“Where They At,” or “Wha Dey At,” is the title of a song generally recognized as the first bounce release, recorded in late 1991 as a cassette-only release by rapper T.T. Tucker, with the late DJ Irv. It was also recorded a few months after by DJ Jimi Payton for producer Isaac Bolden’s Soulin’ Records/Avenue Distribution. To all accounts, these recordings marked the point in time at which New Orleans rap first found its own voice in that raw, celebratory, infectious block-party style.
Bounce’s signature rhythms and call-and-response chants are deeply rooted in New Orleans’ cultural heritage, including Mardi Gras Indian and second-line traditions. The exhibit “Where They At” documents pioneering New Orleans rappers from the 1980’s, 1990’s, and early 2000’s, the period when bounce music melded and interplayed with lyrical hip-hop and gangsta rap in New Orleans to create a unique, hybrid Crescent City hip-hop sound – the newest branch of Southern roots music.
Photographer Aubrey Edwards and journalist Alison Fensterstock, over the course of 18 months, photographed and interviewed more than 40 rappers, DJs, producers, label and record store owners from the New Orleans bounce and hip-hop music scene. This archive includes original portraits and interview excerpts, original video and audio, and collected artifacts including vintage records, tapes, scene snapshots and other ephemera.
Alison Fensterstock is a New Orleans-based music journalist. From 2006-2009, she wrote an award-winning music column for the city's alt-weekly, The Gambit. Her writing on roots music and New Orleans rap has appeared in MOJO, Vibe, Q, Paste, Spin and the Oxford American Music Issue. Recently, she wrote the text for "Unsung Heroes: The Secret History of Louisiana Rock n' Roll," an exhibit currently on display at the Louisiana State Museum. She is the programming director for the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation. Her Gambit cover story on gay and transgendered bounce artists in New Orleans, "Sissy Strut," was selected for an honorable mention in Da Capo Press's Best American Music Writing 2009.
Aubrey Edwards is a Brooklyn and New Orleans-based music photographer and educator. Edwards was an award-winning, primary music photographer for the alt-weekly Austin Chronicle from 2004-2008; her present client list includes the United Nations, Magnolia Pictures, Playboy, SPIN, XXL and Comedy Central. She teaches photography and videography in low-income NYC public schools, and runs a continued education photography school in downtown Brooklyn. Her recent work in New Orleans includes guest lecturing with the University of New Orleans photo department, conducting workshops with the New Orleans Kid Camera Project, and completing an artist residency with Louisiana Artworks.
Abita Beer, Abrons Art Center, Adrian Saldana, Alex Rawls & OffBeat magazine, Austin Powell, Chris Robinson, Colin Meneghini, Dr. Ira Padnos & The Ponderosa Stomp, Emil Nassar, Eric Brightwell, Heather West, Iris Brooks, Jacob Devries, Jayme McLellan & Civilian Art Projects, Jeremy Smith, John and Glenda "Goldie Roberts", John Swenson, Johnathan Durham, Jordan Hirsch & Aimee Bussells, Loren K. Phillips Fouroux, Matt Miller, Matt Sakakeeny PhD, Matt Sonzala, Michael Bateman, Neighborhood Story Project, Our Kickstarter Supporters, Patrick Strange, Polo Silk, Rachel Ornelas & the Jazz and Heritage Festival, Scott Aiges, Sean Yent Schuster-Craig, Stephen Thomas, The Birdhouse Gallery, The Soap Factory, Wild Wayne & Industry Influence
D. Lefty Parker | Audio Mastering
Erik Kiesewetter/EBSL | Art Direction & Design
Rami Sharkey | Web Development
Jac Currie & Defend New Orleans | Funder
The Greater New Orleans Foundation | Funder
Ogden Museum of Southern Art | Partner
All the project participants who shared their time, their words, and their support.
Note on New Orleans public housing: Many of the former housing projects of New Orleans have been demolished and rebuilt, or are scheduled to be, via the federal HOPE VI grant program. This – not to mention the exodus after the floods of 2005 - has changed the profile of the city’s low-income communities significantly. For more information, check out these websites: HANO | GNO CDC | GNO Fair Housing
The 56-acre Calliope Projects were completed in 1941, funded by the 1937 United States Housing Act, which was inspired by widespread homelessness after the Great Depression. Located in Central City, it is the third-largest public housing development built in Louisiana. Although hundreds of units did not take on floodwaters in 2005, most of its 1546 units remain uninhabited and slated for demolition. The Calliope has been home to Master P and his family, including C-Murder, who titled an album “CP-3” after the project’s nickname (The 3 stands for 3d Ward, though the development is located entirely within the 2d Ward), the Neville Brothers, Chev off the Ave, and Glenda “Goldie” Roberts of the “It’s All Good In The Hood” TV show. In 1987, Gregory D gave the Calliope a shout out in the lyrics to his classic “Buck Jump Time”: “They talkin’ bout California like it’s so dope/ let me see Cali walk thrugh the Calliope.” The area is bounded by Earhart Boulevard, South Claiborne Avenue, Martin Luther King Boulevard and S. Dorgenois Street.
