If you’ve been online at all in the past few weeks, then you’ve probably witnessed the viral explosion of the #GetTheGatChallenge.
A student at Louisiana State University known at Subtweet Sean created a signature dance for the 1992 track “Get the Gat” by Lil Elt. The LSU football team shared numerous videos doing the dance and catapulting the craze- they even brought it to the White House. This viral sensation inspired countless people to take on the #GetTheGatChallenge across all social media platforms, especially Tik Tok.
But this is not the first time Bounce music has had global reach. Perhaps you’re one of the hundreds of millions of people who have heard Drake’s 2018 track “Nice For What.” For this massive track, Drake sampled Bounce icon Big Freedia and collaborated in the studio with legendary Bounce producer BlaqNmilD and pioneering Bounce artist 5th Ward Weebie (more on these icons later.)
In an interview with Genius, Weebie said:
“We’ve been fighting to put bounce on the map since the late ‘80s. That’s a very long time. That’s over 30 years that we’ve been fighting to get bounce in front of the world.”
Sadly, Weebie passed away last month just as the genre is gaining global recognition.
In 2017, N.E.R.D released their heavily Bounce inspired track “Lemon,” featuring Rihanna.
So now that we’ve covered the mainstream recognition of Bounce music let’s get to the originators and legends of the genre.
What is Bounce?
New Orleans is known as one of the cradles of American music (jazz, blues, R&B, early rock-n-roll, brass band, bounce…) and music is deeply intertwined in the mythology, culture, and atmosphere of the city. For the residents, music is a crucial way of maintaining and strengthening a strong sense of community and expressing pride in their unique culture.
Bounce originated in New Orleans’ housing projects in the late ’80s amid nonstop block parties and DJ sets. So it comes as no surprise that this genre is all about creating the right atmosphere to get people dancing for hours on end. A good Bounce track must have instant dance floor appeal. Although the genre has evolved over the decades, Bounce tracks always stay true to this purpose.
Here are the elements of a Bounce track:
- signature chopped vocals
- lyrics with local references
- dance call-outs
- call and response
- twerk-ready beats
- Triggerman Beat from the Showboys “Drag Rap”
- Brown Beat from UK rapper Derek B’s “Rock The Beat”
- highly energetic uptempo rhythms
- claps on all eighth notes
The genre is over 30 years old now. Even though it has evolved alongside rapid technological innovation, Bounce production continues to reuse and reconfigure its original core elements – especially the Triggerman Beat.
The Beginning: ’80s – early ’90s
The Triggerman Beat from The Showboys “Drag Rap”
For inexplicable reasons, the backbone of New Orleans Bounce music comes from an obscure rap duo from Queens called The Showboys. Somehow their 1986 single “Drag Rap” with its booming 808 bass and prominent sample from the TV show Dragnet, made its way down to Memphis, where producer DJ Spanish Fly found it in a shop, sampled it, and created the Triggerman Beat.
It is not exactly clear how “Drag Rap” made its way to New Orleans, where it became the backbone of Bounce music for decades to come. Interestingly, Memphis and New Orleans regional hip-hop styles converge briefly through the use of the Triggerman Beat. However, Bounce music was all about good times and dancing while Memphis hip-hop went in a much darker and heavier direction (read more in our article on Memphis hip-hop).
Due to the obscurity of The Showboys, this key element of Bounce music is almost universally known as “Triggaman” taking the name of one of the characters in the song’s lyrics.
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, New Orleans DJs would play the instrumental b-side of “Drag Rap” milking every breakdown and beat for hours onstage while MCs took their turn rhyming. This was the formation period for what would become a fiercely regional hip-hop genre.
Before Bounce music fully came into the distinct style that we recognize today, Mannie Fresh, one of the originators and most prominent Bounce producers, released “Buckjump Time” in 1989. This track was a regional smash hit, and it established another prominent theme of Bounce music known as project rap, in which the MC shouts out the names of numerous neighborhoods, wards, and projects.
By the early ’90s, the Triggerman Beat had taken over New Orleans; cassette tapes were circulating, it got airtime on the radio, and looped for countless hours in the clubs. DJ Irv was another pioneer of Bounce, playing the Triggerman beat in clubs across New Orleans. In 1991 he created the first official Bounce track “Where Dey At?” by looping the Triggerman beat on two turntables while MC T. Tucker rhymed on top. This track was released exclusively on cassette tape but its momentum and popularity quickly inspired other local artists to start releasing original tracks on both cassette and vinyl.
“Where Dey At?” pushed Bounce into the next stage by firming up the key stylistic elements. Lil Elt recognized that a musical movement was sweeping the city and created the track “Get The Gat” in 1992 as his response to the popularity of “Where Dey At?.”
“Get The Gat” is the track that renewed interest in Bounce music this year with the #GetTheGatChallenge. Nearly 30 years after its release Lil Elt’s track is going viral and Bounce music originators are finally gaining global attention. In this recent interview, Lil Elt talks about how the track was created and how his young nephew informed him of the track’s viral popularity.
In 1992/1993 the genre got its name with the release of Everlasting Hit Man’s “Bounce Baby Bounce” which is the first track to use the term Bounce.
