productions. There’s a whole camp of journalists who tried to round up these artists under the umbrella of “sissy bounce,” but that’s not a tag anyone within the community actually acknowledges.
Even when it’s using the same basic loop over and over, bounce has become another intrinsic part of the fabric of New Orleans, home to the most original set of cultures in America. And now: some essential records from the halls of bounce.
10. DJ Jimi – “Where Dey At?” (1992)
“Where Dey At?” is generally agreed upon as the first bounce release. (That is, besides those who cite “Drag Rap,” a 1985 record by New York’s The Showboys, as the first bounce record because it has been sampled on basically every bounce track ever since.) “Where Dey At?” actually exists in two versions — the 1992 DJ Jimi cut and its near identical predecessor, MC T Tucker & DJ Irv’s 1991 version of “Where Dey At?” The first lyrics of this earlier version sum it all up: “Shake that ass like a salt shaker.” And later lyrics like, “Fuck David Duke! Fuck David Duke!” — a reference to the right-wing Louisiana politician and notorious racist — tell you everything you need to know about where and when this music came from.
9. DJ Jimi featuring Juvenile, “Bounce (For the Juvenile)” (1993)
DJ Jimi didn’t just help create the genre; he also named it on this record. This track trades the typical Triggaman sample for The Soul Searchers’ “Ashley’s Roachclip” sample, which has been ubiquitous in hip-hop for years. And it’s the first appearance of the Big Easy ambassador of bounce to the world, Juvenile, who was 18 at the time.
8. Cheeky Blakk, “Twerk Something” (1995)
Queen of Twerk Angela “Cheeky Blakk” Woods originally released this classic on cassette (before Miley’s third birthday) as “Terk Something,” and it’s fire. A couple years before, DJ Jubilee recorded the first recognized usage of “twerk,” and Cheeky's track helped popularize the term as well, though the concept of twerking wasn't new — just the most recent iteration of dance rituals that trace back to West Africa. A rivalry between Cheeky and Ms. Tee over Edgar “Pimp Daddy” Givens (a shared romantic interest of both female emcees and an early Cash Money artist) helped catapult Blakk to heavy-hitter status on the local scene. Givens was murdered in 1994, but Cheeky Blakk — in addition to being a full-time nurse by day — still performs.
7. Partners-N-Crime, “Pump the Party” (1995)
PNC is Kango Slimm and Mista Meana, two 17th Ward vets who might be the most prolific bounce group in New Orleans history. “Pump the Party” is their indelible classic and one of the greatest Jock Jams that never was. See also: “We Don’t Love Dem Hoes Pt. 2,” “N.O. Block Party,” U.N.L.V., Kane & Abel.
6. Ricky B, “Y'all Holla” (1996)
This track finds Rick “Ricky B” Bickman sampling local legends Rebirth Brass Band’s standard “Feel Like Funkin’ It Up.” Rebirth would later go on to record Hot Venom, an entire album that connects the dots between New Orleans brass and bounce. See also: “Who Got Dat Fire?” by Ricky B, anything by Mystikal.
5. Magnolia Shorty, “Monkey on Tha D$ck” (1996)
Renetta Lowe had been rapping as Magnolia Shorty since she was 12, alongside other young emcees like Lil Wayne. Together with Ms. Tee, Shorty was one of the first female signees to Cash Money. Her life was cut short in 2010 when she was ambushed outside her home and shot 26 times in a hit ordered on the other passenger in her car.
4. DJ Jubilee, “Get Ready, Ready” (1997)
One of the most consistent dudes in the game, Jubilee is the bounce DJ who can work a crowd from 8 to 88. He’s probably played every high school in New Orleans at some point or another in his long career, and this is one of his biggest hits, of which he has plenty. See also: “Jubilee All.”
3. Juvenile, “Back Dat Azz Up” (1998)
If you have a butt, you’ve heard this song. Juvenile (born Terius Grey) is New Orleans’ ambassador of bounce to the world. While producer Mannie Fresh decided to re-create some of the Triggerman sounds instead of just sampling them for this Cash Money breakout single, it's still a bona fide bounce classic and was probably one of the most requested songs on the Box Music Network in the greater New Orleans metro area. And it wasn’t just big for Juvie; a teenage Lil Wayne devoured the scenery in the video and used his verse as a springboard into the biggest career a New Orleans rapper has ever had.
2. Big Freedia, “Gin in My System” (2003)
Freddie “Big Freedia” Ross helped bounce get national recognition in a post-Katrina world, though she’d been well known locally since the ’90s. “Gin” is a declaration of war, a warning against fucking with Freedia after she’s had a few. Her shows are polysexual insanity, and she’s one of the few bounce acts that tours nationally on a regular basis.
1. 5th Ward Weebie, “Fuck Katrina” (2005)
It's not a mystery what this gem by 5th Ward Weebie is about. Equal parts reality rap and humor, this party track sums up how hundreds of thousands of displaced people felt for the months and years following that colossal, man-made disaster. See also: “Let Me Find Out.”