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DJ Irv and MC T. Tucker: The Birth of Bounce: How New Orleans, Louisiana Crafted a New Sound

The distinctive sound of New Orleans bounce music emerged in 1991 on a modest stage at Ghost Town, a club in the 17th Ward. That year, MC T. Tucker, hailing from the St. Thomas public housing development in the 10th Ward, performed alongside DJ Irv Phillips. Initially met with a lukewarm reception due to his outsider status, Tucker won over the crowd in his second set by invoking local pride. He called out names of nearby neighborhoods — Gert Town, Pigeon Town, Hollygrove — and asked the audience, “Where they at?”

Tucker and Phillips soon recorded “Wha Dey At” with Aaron Charlot on his Charlot label. A follow-up version, “Where Dey At?”, was released under the management of Phillips’ sister, Loren Phillips. This track, built on the Triggerman beat from New York rappers The Showboys, combined with Tucker’s call-and-response vocals, laid the foundation for New Orleans’ unique hip-hop subgenre.

“Ghost Town was, like, crazy. Music blaring and you got this DJ and this rapper running off of two records on the turntables, just running these bitches back. And a mixer off of the Showboys’ ‘Drag Rap’ song. And just looping this shit, just looping it, ya heard me? Found instrumental, looping it, and this dude grabbing the mic and he hadn’t much to say, but what he did have to say was going to have you on the edge of your toes.”

The infectious sound spread quickly, inspiring rappers across the city, including DJ Jimi near the Magnolia public housing development, to create their own versions. Bounce music, as it became known, influenced generations of local hip-hop artists like Big Freedia and Lil Wayne, who grew up near Ghost Town. By the 2010s, bounce music had reached the mainstream, with stars like Beyoncé and Drake incorporating the Triggerman beat into their hits.

The original red cassette tape of “Wha Dey At” by MC T. Tucker and DJ Irv, dubbed “the red tape,” became a coveted item for collectors. Despite the enduring influence of their creation, the personal success of bounce’s pioneers was fleeting. Phillips was incarcerated shortly after “Wha Dey At” became popular and was tragically killed in 2001. Tucker, born Kevin Ventry, has struggled with legal issues, spending over two decades in and out of jail.

The legacy of New Orleans bounce music endures, a testament to the creativity and resilience of its originators.

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