Where They At: New Orleans Bounce and Hip-Hop in Words and Pictures
April 22-Aug. 1
Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600; www.ogdenmuseum.org
Opening Reception at Ogden After Hours with music by DJ Jubilee
6 p.m.-8 p.m. Thursday, April 22
Admission $10, free for members
Ya Heard Me?
7 p.m. Tuesday, April 20
Admission $10, free for members
One signature element of New Orleans rap is the call and response to particular housing projects, wards or neighborhoods. After Where They At opens at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, it and the Warehouse District may get future callouts.
Photographer Aubrey Edwards and writer Alison Fensterstock (a former Gambit columnist) created the exhibition, chronicling the short history of bounce and New Orleans hip-hop with 46 portraits and listening stations featuring songs and interviews. There are even a few artifacts on loan from rappers and producers, including the master tape of the song "Where They At," which is considered the first bounce song.
"It's just a chant," Fensterstock says. "It's barely copywritable."
But it features bounce's signature "Triggerman" sample and call and response lyrics, and two versions were released in 1991 — one by DJ Jimi and one by T.T. Tucker. Within a couple of years, the bounce sound exploded across the city's rap and hip-hop clubs and airwaves. In a relatively short time, it's become a signature New Orleans sound that's been registered elsewhere even though it hasn't spawned legions of bounce rappers outside New Orleans. In some ways, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina did more to spread it to other cities. Edwards and Fensterstock conducted some interviews and photo shoots in Houston and Baton Rouge, where some rappers had moved after the storm.
The two started the documentary project after Edwards saw Fensterstock's Gambit cover story ("Sissy Strut," Aug. 12, 2008) about sissy bounce rappers Katey Red, Sissy Nobby and Big Freedia. Edwards lives in New York and mainly photographs musicians. Fensterstock came up with a list of 80 influential figures in the New Orleans hip-hop scene dating back to the late 1980s, and together they began photographing and interviewing people. A documentary film project (Ya Heard Me?, which screens Tuesday at the Ogden) had preceded their project.
Their survey of the scene includes artists and producers working in different styles. While bounce became a prominent feature of the local scene, there also are rappers using New York and West Coast styles. Included in the exhibit are senior figures like Mannie Fresh, Juvenile and Partners-N-Crime, people from the labels Cash Money and No Limit, newcomers like Ms. T and other female rappers, and the sissy bounce contingent.
The documentary project is ongoing, and the two are still pursuing rappers on their original list. They have yet to intervew T.T. Tucker, who is incarcerated, and they hope to interview more Cash Money millionaires. Considering the efforts of ethnomusicologists and folklorists like Alan Lomax to document roots music traditions in the 1930s and 1940s, they have a relatively early start. The veteran musicians are only in their 30s, and the genre's founding is fairly recent.
"The way things change so fast now, '93 seems like a long time ago," Fensterstock says, laughing. "People were trading cassette tapes, and they didn't have the Internet."