Bounce 101: A Primer to the New Orleans Sound

Chicago has house music. The West Coast has hyphy. Houston has screw. New Orleans has bounce.

This regional hip-hop sound began in Louisiana in the late 1980s and for nearly two decades it’s had the same two up-tempo beats — Triggaman and Brown Beat.

“We call it 'dat beat,'” said Kenneth Williams, a 31-year-old DJ from New Orleans East who goes by the name DJ Chicken. “Those two [beats] together make up dat beat.”

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Bounce grew out of the poorer neighborhoods of New Orleans — in brick projects named Magnolia and Desire, fast becoming the soundtrack for block parties with lyrics that talked of raunchy struts and skimpy lingerie.

“In days gone by, 95 percent were sex songs,” said Nik Cohn, author of the book “Triksta: Life and Death and New Orleans Rap.”

“You say the things that get the crowd excited, and the women love to dance a certain dance off of it, so it kind of goes with a provocative dance that females do,” said ChiQuita Simms, a hip-hop publicist from New Orleans. Those dance moves, focused on the shaking of the derriere, are often prompted from the cries of the DJs.

“Hardcore bounce, if you can’t see it in action, it’s really hard to understand,” said Roger Dickerson, 30, a New Orleans DJ who goes by the moniker Raj Smoove. “But if you see it in the club and you see the dance that goes along with the song and everything, you’re like ‘Wow, this is some powerful music to get people to dance like this.’”

Fifth Ward Weebie did something new by turning a bounce song into social commentary, Cohn said. "It's not exactly Bob Dylan lyrics, but still to make a statement, that is new," he said.

Before Fifth Ward Weebie recorded his “Katrina Song,” lyrics were secondary to the driving beat.

“It’s that feel of the heat bouncing off the bricks and the sweat flying and that brutal life of the projects — brutal but so full of life and spirit,” Cohn said. “You really didn’t try to say something in the lyrics of a bounce song — the bounce beat itself said it all.”

The songs always include a shout-out to the wards of New Orleans, usually a “Where y’at? Where y’at?”

Unfortunately, many of those neighborhoods, once vibrant with life, are no longer yelling back.

“The neighborhoods that bounce came out of are really no closer to being brought back than they were a year ago,” Cohn said. “If New Orleans is ever going to have any real life and not just be a tourist town or boutique or a southern Disneyland, it needs its youth back.”

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