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 Big Freedia performing during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2016 ⎮© Kowarski/Flicker
Big Freedia performing during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2016 ⎮© Kowarski/Flicker

A Brief History Of New Orleans' Bounce Music Style

Picture of Rebeca Trejo
Updated: 28 October 2016
Inherently connected to Louisiana’s hip-hop history, bounce is a distinctive style of music that originated in New Orleans’ housing projects and neighborhood bars during the late 1980s.

Defined by a tempo ranging from 95 to 105 beats per minute, heavy brass band beats, Mardi Gras Indian chants and call-and-response routines, this indigenous musical trend has become one of the city’s most exciting musical trends in recent years.

This manifestation of southern roots music has been around for about twenty years and features lyrical patterns that focus mainly on parties and dancing. Bounce can be traced back to 1991 when the efforts of rappers and DJs working in small nightclubs and block parties brought life to New Orleans’ own brand of hip-hop.

Bounce popularized at a club called Ghost Town by MC T. Tucker. Amidst the primary song’s local acclaim for Tucker’s crude live-recording, DJ Jimi studio-recorded a full-length album in 1992 titled “It’s Jimi” for producer Isaac Bolden’s Soulin’ Records, and included both a more polished version of the original song, which he called “(The Original) Where Dey At,” and a debut feature by teenager rapper, Juvenile, who released “Do the Jubilee All” a year later. This high energy beats went on to become the blueprint for nearly all bounce music to come.

Generally recognized as the first bounce release, these recordings marked a point in time in which rap’s southern sub-genre found its own groove in the raw, celebratory, infectious block-party sound that would go on to influence artists at the top of the game. Even though the genre’s pioneers were not household names, they were still pivotal in bounce music’s development – mainly because they helped establish the Big Easy as one of the epicenters of the “Dirty South” style.

During the early years, under the direction of locally established record labels and producers such as Cash Money Records’ Bryan “Baby” and Ronald “Slim” Williams, bounce quickly came to dominate the New Orleans hip-hop scene.

By the mid-1990s, the new local style of hip-hop had not only become a staple of music that conveyed contagious energy and an uncontrived commitment to enjoyment, but also a gateway for breaking through national mainstream selling millions of copies of groundbreaking records that expressed the local hip-hop sensibility, and referenced the city’s housing projects and other poor working-class areas where hip-hop took root.

Beginning around 2000, bounce experienced an emergence of openly gay rappers, such as Big Freedia – one of the biggest names in New Orleans bounce music today. Other artists such as Sissy Nobby and Vockah Redu continue to shatter the myth of homophobia within the hip-hop culture, and showcase how different lifestyle choices can help the amplification and evolution of the energetic sub-genre.

Even though the new era brought in new artists to the New Orleans-based genre, Hurricane Katrina served as the biggest mechanism to spread bounce music due to many artists dispersing and performing in other major cities. Today, elements of bounce can be found in music everywhere from Beyoncé’s “Get Me Bodied” to Rihanna’s “Pour it Up.”

Beating ruthlessly fast over a sample dance beat and demanding a relationship with its audience, New Orleans bounce, with its rich history of musical traditions, perpetuates the fact that this city fosters some of the most influential and notable African-American expressive cultures in the world.

Among the many opportunities to see New Orleans Bounce in action are concerts, as well as regular bounce nights at Marigny area venues like Siberia and St. Roch Tavern.