There's no shortage of interesting personalities and sounds in New Orleans. We've had our eyes and ears on a few emerging artists — from cutthroat MCs and bluegrass young guns to heavy metal beasts.
Who: 3D Na'Tee
What: quick-witted, take-no-prisoners MC with storytelling chops
Schoolyard rap battles at the lunch table helped launch 3D Na'Tee's career as a New Orleans hip-hop wrecking ball. "I just thought it was funny, and everyone liked when I did it because I'd always say some vile shit about somebody," she says. Na'Tee — the class clown and battle-rap cutup — also wrote powerful poetry about her father's suicide and her mother's drug use. "I could use rap to vent. That's where I saw my power." Her power and jet-fueled flow shine in hard hitters like "Lil Kim" as well as her whip-crack lyricism, which caught the attention of hip-hop's kingmakers Russell Simmons and Steve Rifkind, who launched All Def Digital and scooped Na'Tee for its debut roster in July. She also launched an iPhone and Android app offering exclusive downloads and videos and live chats with fans. "I want these people to feel like they know me," she says.
Na'Tee earned acclaim for 2011's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner mixtape and last year's The Coronation. She's preparing her follow-up, The Regime, for a possible late 2013 release. "I want people to love me for my lyrical ability, the content of my music, and not because I'm from the South and I got a big ass," she says. "I want to be respected as one of the greatest."
In a freestyle alongside Kendrick Lamar that went viral in March, Na'Tee threw down the gauntlet in the male-dominated battlefield for hip-hop's throne: "It's just not logical that I don't have a deal yet/ I guess it's because I don't have a pink wig and I still got my real breasts."
"If you want to stand firm and stand strong you might risk being called a bitch, and that's how it is in hip hop," she says. "You have to be the best." — ALEX WOODWARD
Who: Bantam Foxes
What: New Orleans-accented garage pop
Local trio Bantam Foxes offer a succinct summation of their sound: "New Orleans rock 'n' roll."
That simple description could conjure up artists from Fats Domino to Supagroup, but Bantam Foxes has in just two years developed a sound that draws no easy comparisons in the canon of New Orleans rock 'n' roll. Members Sam McCabe (guitar, vocals), Collin McCabe (bass, guitar) and Jared Marcell (drums) combine wailing, urgent lyrics above fuzzy, grungy guitars and a pulsing backbeat in songs infused with blues, punk and garage rock. The band has built a following with frenetic, yet artful, live shows during tours across the Deep South.
Bantam Foxes are no slouches in the studio, either. The group released three EPs in rapid succession: Another Image, Another Frame (2011), Twin Tone (2012, for which they produced a video for catchy single "Logic") and Fascination, which dropped earlier this year. For its debut LP, the band turned to producer Ben Lorio at the Music Shed and crafted Triumph, which finds the band equally at home with heavy psychedelic hooks, as found on "Die Alone," as well as head-bobbing acoustic songs such as "Behave." Bantam Foxes will hold an album release show for Triumph at Gasa Gasa on Sept. 27. — FRANK ETHERIDGE
Who: Pretty Bleak
What: ghostly electronic heartbreakers
Justin Vial's post-punk outfit Kindest Lines brightens its goth-tinged pop with colorful synthesizers and romantic new wave. Jesse Kees performs as Leaving, which released the operatic drone album We Are in January. With the duo's aptly named project Pretty Bleak, Vial and Kees simmer in grime- and gloom-glazed synthpop and crank the fog machine to full blast. In November, the duo will release its debut album on Brooklyn's electronic-focused Function Operate label. — ALEX WOODWARD
Who: Sports & Leisure
What: orchestral indie pop
This symphonic sextet quickly distinguished itself among the influx of indie bands playing New Orleans clubs with haunting but catchy soundscapes. During live shows, Sports & Leisure imbues trippy tunes with dynamic tempo changes that mark deft turns from folk to gypsy to funk to Pink Floyd-esque freakiness.
Sports & Leisure gelled as a steady-gigging six-piece band, featuring B.J. Blue (keyboards), Richard Dubourg (guitar), formerly of MyNameIsJohnMichael, Whitney Brown (bass), Scott Hannan and Russell Shelton (drums). With echoes of pop phenoms Phoenix and Southern rockers My Morning Jacket, Sports & Leisure combines emotive lyrics, groovy instrumentals ("Big Wind") and full-tilt frenzies ("Sunburn"), as documented by the band's May 2013 debut EP, Fitness. — FRANK ETHERIDGE
Who: Vibe Ruiner
What: plague-bringing, post-hardcore punk rock
Despite its referential attitude toward musicians and their lasting impact to the greater cultural community, New Orleans has a punk rock scene that knows bands are, after all, ephemeral. Nothing lasts forever. Come up with an idea, make something, repeat. New Orleans churns out short-lived groups that commit to live performance and reliably good records — it's rare a band forms without committing at least a few songs to tape, or CD-Rs to throw out at a show. Members of start-and-stop outfits Sparrowhawk, Necro Hippies and Small Bones formed Vibe Ruiner, a decidedly darker, dagger-twisting take on tension-building hardcore punk. The band released a six-song cassette in time for its summer-long East Coast tour. — ALEX WOODWARD
What: Louisiana's primitive black metal woods-dwellers
Continuing the grand tradition of sorcery started nearly 30 years ago and thousands of miles from Louisiana, Barghest thrives in the devastatingly ashen sound of its Scandinavian predecessors. Black metal has recently been welcomed by the so-called mainstream, but bands like Barghest can retreat comfortably into the swamp and conjure demons uninterrupted. In 2011, the band released its untitled full-length debut on Wisconsin-based label Gilead Media, home to fellow Louisiana doom-bringers Thou. The band's relentlessly black compositions are something like classical suites, though they're performed in lightning speed on ear-splitting guitars accompanied by throat-shredding vocals. — ALEX WOODWARD
Who: The Kid Carsons
What: sleepy lap-steel-powered, brother-sister folk duo from Black Bayou
On The Kid Carsons' debut EP Settle Down, Chad and Morgan D. Carson round up country barnburners, torch songs and bloodlust confessionals — a well-crafted collection expected from songwriters gunning for the Nashville crown. But the sibling bandmates and founders of bayou-damp label and studio Bear America hail from southwest Louisiana and are steadily building a Gulf Coast hub for swampy Americana, adding artists like Monroe songwriter Woody Ledbetter and Little Rock, Ark. outfit Swampbird. The Kid Carsons return from a late-summer tour with a Sept. 27 showing at The Howlin' Wolf. — ALEX WOODWARD