2:20 p.m. Sunday, April 27
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Congo Square "My Lousiana" Stage Joe Blakk is telling a familiar New Orleans music story, one that crops up all too frequently in the history of the Crescent City music scene all the way back to Louis Armstrong. In the best-case scenario, the local artist has to leave town to get his or her deserved props. In the worst case, he or she stays in town and gets nothing. In this case, the time is the mid-'90s, and the players are New Orleans bounce rapper Bust Down, who had a hot track in the can called 'Pop That Thing," and infamous Miami rapper/producer Luther Campbell of 2 Live Crew, who a year later had a smash hit called 'Pop That Coochie." 'Luke came down to New Orleans and brought Bust Down to Miami, and they went in the studio," Blakk explains. '"Pop That Thing' was done, everything, and Luke persuaded him not to put it out yet. Then "Pop That Coochie' came out. That was our dance, P-popping, and Miami got the credit."
Joe Blakk is an interesting figure in New Orleans rap. In the pre-Cash Money/No Limit '90s, he had a local hit, 'It Ain't Where Ya From," a positive-thinking rap that encouraged listeners to think about who they were, not just representing their neighborhood in ways that led to street battles. For his day job, he's an income tax preparer. Along with the rapper Mia X, he traveled to Washington, D.C., in 2006 to speak (along with the Rev. Jesse Jackson) on Capitol Hill on behalf of New Orleans evacuees whose FEMA hotel vouchers were in danger of expiring. In 2007, he was the recipient of a fellowship from the Washington, D.C.-based Hip-Hop Caucus, which allows him to travel and speak to groups of displaced New Orleanians about benefits for Katrina victims. Musically, he's interested in seeing local rappers get their props.
Blakk approached Jazz Fest with the idea for the Throw Back Jamm Revue scheduled for the Congo Square stage on Sunday. It's a showcase of the originators of the bounce form, including the artist many people consider to be its father " MC T.T. Tucker, whose spare 1990 track 'Where Dey At" introduced the persistent triggerman beat and call-and-response lyrical format to New Orleans clubs. In the years just before Katrina, Blakk organized similar package shows, including one at Tipitina's, to expose the raw, upbeat soundtrack of black New Orleans' block parties to a wider audience.
'New Orleans artists never get their just due," he says. 'It takes national artists to steal a song to popularize it. You can hear the bounce influence in almost every genre of music now. Beyoncé had a bounce song ('Get Me Bodied," off her 2007 smash B'Day) on her last album, and before she performed it at Essence Fest, she said "I stole this song from you.' But we already knew that."
One of his pre-Katrina bounce showcases made it into the footage of a British documentary as well as an MTV special about Dirty South rap. Blakk hopes that the exposure of a Jazz Fest slot will drive the popularity and recognition of the artists who created the sound before performers like Juvenile gained national fame. The bill is an all-star lineup of bounce's founding fathers: Bust Down, Joe Blakk, the rapper Dolemite and the lewd and irrepressible 'Queen of Dirty South Bounce" Cheeky Blakk, who appeared with the late Soulja Slim on the Rebirth Brass Band's 2001 album Hot Venom.
The legendary local trio UNLV won't be performing with original members " one group founder, Yella Boy, was killed several years ago, and another, Lil Ya, is in jail. (Interestingly, one of UNLV's biggest hits, 'Drag 'Em," was an undisguised threat on the life of one of Jazz Fest's only other local bounce headliners, Mystikal, who helped draw unprecedented crowds to the fest in 2001.) Original member Tec-9 will perform UNLV songs and new tracks with a group of other local artists, including the rapper Sess 4-5, with whom he has a new single, 'Where Is @."
Even though bounce still sounds hot and fresh, the artists performing in the Throw Back Jamm are its elder statesmen. Which is part of Joe Blakk's plan.
'It's a matter of getting the older rappers together to send a message to the younger ones," he says. 'That if we want to move forward in this thing, we have to come together."