It’s been a strong few years on the charts for New Orleans bounce, as songs like Beyoncé’s “Formation,” N.E.R.D.’s “Lemon” and Cardi B’s “Bickenhead” have borrowed its signature beats, sounds, voices and chants. Before that, the high-octane, azz-centric dance music has been a cultural force for decades, its rhythms and key players launching the empire of Cash Money Records and dotting hit records by Lil Wayne and Juvenile. Bounce ambassador Big Freedia has had six seasons of a Fuse reality show, and the word twerk — a dance that originated with bounce — is now in the dictionary.
Even so, there’s never been a moment in pop quite like this summer, when Drake’s bounce-influenced “Nice for What” (which features the voices of both Big Freedia and 5th Ward Weebie) and “In My Feelings” (which samples late bounce hero Magnolia Shorty) are trading places as the Number One song in the country. Here are 20 essential songs from the regional sensation that has the whole world shaking.
T.T. Tucker & DJ Irv, “Where Dey At” (1991)
Kevin “T.T.” Tucker says he copped the Showboys’ slept-on single “Drag Rap” at a Sam Goody while visiting New York in 1986 and then “introduced it to the south.” While basically a non-starter for Profile Records and the Queens-based Showboys, New Orleans embraced the bass-heavy tune – soon dubbed the ‘Triggerman’ beat – with a passion. Said DJ Jimi: “[Y]ou had to play ‘Triggaman,’ you had to do that shit for ’bout four hours straight, nonstop, nothin’ else, all night.” With DJ Irv looping the tracks on two turntables and Tucker adding catchy chants for this cassette collaboration, “Drag Rap”‘s xylophone-ish melody ran in dizzying circles – Showboys called the sound the bones, New Orleans called it the bells. Circulating on an artwork-free cassette called, colloquially, “the red tape” and thrown into rotation on local radio, bounce was born.
Silky Slim, “Sister Sister” (1992)
Possibly the first and best answer record in a genre full of them. This gender-flipped response to the O.G. “Where Dey At” uses a woodwind-sounding motif similar to the “Triggerman” melody instead of just sampling “Drag Rap” — making it an unique bounce outlier. Still, the record was released by Profile, the label that put out the Showboys years earlier.
DJ Jimi, “Where They At” (1992)
After seeing a local restaurant explode into dancing when Tucker and Irv’s “Where Dey At” came over the radio, industry vet Isaac Bolden recruited DJ Jimi to record a cover. A post-modern pastiche of samples, chants and repurposed hooks from other records, it would take the sound out of Louisiana’s borders, hitting Number 84 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and spreading to regional scenes across the South. “What that song did, that song made everybody get up,” Jimi told bounce archive Where They At. “There were two copies, two versions of it. Me and Irv was best friends. “Where They At” — he was a better DJ. I would come to him as a DJ. He was a beast with it. What if we never would have done that shit and opened that door and let that shit out? You all would have been bored as fuck.” The single’s flipside, “Bitches (Reply)” features a female rapper responding to the Tucker/Irv version: You can hear the opening “all right all right all right” interpolated by Outkast and Project Pat (the latter sampled on Cardi B’s “Bickenhead”).
Everlasting Hitman, “Bounce! Baby Bounce” (1992)
This is a wildly offensive, X-rated shock rap in the mold of 2 Live Crew, the early Rap-A-Lot Records roster or New Orleans’ own Bust Down: Listeners offended by lyrics that are racist, sexist, ableist and graphically detailing sexual assault should avoid at all costs. The song, written by a 17-year-old, may have helped popularize the word “bounce” itself. Lil Ya of the early Cash Money crew UNLV sees his presence as transformative. “[H]e was one of the first people I knew who started doing gangsta rap in the bars,” Lil Ya told Narratively. “Then everyone started doing it. We were better at it than any of those other guys, and the positive rap wasn’t poppin’ anymore. People didn’t want to hear that.” Hitman released only two more songs before he was killed in 1996.
Lil Elt, “Get the Gat” (1992)
Opening with a N.W.A interpolation and a Black Sheep sample, “Get the Gat” was an early single that mixed hard-nosed gangstaisms with get-crunk beats.
DJ Jimi ft. Juvenile, “Bounce for the Juvenile” (1993)
DJ Jimi’s album included a liquid sing-song rap that would be a breakout performance by a 17-year-old rapper named Juvenile. It promptly became a local hit. “I was anxious [recording that]. I was hungry. I didn’t have respect for the art. I was just wild. I would get a few drinks, get in the studio, and record,” Juvenile told Complex. “I would put out a tape and outsell anybody who was coming out of New Orleans. I had a cassette tape that I had to burn and make copies of myself. I would come out to the club at the end of the week and we would have bags full of tapes. … It was hand-to-hand, but we was making more than the record store. … When ‘Bounce (For The Juvenile)’ came out, I was doing alright. I was pretty nice.”
