Since I was a teen I was a twerk queen, but bounce and local rap music were much more hardcore than they are today. Over the past 20 years, local rap and bounce culture shifted from mainly hardcore “represent your hood” songs to a lot more feel-good “shake your ass songs”, and I would say it’s partly because of the world’s intense reaction. The obvious shift in local bounce and hip hop music, I feel, is also due to the music community becoming more conscious of how much local music influences the younger culture’s attitude towards violence in our own backyards. New Orleans has an indigenous sound loved by the world and continues to have a huge influence as we see with the current “twerk phenomenon”. Native New Orleanian artists today have an unlimited supply of avenues to distribute their music without a major label backing them. Thanks to the internet’s world-wide reach and the birth of internet radio, independent artists can release their mixtapes through Datpiff and Rhapsody or break new music on Dash Radio and Sirius. Which leads me to ask the question… Would more New Orleans rappers have “made it” if the digital age and social media were available to them?
I am a die-hard local hip-hop fan, but let’s face the facts. Most of the talent came out of our New Orleans projects, which means limited funds to put towards going mainstream. Distribution methods were limited with a lack of funds, and most of us could only watch artists’ videos such as Mystikal’s “Man Right Chea” on the local music TV station, The Box. I recorded my first diss record on cassette tape when Wild Wayne spun U.N.L.V’s “Drag Em in the River” on Q93, the only local rap station at the time. It was either dub it off the radio or buy it at Peaches, Tower Records, or from your local bootleg man at the gas station. Block parties were stages for local artists to grab the mic and perform for neighbors and get the support of the ward you lived in. For this particular topic, I had to find my old playlist, conveniently burned to CD. Remember CDs? It brought me back to Sweet 16 parties at the Riverboat Halleluiah, flexing dance troupes competing in high school talent shows, and what local hip hop enthusiasts would consider “original bounce music”. I even remember getting punished for having local legends' Partners-N-Crime (PNC3) cassette tape because of the vulgarity. Who really knew what they were saying at the time? But that beat was hypnotizing. We had more than enough good music coming out of New Orleans to fill a few playlists. My musician friend from Alabama asked me to play my favorite New Orleans rap and I was floored when he didn’t know L.O.G.’s "Gs and Soldiers." How didn’t he know that? That’s when I realized how rich our hip hop culture is and yet it only existed in our small bubble of New Orleans.
As far as translation to the rest of the world, credit is due to No Limit Records and Cash Money Records for successfully influencing hip hop culture with that distinctive New Orleans sound. Mr. “Make ‘Em Say Uhh” himself along with his brothers Silkk The Shocker and C Murder, Mia X a.k.a. Momma Mia First Lady of No Limit Records, Mo B Dick, Mr. Serve On, Fiend “International” Jones, Kane & Abel, and the rest of the No Limit Soldiers gave the world its first introduction to authentic New Orleans hip hop. KLC and Beats By the Pound were responsible for that raw "No Limit" sound, which I feel majorly influenced production today and was our first taste of trap music. Thank you KL for your contribution to trap beats.
No Limit Records
Formed in 1991 by CEOs Bryan "Birdman" Williams and Ronald "Slim" Williams, Cash Money Records started with the first wave of artists: U.N.L.V. (Uptown Niggas Living Violently), Pimp Daddy, Kilo G, Lil Slim, and PMW, who didn’t gain much national recognition, but were hot locally and I still know Pimp Daddy’s "Gots To Be Real" lyrics verbatim. In 1996, Baby and then in-house producer Mannie Fresh formed the stuntastic Big Tymers, and released their debut album How You Love That in 1997, one of the most nostalgic and yet hilarious records in NOLA hip hop history. It wasn’t until 1998 when the growing star power of the group Hots Boys, comprised of young rappers Lil Wayne, B.G., Juvenile and Turk, that the CMR camp graduated to the big leagues inking a $30 million deal with Universal Records. Then B.G. blessed the world in 1999 with his Chopper City In The Ghetto album including hit songs "Cash Money Is An Army" which is hands down the most noteworthy song in hip hop history, originating the slang term Bling, Bling. The Hot Boys, Big Tymers, and the solo album releases of Lil Wayne, B.G., and Juvenile dominated the radio waves and Billboard charts from the late 90s through the 2000s (Takin’ over for da 99 and 2000s). It’s amazing how Juvenile’s most infamous song "Back That Ass Up" has the longest lead-in I can tolerate and yet gets the same “twerk preparation stance” response across the world. Talk about the power of music!
