In 1994, the trio Partners-N-Crime had a regional hit with "Let The Good Times Roll," a fond reminiscence that was fairly precocious in its sentiment — the rappers were barely out of their teens. Fast-forward 15 years and PNC — now just Mista Meana and Kango Slim (the third member, Prime Time, went solo after a prison stint) — really does have something to look back on. But their eyes are firmly fixed on the future.
Vintage bounce has built a significant crossover-fan community over the past four years, particularly via blogs with names like Nolabounce, Twankle and Glisten, Cocaine Blunts and Louisiana Rap, whose users are largely white and don't live in New Orleans. Were PNC to stick with the traditional, mid-'90s bounce sound of its signature 1995 hit "Pump Tha Party," an acknowledged genre classic, it would probably be assured a dedicated audience of hipsters and music geeks for life. But PNC has never been a traditional band. Early on, the group added elements of '70s R&B and reggae to tracks when other groups were leaning heavily on call-and-response and ubiquitous "Drag Rap" samples. With the latest single, "So Attracted," the duo created a hybrid of classic bounce and contemporary R&B, laced heavily with AutoTune, but kept unmistakably New Orleans-style by guest 5th Ward Weebie's rhyming. They also continue to work with old friends like Juvenile and his former Uptown Playas bandmates Skip and Wacko, who will appear at the CD-release party.
"It's a good feeling to have real friends around you, who are still into the same things you're into," Meana says.
Like the sound, PNC has grown up a bit when it comes to subject matter, as they mentioned when I brought up some recent events. On Feb. 8, four people were shot inside the Cricket Club during DJ Jubilee's regular Sunday night gig. Two weeks earlier, a guest at Kango Slim's birthday party at Club Hush was shot.
"Immature minds combined with guns in people's hands, you're going to have immature acts like that happening," he says. "But we're 30-plus. So what we're doing right now, we're really doing for our age bracket of people, a more mature crowd." Slim says the group always combined party beats with gangsta swagger; now, they're focusing on more fun, less thug.
It's no small feat to be still standing after 15 years in the regional rap game, particularly in New Orleans, where Katrina and the vagaries of life have split up lesser bands. The two don't mind patting themselves on the back for their endurance: The title of the new album is We Are Legends (Crime Labb). It's not inaccurate. The growing worldwide bounce fan network celebrates them as such. To Slim and Meana, though, the real ability to bestow that title can only come from home.
"If you're part of music history — I don't care if it's nationally or if it's locally — if you're part of the music history of your town, that's what makes you a legend," Slim says. "And that's what we stand for. And I'm not saying that's what we titled ourselves. That's what people tell us when we [are] out in the street. 'Oh, that's Partners-N-Crime — say, dude, I've been listening to your records since I was in the fourth grade.' So that's what the people are telling us."
Partners-N-Crime CD-release party with Juvenile, BG, Trombone Shorty and other guests
9 p.m. Wed., Feb. 18
House of Blues, 225 Decatur St., 310-4999; www.hob.com