DJ Jubilee & the Take Fo’ Family, “Jubilee All” (1993)
This call-and-response classic is generally agreed as the first record to feature the word “twerk” — the bootylicious bounce that would eventually catch the world by storm thanks to Ying Yang Twins, Beyoncé and Miley Cyrus. “It was Ground Zero,” a source no less authoritative than Big Freedia told Fuse about the debut single from DJ Jubilee. “In all of the middle school and high school dances, you could not go anywhere without hearing a Jubilee track or seeing him and his dancers cutting it up at a concert.” While Jubilee was teaching at Walter L. Cohen Senior High School, he used to DJ the school dances. “A friend of mine, his name was Tyronne Jones, he was doing a dance but he was doing it so funny and he had me laughing the way he was sliding left and right, left and right,” Jubilee told Antigravity. “So we started doing the Jubilee and the whole gym just started doing it for no reason, because they needed something to do. Then next week, the Magnolia came with a dance: the Eddie Bauer. The Calliope came with the Jerk Baby Jerk … Aw man, everybody came with a dance. And before you know it, I had over 50 something dances on the first album.”
Mia X, “Da Payback” (1993)
Mia X told Amoeba that she sold 77,000 copies of this record independently, getting the attention of an emerging entrepreneur Master P of No Limit Records. While Mia would release three boss-tongued gangsta rap records on No Limit (and appeared on the Top 20 pop hit “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!”), her breakout was this bounce classic that flips the misogynist, hypersexualized chants into an expression of equally raunchy girl power: “The dick was small/ He had no balls/ I say you ain’t doin’ no damage, no damage at all” “My oldest was 4 when I did Payback,” Mia tweeted “he heard the full song when he was 20 his mouth dropped lmao.”
Ricky B, “Shake It Fo Ya Hood” (1994)
This song’s playful, quirky electronic blips made this song stand out, but the 7th Ward’s Ricky B thinks it’s the unblinking lyrics about the city’s gun violence that make it timeless. “That song, it was written as a gangsta rap, but it had a message in it. It was sort of subliminal but if you were old enough to understand it, you knew the message,” Ricky B said in an interview available from the Tulane University Digital Library. “And the city hasn’t changed. Nothing has changed in the city. Master P came out in what, ’97 ’98? He started braggin’ on the murder capital. So, the relevancy to the lyrics of “Shake It Fo Ya Hood and being the murder capital that he was screaming out – it still hadn’t changed. Up until this day.”
Cheeky Blakk, “Twerk Something” (1994)
“I never thought ‘twerk’ would blow up like it is now” Cheeky Blakk told the New Orleans Times-Picayune after Miley Cyrus started dabbling in the dance. “I see people getting on my Facebook, saying, ‘The only twerking I know is Cheeky Blakk.'” Indeed the artist known as Angela Woods is regarded as the first musician to put the work “Twerk” in a song. Woods and her partner, Cash MoneyEdgar “Pimp Daddy” Jenkins turned their relationship friction into songs and stagecraft. Jenkins was killed right as “Twerk” was exploding.
Partners N Crime, “Pump Tha Party” (1995)
“We were making money in those days,” Partners N Crime‘s Kango Slimm told My Spilt Milk. “I was 17 living in Park Royale on the bayou, and my mom couldn’t understand how I had my own apartment, my own car.” Kango Slimm and Mr. Meana and Prime Time toured the South in a Mercedes Benz and this hard-rocking bounce anthem helped rocket them to regional acclaim.
Magnolia Shorty, “Monkey on Tha D$ck” (1996)
Cash Money Records, the label that would ultimately give the world Drake, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne, spent much of its early years releasing bounce records marked by the mechanical funk of veteran producer Mannie Fresh and an eye towards harsher gangsta-rap realities in the lyrics: PxMxWx, U.N.L.V., Lil Slim, Ms. Tee, B-32 (b/k/a a young Bryan “Birdman” Williams) and more. One of their most impactful bounce tracks was Magnolia Shorty’s “Monkey on Tha D$ck,” which featured the toungue-twisting rhymes and hard-rattling beats that Cash Money would used to help usher in a new era of Southern rap. “This little girl comes in the studio with maybe 14 other little girls,” Mannie Fresh told Complex. “So she came in there, and they had never been in a studio, so they’re like, ‘How does this shit work?’ … She did that song in one take. They was in there cutting up, jamming with her. The energy and everything, she convinced you that this song was going to be a hit before anybody because she brought her little cheerleading squad with her, and they was amped up. She was like, ‘Put that out and watch what happens.’ Sure enough the next day, they put that out, and they were trying to find her to do a radio edit of it.'”
