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New Orleans: The Bounce Capital of the World

In addition to jazz, bounce is a music genre indigenous to New Orleans, created in the 1980s with a recent resurgence putting it back in the spotlight.

On a day that proved New Orleans is one of the most unique and outrageous places in the world, I attended a local symposium and sat next to a friend of mine — a quiet, mild-mannered photographer. When I asked her what she had been up to, she excitedly told me she’d been attending a “bounce dance class” and had learned some really great techniques. I remember thinking in that moment that there was nowhere else in the world I could possibly be having this conversation, and also that I was quite happy to be having it.

Beginnings of Bounce

The rest of the nation may just recently have become acquainted with twerking thanks to the antics of young celebrities like Miley Cyrus, but this style of dancing has in fact been around for more than 20 years.  It arose from the indigenous music genre of New Orleans – no, not jazz, but bounce.  This brand of New Orleans hip hop was popularized by artists like the New Orleans-based record labels No Limit (Master P, Silkk the Shocker, etc.) and Cash Money (Juvenile, Lil Wayne, Birdman, Mannie Fresh, etc.). The base of most bounce songs is the “Triggerman beat,” a bounce-specific, fast-paced, synthesized percussion derived primarily from a trio of early hip-hop songs and featuring sexually-oriented lyrics, a call and response format, and repetitive beats. Other pioneering New Orleans bounce artists include Choppa and DJ Jubilee, the latter being a New Orleans-area educator known for his clean lyrical content and a focus on New Orleans neighborhoods and childhood culture. Some of Jubilee’s hits include “Get Ready, Ready” and “Stop, Pause (Do the Jubilee All).”

Twerk: verb
[no object] informal
Dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance:
“just wait till they catch their daughters twerking to this song”
“twerk it girl, work it girl”
Origin:  1990s: probably an alteration of “work”
-Oxford Dictionaries

Hurricane Katrina perhaps served as the biggest mechanism to spread bounce music outside of New Orleans because many artists dispersed to other major cities and began performing in those locations. Elements of bounce have made their way into popular music, as with Beyonce’s “Get Me Bodied” and various songs by artists like Three 6 Mafia and Lil Jon. A few years ago, the Ogden Museum hosted an exhibition examining the history and influence of bounce music called “Where They At,” a nod to the 1991 single by MC T. Tucker and DJ Irv.

Bounce Today

new orleans bounce
Big Freedia, the Queen of Bounce

Lately, twerking (just one style of dancing associated with bounce music) and bounce have been in the mainstream media more than ever before: Big Freedia, the “Queen of Bounce” (and for good reason), opened for Postal Service this year to much controversy and confusion. She also set a Guinness World Record for “most people twerking simultaneously” in New York’s Herald Square, and she started a weekly Fuse show called “Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce.”

Freedia is an artist who is most often classified within a sub-genre of bounce called “sissy bounce” – although this term is not one created or necessarily endorsed by those it represents. Sissy bounce, or sissy rap, refers to openly gay performers who have in most cases stayed true to the purer forms of bounce. Other well-known sissy bounce artists include Katey Red, Sissy Nobby, and Vocka Redu. Cheeky Black is another female New Orleans bounce powerhouse.

Bounce for Yourself

There are many opportunities to see New Orleans bounce in action, including concerts like the one the night of this posting (December 26) at Republic: a Sailor Jerry-sponsored bounce show featuring Big Freedia, Nicky Da B, Katey Red, Rusty Lazer, and more, as well as a twerk competition and drink specials from Sailor Jerry!

You can also dance to bounce music at regular bounce nights at Marigny area venues Siberia and St. Roch Tavern. If you want to witness New Orleans bounce first-hand from its creators, check local music listings for when your favorite New Orleans bounce artists are playing next!

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