The Desire Development in New Orleans' 9th Ward was built in 1949, and compared to the city's other housing projects, was oddly isolated; bordered by railroad tracks on two sides and canals on the others, it was a world of its own, with public elementary and high schools built along with the housing to serve the children who would live there. The Hideaway Club at 2900 Desire St., where Fats Domino was discovered in the late 40's, was one of the buildings demolished to make way for it. In 1970, there was an infamous shootout between Desire residents (some of whom were Black Panthers) and members of the NOPD, which left 16-year-old Desire resident Kenneth Borden dead. The project was plagued almost since its opening by shoddy construction and poor upkeep, and was demolished in 1995, though ground wasn't broken for new buildings until 2002. The new development, renamed Abundance Square and redesigned on the HOPE IV mixed-income model, flooded heavily after Hurricane Katrina while still under construction. Residents finally began moving in in summer 2007. Rapper Sess 4-5 lived in the Desire as a child.
The Fischer Projects are located in the Algiers neighborhood on the West Bank of the Mississippi River, in the 15th Ward or as it's often called, the 1.5. Built in 1965 and conceived as subsidized housing for the elderly, the Fischer eventually became so notoriously dangerous that for two years, RTA buses actually refused to serve the area. Demolition on the Fischer started in 2004 with the implosion of its 13-story high-rise, and was completed in 2008. Like the Magnolia, Melpomene, St. Thomas and Desire, it has been mostly rebuilt as mixed-income housing under a HOPE VI grant from HUD. The Fischer is close to the Section 8 Christopher Homes complex, which was home to rappers Joe Blakk and Tre 8.
Located in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans (Uptown of the Industrial Canal, which divides the Bywater area from the Lower Nine – also known as C.T.C., "Cross The Canal" or "Cut Throat City.") the Florida was built during World War II. Its first residents began taking occupancy 1946. It's been reported that because of the lower quality of building materials available during wartime, the Florida and adjacent Desire were much more poorly built than the other housing projects in New Orleans funded by the federal Wagner Bill of 1937, intended to help families made homeless during the Great Depression. The Florida and Desire have both been reported as two of the worst projects in New Orleans pre-Katrina, with residents often waiting years for HANO to make needed repairs. In the song "City Streets," when Ricky B. sings that he's "on Dorgenois, take a right on Louisa," he's likely headed to the Florida.
The Iberville project, on the edge of both the French Quarter and Treme neighborhoods in downtown New Orleans, was built on the site of the turn-of-the-century red-light district known as Storyville, where prostitution was legal between 1897 and 1917. The development is also bordered by the 200+-year-old St. Louis #1 and #2 cemeteries. Initially intended to house the families of white servicemen, the Iberville was completed in 1940. In 2010, the Iberville was the only remaining original full-size housing development left in New Orleans. Rappers Warren Mayes and PxMxWx both grew up in the Iberville. The 24-acre site is bound by Claiborne Avenue, Basin, Iberville and Conti Streets.
The Lafitte project, located in the 6th Ward/Treme area, is one of New Orleans' "Big Four" housing developments, the largest in the city, which were shuttered and slated for demolition after Hurricane Katrina. (The others are the Calliope, St. Bernard and Magnolia projects.) It was built in 1941 to house black residents, while whites lived in the neighboring Iberville. Rapper Mia X lived briefly in the Lafitte in the 90's. Dorothy Hill, a cousin to R&B singer Jessie Hill ("Ooh Poo Pah Doo") was a lifelong Lafitte resident until Katrina; her grandsons, Troy "Trombone Shorty" and James "12" Andrews visited her there often. As of 2010, the original Lafitte has been completely razed; the official groundbreaking for the new Lafitte took place in 2009, though it was stalled until early 2010 by funding issues. According to the Times-Picayune, several former Lafitte residents contributed ideas to the redesign.
The Magnolia Project is the furthest Uptown of the three neighboring projects – as U.N.L.V. calls then, the Mac, Melph and Calio – that together have created a sprawling, triangular, culturally vital African-American swath of city since the early 40's. The legendary founder of A.F.O. Records, Harold Battiste, grew up in the Magnolia in the 1940's, hearing music and listening to Black Muslims preach at the iconic Dew Drop Inn on nearby LaSalle St. The famous Mardi Gras Indian meeting spot at 2d and Dryades, as well as the corner of 6th and Baronne (immortalized by both U.N.L.V. and PNC) both fall inside the Mac/Melph area. Juvenile (who has 'Uptown Nolia Boy' tattooed on his forearms) Magnolia Shorty, Vockah Redu, B.G. and others also lived there as kids. Closed and then razed after Katrina, the 1403-unit 'Nolia is now mostly rebuilt as a mixed-income community known as Harmony Oaks, offering 186 public-housing units. The site is bounded by Washington Avenue to the east, LaSalle Street and Freret Street to the south, Louisiana Avenue and Toledano Avenue to the west, and South Claiborne Avenue to the north.