The two biggest record labels Cash Money Records and No Limit Records both relocated from New Orleans to larger markets. Do artists need to leave New Orleans to succeed? New Orleans breeds amazing talent and the New Orleans struggle gives us an engaging story to tell, but the same streets that give our music so much heart has ended a lot of stories prematurely. Rappers such as Tre 8 and Mr. Magic, who met their tragedy too soon in car accidents, both reached the Billboard Hip Hop Album charts in the late 90s. On the local scene, New Orleans rappers were as authentic as they come because they had to be in order to survive everyday life. The Infamous Soulja Slim and the renowned female rapper Magnolia Shorty, who rocked NOLA clubs with “That’s My Juvie”, both were talented artists who fell victim to the streets. Do you think these artists would have been more successful during their lifetime if social media and the digital distribution process were available? Commercial artists have stolen our sound, mimicked our dances, and even contributed their style to our artists, but there are still only a few out of tons of talented hip hop artists from New Orleans who stay home AND grow to mainstream success. Lady Red’s “Smoking Dat Weed” and Cheeky Black’s “Twerk Something” were local classics that would have easily been mainstream rap hits if they had social media and the digital age at their fingertips.
Curren$y's Canal Street Confidential
Besides the popular record labels CMR and No Limit, artists could either sign to Big Boy Records, Take Fo Records, or Mobo Records on the Westbank. Big Boy Records was home to Mystical, who was one of the first rap artists signed to a major label, Partners-In-Crime and female rap duo Ghetto Twins. Take Fo Records artists included DJ Jubilee, Choppa, Willie Pucket and Da’Sha’Ra’, who all received local recognition with songs similar to the ones we hear today. New Orleans Westbank label Mobo Records signed local artists Ruthless Juveniles, Ricky B, Everlasting Hitman, Cheeky Black, and Tim Smooth. Most of these artists are unknown outside of the city limits with their music never heard, unrightfully so. Furthermore, it's nearly impossible to find their music on the internet today. Where do we find New Orleans hip hop music released before the digital age?
Jet Life Records is the newest kid on the block residing on the eastside of New Orleans, officially founded in 2011 by managing partners Mousa Hamdan of SC Management and Atlantic recording artist Curren$y a.k.a. Spitta. JLR signed artists include TY, son of rapper B.G., Corner Boy P, Fiend “International” Jones and LE$. I spoke with Mousa recently about the success of the Jet Life movement and their continued presence in New Orleans. He acknowledged how crucial the digital screen was to the growth of the Jet Life cult following and the success of Spitta’s career. “The movement from physical to digital media and the internet takeover was very important to the independent artists and labels. It allowed you to be able to promote, sell, as well as have direct consumer contact on a very small budget. It costs nothing to upload music and send it all over the world in places you never knew you could reach. It allowed consumers to really pick what they like rather than music being pushed on to them thru the power of the dollar.” Curren$y’s relentless work ethic managed by Mousa, a veteran in the music business, proves that it’s possible to stay home and gain international recognition given the proper utilization of all the existing platforms. “It was very important to Jet Life as a label to stay rooted to our city of New Orleans because we would want to help the growth of the music of our city as well as staying true to our lifestyle. People all over are intrigued by the aura of the Crescent City and we have been able to bring this to the world. We show the city love and they show the love back.” Until then, it’s “Jet Life ‘Till the Next Life”!
Top 20 in 20: NOLA Hip Hop Playlist
- Juvenile - Solja Rag
- Hot Boys - I Need a Hot Girl
- Master P - Mr. Ice Cream Man
- U.N.L.V - Drag Em in the River
- Soulja Slim - Ride With Me
- Partners In Crime - Ms Lilly
- Young Bleed feat. Master P - How Ya Do Dat
- Partners-In-Crime - New Orleans Block Party
- Ricky B - Shake It Fa Ya Hood
- Ghetto Twins - Responsibility
- Juvenile - Bounce for Da Juvenile
- Big Tymers - Woah Kimsobe
- BG feat. Lil Wayne and Juvenile - Niggas In Trouble
- Pimp Daddy - Gots To Be Real
- Juvenile feat Lil Wayne, Paparue, Turk - Rich Niggas
- L.O.G. - Gs and Soldiers
- Kane & Abel - Time After Time
- Mac feat. Mystical - Murder, Murder, Kill, Kill
- Fiend “Mr. International” Jones feat Mr. Serve On and Big Ed - Whomp, Whomp
- Lady Red - Smoking Dat Weed