Ricky B, “Yall Holla” (ca. 1996)
Sampling both the Rebirth Brass Band and James Brown, Ricky B’s “Yall Holla” makes an explicit connection between New Orleans second lines and modern hip-hop grooves. “We tried to get Rebirth into the studio, they were busy touring, doing a lot, Ricky said in an interview available from the Tulane University Digital Library. “The whole Southern region just was bouncing to it.”
Juvenile, “Back That Azz Up” (1998)
“That was the icing on the cake. It’s the song that I didn’t think would make it because it’s bounce music,” Juvenile told Complex. “I have been doing bounce music for years and it just went regional. It never went mainstream. I didn’t think people in New York and L.A. – people that weren’t from my area or are used to this kind of music — would like it. It just blew up. I was shocked.” Indeed, “Back That Azz Up” became a Top 20 pop hit and a rap classic interpolated by Drake, Big Sean and more. Sure, bounce purists may grouse that it bears a striking resemblance to Jubilee’s 1998 tune “Back That Ass Up” (an argument that was settled in court, in Juvenile’s favor), but no one can deny the huge impact of “Back That Azz Up,” especially with 2 Chainz, Jay Z, Iggy Azalea and Tekashi 6ix9ine all borrowing its iconic push-pull flow.
Katey Red & Dem Hoes, “Melpomene Block Party” (1999)
Katey Red started releasing brash, brassy bounce music in 1999, and was promptly embraced by local radio. Her lyrics were often explicitly about being queer — “Melpomene Block Party” features the line “I’m a punk under pressure” — and eventually the story of Red and a handful of LGBT bounce artists (Big Freedia, Sissy Nobby and Vockah Redu among them) soon proved irresistible to a curious national media. It was dubbed “sissy bounce” but Katey was sure to tell The New York Times Magazine, “Ain’t no such thing as ‘sissy bounce.’ It’s bounce music. It’s just sissies that are doing it.” Soon, gender-bending and queer artists would be the national face of bounce music. “Since I started rapping things have changed,” Katey told Offbeat in 2000. “They have a lot of boys dancin’ the girls’ style. It used to be just a lot of girls dancin’ and shakin’ their behinds, but now they got boys poppin’ their penises. When I put on my song ‘Tiddy Bop,’ they put their hands up their shirts like they have breasts – New Orleans has really changed.”
Choppa, “Choppa Style” (2001)
While No Limit and Cash Money conquered the world with bounce-influenced tracks like Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” and 504 Boyz’ “Wobble Wobble,” veteran bounce label Take Fo’ Records kept the groove simmering under the radar, with hopes of becoming the third NOLA label to explode through America’s TVs and car stereos. Take Fo’s DJ Jubilee signed a deal with Tommy Boy that disintegrated. The local success of teenage rapper Choppa allowed Take Fo’ to enter a deal with the newly rebranded New No Limit Records. Together, the sing-songy “Choppa Style,” with its Nelly-ish lilts, became a modest national hit, peaking at Number 94. “Actually, [bounce is] on the rise because “Choppa Style” was a bounce song that went nationwide,” Choppa told MVRemix. “I mean and they said it would never happen, and I made it possible for it to go nationwide.
Big Freedia, “Gin In My System” (2003)
The world’s most accomplished bounce diplomat, Big Freedia exists somewhere between azz academic, punk-rock touring machine, music festival party-starter and America’s booty-shaking expert. In post-Katrina New Orleans, no artist has done more to bring bounce to the masses, whether through her Fuse TV show, her appearances on Treme or Jimmy Kimmel, her collaborations with Diplo and RuPaul or her constant touring. One of her first hits, 2003’s “Gin ‘N My System” was interpolated by Lil Wayne about a decade later: “Yes Lil Wayne got gin in my system from the queen,” Big Freedia tweeted. “Check my background.”
Magnolia Shorty feat. Katey Red, “That’s My Juvie” (2003)
A live throwdown from a bounce icon.
Sissy Nobby, “Spining Top” (2010)
Though Sissy Nobby rose to fame with the raspy, highly lyrical relationship rap “Consequences,” “Spining Top” rockets in the other direction, bringing bounce into harsher, noisier, glitchier territory.
5th Ward Weebie, “Let Me Find Out” (2014)
“A lot of people can’t handle the truth, but they can tell you about you all day,” 5th Ward Weebie told Noisey about his viral bounce sensation “Let Me Find Out.” “People always judge other people, always talk about other people, but really don’t self-check. This is like my own personal revenge for people that can’t defend themselves.” This masterful record from a No Limit veteran mixes Nineties-era lyricism, vintage bounce and some macho playing of the dozens that goes back decades. “I did the song, and when I was writing the verse, I wrote, ‘Let me find out there’s booty pads underneath!'” he told the Times-Picayune. “When I wrote that line the spark came in, everyone laughed. Everyone in the studio went crazy and I said, ‘I’m going to make a song out of that.'” The song’s producer, BlaqNmilD, would go on to co-produce both “In My Feelings” and “Nice for What” for Drake.