This blog entry is a look back at one of New Orleans's more obscure hip-hip labels, Tombstone. Tombstone Records was a notable New Orleans Rap label in the 1990s that released a handful of high caliber releases that sold over 100,000 albums around the South in three years before abruptly ceasing operations after a series of cataclysmic misfortunes.
It was founded by Elton “June” Wicker Jr. Most of the production was done by Merrill “Real Roc” Robinson, who also worked for Mobo. Other production was done by Ice Mike and the one-and-only Mannie Fresh. The label's biggest commercial success was the uncontested "Queen of Bounce," Cheeky Blakk, whose 1996 album Let Me Get That Outcha was a massive local hit for Tombstone before she jumped ship for Total Respect. Tombstone apparently operated on a shoestring budget with pleasingly dinky synths, cheap album covers and no music videos -- but unlike many local New Orleans labels of the 1990s, Tombstone seems to have been more fully committed to the compact disc format than most of their peers, forsaking the cassette for almost every artist.
For some reason, the Bounce scene, born nearly 20 years ago, seems to be undergoing a minor critical reassessment as it inspires curiosity in a new generation of fans amongst the young, the Euro, the old and new. I can only guess why. I suspect that part of it is a development of the ongoing, time-delayed, middle class fascination with vulgar, good-time booty, that, as with booty bass, gogo, ghettotech and juke house before, takes a little longer to catch on beyond the music's traditional base. Or perhaps it’s just the curiosity factor due to the prevalence of so many openly gay rappers, who have been the subject of articles in The Village Voice, The Guardian and The New York Times -- although their readers are unlikely to run out and buy the latest Sissy Rap record. There was even a piece on Bounce for NPR’s stomach-turning attempt at hipness, What's the New What? ...Just the title of that show makes me feel like I've been kicked where it hurts.
On the other hand, sites like Louisiana Rap, Nola Bounce and Twankle and Glisten have done a good job in documenting the scene and suggest a much deeper, more honest appreciation that makes me happy. I'll be honest, the idea of a politician claiming to like Bounce would make me die a little inside. Yet, I’d love it if all these underappreciated, undercredited artists who made Bounce happen got some well-deserved acknowledgment and attention. With films like Ya Heard Me documenting the scene and Youtubers like 1825 Tulane Ave and Whatheallman tirelessly keeping Bounce in your ear, I guess I can live with the idea that some ironic, comb-over-wearing member of the Dumpster Click is going to be into it too. Anyway, for the time being, if you look up "New Orleans Bounce" on Youtube, you're (currently, at least) unlikely to be confronted with the image an American Apparel/Vice Magazine disaster doing the Eddie Bow.