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DJ Jimi: A Trailblazer of New Orleans Hip-Hop

New Orleans, Louisiana, is a city renowned for its rich musical heritage, birthing legends across various genres. Among these luminaries is Jimi "DJ Jimi" Payton, a pivotal figure in the city's hip-hop scene during the early 1990s.

DJ Jimi began his musical journey as a club deejay, honing his skills at the renowned Big Man's club in New Orleans. Collaborating with DJ Irv, Jimi immersed himself in the art of crowd-hyping, mastering the intricate dynamics of live performance.

In 1992, Jimi's career reached new heights when he was signed to Isaac Bolden's Soulin' Records. His debut single, "(The Original) Where They At," propelled him into the spotlight, introducing infectious chants and layered production that set it apart from previous releases in the genre. The track, characterized by its bounce sound, quickly gained traction in local and regional markets, establishing Jimi as a trailblazer of the genre.

However, the single's risqué nature posed challenges for securing major label distribution. Nevertheless, it found success through licensing to Memphis' Avenue Records, eventually making its way onto the Billboard charts. Jimi's groundbreaking release cemented his status as the first artist to bring the chant-heavy and dance-oriented bounce sound to an official release.

Jimi's influence extended beyond the studio, as he embarked on regional tours with his grandmother and mother serving as backup dancers, showcasing his electrifying performances to audiences far and wide. Collaborating with producers like Leroy "DJ Precise" Edwards, Jimi continued to push boundaries with his music, introducing emerging talents like Juvenile to the world.

One of Jimi's most iconic contributions to the New Orleans hip-hop scene was his rendition of "Where They At," which captured the essence of bounce music and became a cornerstone of the genre. Isaac Bolden, recognizing the burgeoning popularity of bounce, collaborated with Sea-Saint Studio assistant Dion "Devious" Norman and producer Derrick “Mellow Fellow” Ordogne to produce Jimi's landmark album, "It's Jimi."

Newton's, a low-slung corner barroom where Jimi began his career in the 1980s, served as a hub for emerging talent in the city. It was here that Jimi and other artists embraced the bounce movement, laying down tracks that would shape the future of New Orleans hip-hop. U.N.L.V., another rap group, recorded their debut song, "Another Bitch," at Newton's, further solidifying its status as a breeding ground for musical innovation.

Over the years, Newton's underwent several transformations, evolving from a blues venue to a tiki bar before eventually closing its doors in 2022. Despite its changing identity, the legacy of artists like DJ Jimi continues to resonate, leaving an indelible mark on the vibrant tapestry of New Orleans' musical heritage.

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