In 1999, Katey Red — the transsexual rapper from the Melpomene Projects — definitively stepped — with a size-12, well-pedicured foot — onto the scene with her first release on Take Fo Records, Melpomene Block Party. A decade later, Katey's presence has not only endured, it's grown, spawning a clutch of sissy rappers who've followed her lead to create a popular and fascintating subculture within the bounce world.
Katey's popularity in the local underground rock 'n' roll scene has to some extent paralleled her rise in the bounce community. Shortly after the release of her second Take Fo album, 2000's Y2Katey: The Millennium Sissy, Katey played a few gigs at the Spellcaster Lodge. A speakeasy club run out of organist Mr. Quintron's Bywater home, the Spellcaster is known for its eclectic bookings. Over the past decade, artists from Jon Spencer to local rap group the Block Burnaz have graced the basement corner that passes for a stage. But even 10 years after the fact, Katey's first shows there, which turned many local punk rockers and bohemians onto bounce for the first time, remain some of the most memorable. New Orleans' rock and rap audiences hardly ever overlap, at least on the grassroots level, but Katey — partly due to the Spellcaster shows, as well as a slot at the 2001 Jazz Fest — has slowly been building a crossover audience.
Galactic's Ben Ellman was in attendance at one of those shows, and he's remained a fan ever since. In late 2008, he finally got a chance to get the rapper in the studio.
"We wanted to work with some cool underground New Orleans people," he says. "And ... I mean, she's Katey Red."
Galactic's 2007 release From the Corner to the Block featured collaborations with some of the band's favorite rappers. The band's newest project will be another collaborative effort, says Stanton Moore. This time, local stars include Irma Thomas, the Morning 40 Federation and Katey Red, who made a surprise appearance onstage with the band at Tipitina's on New Year's Eve.
In the studio, Ellman worked with Katey — who hadn't rapped with a live drummer before — over a classic bounce beat, then worked her vocals into the band's mix.
"We sent her the track ahead of time, and she came to the studio with a bottle of vodka," Ellman says. "She drank some vodka and got going. We left her in the room with the track and she just sat down and wrote." Onstage at Tip's, Moore played his bounce-inspired beat live over the prerecorded track while Katey freestyled.
"People were sort of confused and then excited," says Ellman, who hopes to work with Katey again. "She really threw down."
Katey Red, Big Freedia and Sissy Nobby — the latter two being the current top acts in New Orleans bounce — are enjoying an increase in their fame outside of the South. In September, XLR8R magazine ran a multi-page fashion spread featuring the three sissy rappers. With the release of the new Galactic album, planned for fall 2009, sissy bounce looks poised to reach a whole new audience worldwide.
Katey Red, Big Freedia and Sissy Nobby's "Sissy Sweetheart Ball"
10 p.m. Sat., Feb. 14
One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St., 569-8361; www.oneeyedjacks.net