The Melpomene project, built in 1964 in Central City, originally consisted of a 12-story high-rise apartment building intended for the elderly, plus nearly 500 units for families. Rapper Katey Red grew up in the Melpomene, and gave its name to her first album, 1999's "Melpomene Block Party." The redeveloped Guste Homes, slated for demolition in 2004, includes several new wooden units on the HOPE VI model facing Martin Luther King Blvd. (which turns into Melpomene St. on the river side of St. Charles Ave.) plus the renovated high-rise and some of the original apartment units.
The St. Bernard project, located in the 7th Ward of New Orleans, was originally built in 1942, and expanded twice until it became one of the city's largest housing developments, with 1436 units at its peak. Its original boundaries were St. Bernard Avenue to Gibson Street, and Senate to St. Denis Streets. In 2006, HANO announce it would demolish the city's "Big Four" projects, including the St. Bernard, where 14 buildings had already been approved for demolition pre-Katrina. During the many protests spurred by the announcement, St. Bernard residents and their supporters were particularly vocal, camping in a tent city outside the shuttered project. In early 2008, wrecking crews began demolishing the development. In April 2010, residents began moving into the 500 units available (157 of these are public housing) in the renamed, mixed-income Columbia Parc apartments. Ricky B., DJ Irv, Mia X and Mannie Fresh are all from the St. Bernard area.
The St. Thomas project was built in the early 40's in the Irish Channel/ 10th Ward of New Orleans, at the downtown end of the Garden District. Before all of New Orleans' public housing was desegregated in 1964, it was an all-white development. The St. Thomas was the first local development to be demolished and rebuilt as a mixed-income community under the federal HOPE VI program; all but five buildings, saved for historic purposes, were razed by 2001, and residents relocated to other projects or Section 8 housing. The development is now known as the River Garden. According to some former residents, the forced move caused static, and even violence, among a population with deep ties to their neighborhoods. 10th Ward Buck, Eldon Anderson of Take Fo Records and DJ Jubilee, who made the area famous with his album "Take It To The St. Thomas," all lived in the St. Thomas. The original area was bounded by Constance Street, St. Mary Street, Magazine Street, Felicity Street, the Mississippi River, 1st Street, St. Thomas Street, Chippewa Street and Jackson Avenue.
In the early 90's, Cash Money Records held talent shows here on Fridays. Ms Tee was discovered and signed to the label at one of these, while performing with Cheeky Blakk. Mr. Meana of Partners N Crime would also sneak an underage Kango Slim into the Big Easy, to perform at Bobby Marchan's Gong Shows.
A three-story nightspot at the corner of Claiborne and Elysian Fields, across the street from Nuthin But Fire Records. Proprietor Sess 4-5 puts on frequent shows there.
Currently a hot spot for Big Freedia, who performs every Friday night.
A hot early gig spot for PxMxWx and many other popular 90's acts; across the street from Club Detour.
Owned either by Warren Mayes, who liked to park his collection of flashy cars out front, or by manager/promoter Melvin Foley of Boss Hogg Entertainment. Adidas moved from the West Bank to the corner of Canal St. and Claiborne Ave. in the mid to late 90's.
According to some former patrons, pigs were kept in the yard beside the bar, often frightening female clubgoers. A back room was home to a high-stakes gambling den, where high rollers like the Williams brothers played thousands of dollars as a matter of course.
The former home of the Famous Disco nightclub (where the local TV show "Live At The Famous Disco" was shot in the 80's), Sinsations was managed by one Robert Shaw, who went on to form the Big Boy label with Charles "Big Boy" Temple and Leroy "Precise" Edwards. Ice Mike was resident DJ at Sinsations.
Located in New Orleans East. During the early days of Cash Money Records, it was the venue for wild weekly parties hosted by the label. The Ghetto Twiinz performed their first show at Whispers, at a record release party for Mystikal.
Close to the Magnolia in Uptown, near several spots that remain popular second-line and Mardi Gras Indian spots today. Newton's (now Guitar Joe's Electric House of Blues) was another regular gig for DJ Jimi.
This spot maintained its status as the place to be, next to the Press St. railroad tracks, from the late 80's through the turn of the 21st century. Fans like Joe Blakk would take a midnight bus from the West Bank to party on its two floors and adjoining restaurant. Captain Charles, KLC and Raj Smoove have all held the resident DJ gig.
Opened in the Carrollton Shopping Center in 1980 and added a second location on Canal St. in 1988. The original shop closed in 2002, when too-popular in-store concerts made owner Gary Holzenthal unpopular with mall management. Fess and Don Juan of Full Pack, as well as Leroy "Precise" Edwards, all worked at Odyssey in the 90's.
Owner Shirani Rea's Gentilly location, first opened in 1975, served as a community center of sorts for young rappers, particularly the Cash Money crowd. Mia X kept her job clerking at Peaches long after beginning to put out albums with No Limit. Peaches moved to its current space on N. Peters St. in the French Quarter after flooding during Katrina.