People in Louisiana believe in something called “lagniappe”, a tradition of giving the customer a little something extra, or a bonus to thank you for your patronage. Those of us at the bounce showcase on the Average Rooftop at South By Southwest got a bit of lagniappe on Friday night in the form of an unexpected appearance by the Queen of Bounce herself, Katey Redd. Katey Red began her career on the groundbreaking Take Fo Records label, the same label which launched the career of bounce pioneer DJ Jubilee. She is best known for her debut album Melpomene Block Party (the Melpomene is another former housing project in New Orleans that was demolished after Katrina), and has more recently been featured in several episodes of the television series Treme.
It was 10th Ward Buck that was the headliner of the showcase at the Avenue on Congress rooftop, and he was the first performer of the night that I had actually heard of. In recent years, he has been something of an activist for his hometown of New Orleans and the bounce music movement, writing a book called The Definition of Bounce and running unsuccessfully for a seat on New Orleans’ City Council. He also ran a hot wing restaurant in Uptown New Orleans for a period of time, but New Orleans is a competitive restaurant market, and the difficulties of running a restaurant can interfere with a music career as well. Buck’s performance was charismatic, and featured the usual contingent of female dancers on stage.
Magnolia Rhome’s performance was followed by an act named Big Chu and the Crew, which I had also never heard of. But they were decent bounce artists as well, and the dancing crew that was on stage with them stole the show.
When I got to the Avenue on Congress rooftop, Magnolia Rhome was on stage. I really wasn’t familiar with him, but that is not surprising, because in New Orleans, bounce artists are like brass bands- there’s a lot more of them than you think there are, and new ones are coming out all the time. And the name “Magnolia” has got to be one of the most common names for New Orleans rappers- the huge Magnolia projects were torn down almost 8 years ago, but the past never dies in New Orleans, where legacies of Uptown and Downtown and old wards persist, and where people still claim the projects years after they were demolished, because the projects were not so much a place in geography, but rather a place in the human spirit that lives forever in those who lived there. At any rate, Magnolia Rhome wasn’t bad at all, although there’s little variety in the bounce genre, not that its fans want there to be. If you’re a bounce fan, you want the Triggaman beat or the Brown beat, and you want the MC to exhort the crowd just enough so that the females will twerk. Yes, twerking is the ultimate goal of all good bounce music. And Magnolia Rhome got them twerking, both on stage and in the crowd. That’s really what it’s all about.
Given South By Southwest’s post-Katrina love affair with bounce rap, particularly the “sissy bounce” subgenre, it’s not completely unexpected to run into bounce artists from New Orleans during the festival. Still, somehow, 10th Ward Buck was the last person I expected to run into at the South Bites food court near Rainey Street.
Tenth Ward Buck has kept a high profile among bounce artists in ways that make him something of a spokesman for the bounce music phenomenon. He has authored a book, The Definition of Bounce which was the first full-length book to be published on this unique form of New Orleans rap music. He also owned and operated Finger Lickn’ Wings on Jackson Street until January of this year, and is a candidate for the city council of New Orleans. Buck didn’t perform at the HOPE Summer Jam, but he did make an appearance and a brief address to the crowd.
Female bounce artist Keedy Black came to prominence through her single “Hammer”, which has been featured on nearly every bounce mix I heard in 2012. Her performance at the HOPE Summer Jam was well-received.
Magnolia Rome seems to be one of New Orleans’ newest bounce artists, who has appeared on shows with Katey Red and Sissy Nobby. His name seems to come from the former Magnolia Housing Project in uptown New Orleans’ Third Ward.
New Orleans bounce artist Ha Sizzle gained some attention this year when he was invited to perform at South By Southwest in Austin, a festival where New Orleans bounce and other musics are often prominently featured. His appearance at thr HOPE Summer Jam was well-received by the crowd.
Bounce rapper Sissy Nobby is one of a number of alternative lifestyle bounce rappers who came to prominence in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Rappers who identified themselves as gay or transgendered in New Orleans were certainly not unknown prior to the storm, but the media focused on the phenomenon in the years following, and gay and lesbian rappers were given considerable exposure in the Bounce Music art exhibits that were installed at the Smithsonian and other galleries in New Orleans, New York and Austin. In many ways, all of this was unfortunate, as it tended to distract from the music that these artists made by focusing on their sexuality or lifestyle choices, and the reason that shouldn’t be done was evident at the HOPE Summer Jam, where most of the crowd cheered wildly for Nobby, showing that his fan base is certainly not restricted to homosexuals, at least not in New Orleans.