1992 proved to be an incredibly fertile year in the formation of Bounce. In this year, brothers Brian “Birdman” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams founded Ca$h Money records in New Orleans. This label releases music by traditional Bounce artists as well as artists that blend Bounce with other hip-hop styles. Ca$h Money is now one of the most successful hip-hop labels with major artists like Lil Wayne (who is also from New Orleans), Nicki Minaj, Drake, Blueface, and Yung Thug on the roster.
As the ’90s progressed, the key elements of Bounce music solidified while maintaining a strong connection to the heritage music of New Orleans. Bounce lyrics incorporated the city’s long tradition of call-and-response music with a twist. Aside from project rap sections, many Bounce tracks featured dance call-outs like this 1993 track, “Jubilee All” by DJ Jubilee.
DJ Jubilee claims to have created over 100 different dance moves and “Jubilee All” is supposedly the first time that the term twerk was used in a track.
The Evolution: late ’90s – 2000s
As usual, technology allows producers to evolve their sound rapidly, and Bounce is no exception.
The late ’90s is when Bounce producers began to use the MPC. This technology gave producers much more control and flexibility. Sampling on the MPC birthed the signature chopped vocals and repetition that are now hallmarks of the genre.
The late ’90s also brought some mainstream success for Bounce artists, most notably a string of hits by Juvenile. Mannie Fresh produced hit tracks for Juvenile, and many others as the resident producer for Ca$h Money records from 1992-2005.
Here’s Mannie Fresh deconstructing Juvenile’s 1998 hit track “Back That Azz Up” for Genius:
Although the world might not have been ready for Bounce music in the ’90s, this hit track by Juvenile brought Bounce to the mainstream and helped Ca$h Money become a hip-hop mainstay.
During the 2000s with the rise of music software, younger generations of Bounce producers pushed the genre even further away from its vinyl roots. Producer BlaqNmilD was one of the first to use music software on PCs which dramatically changed the sound.
In an interview with Red Bull Music Academy BlaqNmilD said:
“By me having that program,” he says, “I was able to create my own bounce sound… I changed the tempo, I changed the way the breakdowns went, I made things hit a little harder. I started chopping up the artist’s vocals. That was a big ol’ change in the bounce game as well. Once I started chopping the artist’s vocals, it went crazy.”
The producers in the 2000s took full advantage of the control that software gave them to crank up the tempo and take sampling to another level. Lyrics were transformed into extreme vocal chops to create the amped-up booty-shaking atmosphere. And producers in this era took sampling the Triggerman Beat to another level, breaking it down into literally hundreds of individual samples, each kick, clap, and bell so that they could be used in this new intricate way.
In 2005 Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, causing devastation and forcing many residents and artists to move to other parts of the South, bringing Bounce music with them. Displaced artists performed and spread awareness of the genre, and the neighboring southern states appreciated the high-energy party music. Many cities outside of New Orleans still have Bounce nights and venues to this day.
With the viral success of the #GetTheGatChallenge and mainstream artists collaborating with Bounce legends, it seems like Bounce is gaining momentum and gaining the attention of new generations.
There’s more where that came from! If you want to read more on Bounce or listen to some more tracks, check out my resources below ?
Backer, Sam. “The Producers Behind the Beat of New Orleans Bounce.” Red Bull Music Academy, 5 June 2018, daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2018/06/new-orleans-bounce-producers.
“Big Freedia’s Guide to New Orleans Bounce: A Primer.” KCRW, 21 Oct. 2014, www.kcrw.com/music/articles/big-freedias-guide-to-new-orleans-bounce-a-primer.
Caswell, Estelle, director. N.E.R.D.’s Hit Song “Lemon” Owes a Lot to New Orleans Bounce. Vox, 2 Jan. 2018, youtu.be/P_8INf4SKmc.
Hobbs, Holly. “NOLA Hiphop and Bounce Archive.” Tulane University Digital Library, 2012, digitallibrary.tulane.edu/islandora/object/tulane:p16313coll68.
McDonnell, John. “Scene and Heard: New Orleans Bounce and ‘Sissy Rap’.” The Guardian, 29 Sept. 2008, www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2008/sep/29/sissy.rap.neworleans.bounce.
Setaro, Shawn. Are the Sounds of Regional Hip-Hop Going Extinct? Observer, 14 Mar. 2016, observer.com/2016/03/are-the-sounds-of-regional-hip-hop-scenes-dead/.
Setaro, Shawn. The Evolution of Bounce, From “Triggaman” to “Nice for What”. Complex News, 18 May 2018, youtu.be/UBPuteOa77Y.
White, Michael G. “New Orleans Music: Spirit of a Community.” Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, 20 Sept. 2016, folklife.si.edu/talkstory/2016/new-orleans-music-spirit-of-a-community.
Williams, Kyann-Sian. “What’s ‘Get The Gat’? The 28 Year Old New Orleans Bounce Track That’s Massive on TikTok: NME.” NME, New Musical Express, 11 Feb. 2020, www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/what-is-get-the-gat-new-orleans-bounce-track-thats-massive-on-tiktok-2607096.
Witmer, Phil. “A Brief History of Drake’s Relationship with New Orleans Bounce.” Vice, 9 Apr. 2018, www.vice.com/en_us/article/a3ynap/drake-nice-for-what-new-orleans-bounce-history.