Tim Smooth, pioneering and influential New Orleans rapper, has passed away

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 27, 2011 03:00pm | Post a Comment
Pioneering New Orleans rapper Tim Smooth died yesterday (Tuesday 26th 2011) at the young age of 39, after a long battle with cancer.

Though not a household name outside of New Orleans and circles of New Orleans Rap fans, he was one of the undisputed pioneers in the city's scene. Like a hip-hop Zelig he seemed to exist in the eye of the city's musical storm, never to break out nationally but always respected by musicians around him. In a violent era that saw many of New Orleans' musical talents cut down at a young age, Smooth collaborated freely and frequently with members of warring camps, always appreciated and always relevant. It was with especially cruel irony that Smooth, a rapper gifted with both lyrics and flow, was felled by cancer of the mouth and tongue.

Tim Smooth was born Timothy Smoot west if New Orleans in the Kennedy Heights area of Waggaman, on the West Bank in Jefferson Parish. He took the title “the Knight from Kennedy Heights.” and began

rapping as a student at Marrero's L.W. Higgins High School. In the '80s, rap from anywhere but the east and west coasts was a regional thing. New Orleans produced Ninja Crew, New York IncorporatedWarren Mayes, MC J' Ro J', 39 Posse and Tim Smooth. When labels were interested, it was usually other southern labels like Dallas's Yo! Records and Ft. Lauderdale's 4 Sight. If the major labels were aware of southern rap, they certainly kept quiet about it.

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Help Get Katey Red Into the Black, ya Heard Me‽

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 18, 2011 12:00pm | Post a Comment

Katey and new fan Andy Schwartz at SXSW 2010 (photo courtesy of Andy Schwartz)

If you're a fan of bounce music or sissy rappers in particular, then you almost certainly know who Katey Red is. Born Kenyon Carter in 1981, Katey came up in the notorious Melph. Katey dropped Melpomene Block Party on Take Fo' in 1999 and made history as the first openly gay rap star. Now's your chance to make history by helping to fund Katey's first music video. Click here to visit the Kickstarter page. There are a variety of incentives to give in addition to helping rectify the great wrong that there are no Katey Red videos up till now.

Big Freedia and Katey Red

The director is David White. According to the page, "David S. White is the primary videographer for Preservation Hall Jazz Band in New Orleans and recently completed shooting and directing a music video for Shamarr Allen. He is currently the Director of Photography for Bayou Maharajah, a feature-length video documentary on the life and music of New Orleans piano legend James Booker. He has also shot Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Tim Robbins, Soul Rebels Brass Band, Del McCoury, Charles Neville, Cosimo Matassa, Harry Connick Sr, Bunny Matthews, and many others. His most recent short film, Cell Phone Psycho, has been making the rounds at film festivals across the United States, including the New Orleans Film Festival." [bold text is my emphasis]


RIP, Magnolia Shorty

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 22, 2010 06:10pm | Post a Comment

Magnolia Shorty
was a bounce rapper from New Orleans who was the first female MC to record with Cash Money Records. She was murdered along with Jerome “Man Man” Hampton on the morning of December 20th, 2010 in Little Woods, New Orleans East. After being hit with a rumored 26 gun shots, their vehicle crashed on the 6300 block of Bridgehampton around 12:30 p.m. She was 28, Hampton was 25.
Renetta Lowe wanted to rap since she was six years old. She was nicknamed Magnolia Shorty by Magnolia Slim (aka Solja Slim) due to her diminutive stature and roots in Uptown’s notorious Magnolia Projects, which also produced rappers Juvenile, Mr. Marcello, 6-Shot and others.

She began rapping publicly when she was twelve, performing at block parties and recording mixtapes. When she signed with Cash Money, she was the first female rapper (and second female, following singer Ms. Tee) to join the label’s ranks. Her sole album for the label, recorded in 1996, is also notable for being the first Cash Money release to feature Juvenile. Not only was Monkey on the D$ck (Cash Money), released in February, 1997, Magnolia Shorty’s last album for the label, but sadly, it was her last album ever. In an era and scene known for bizarre album covers,Monkey on the D$ck’s image of to be-thonged girls with bullet braces and war helmets facing a large, irradiating, disembodied chimpanzee visage is on a level of bizarreness all by itself. Befitting the rapper’s stature, the album is itself incredibly short – just 21 minutes long and, as with many of Cash Money’s independent-era records, sounds like it was recorded in a single, lazy afternoon. The album's opener, “Manny Fresh (Cash Money Style)” doesn’t even feature her. There’s also a radio version of  “Monkey on the D$ck,” another bounce classic, “Charlie Whop!!,”  the wordless “Soldier Chant,” and “Magnolia $horty” (featuring BG and Juvenile).

That same year that she released her album she brought a sixteen-year-old discovery and fellow Magnolia resident to the label, Young Turk. She appeared on “3rd Ward Solja,” off Juvenile’s seminal Solja Rags but by the time Cash Money signed a major deal with Universal in 1998, they had parted ways with their original roster and Magnolia Shorty never again recorded with them. Although she last appeared on a track of a 2007 mixtape, Louisiana Cartel (UnderGround Funk Entertainment), she remains popular in New Orleans, where she performed regularly and wrote songs like “That’s My Juvie” that, though never put to record, are well-known, local club hits. Despite her brief recording career, echoes of Magnolia Shorty’s highly repetitive, crude and lewd bounce are more in evidence than most old school bounce artists by today’s flamboyant sissy rappers.

One of the strange side effects of the relocation of New Orleanians following Katrina was the spread and explosion of bounce’s popularity. Many New Orleanians relocated to Houston, Texas and, in 2009, Magnolia Shorty joined fellow Partners N Crime, DJ Jubilee, Big Freedia, Ms Tee, Katey Red and Vockah Redu at South By Southwest in Austin.

Recently Shorty had joined forces with fellow Cash Money veteran Ms. Tee as Gudda Girlz. Working with DJ EF Cutting, they were working on a new album around the time of her passing. She recently released a duet with 17-year-old singer Kourtney Heart, "My Boy,” and had a club hit with “Smoking Gun." Having just signed with Jive, Heart may've proven Shorty's ticket out of the streets that ended up claiming her if given a little more time. RIP.

The freaks come out at night - Bounce Queen Big Freedia visits L.A. and the sissies' strange path to the spotlight

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 5, 2010 06:00pm | Post a Comment
Tashi Condelee takes the stage whilst Big Freedia does her thang

Wednesday night I was mulling my options about what exciting way to spend my evening. Since my brother won't let me come to his house to play Battlefield 2 - Bad Company, I was weighing whether or not to go to the Support Your Local Actresses event (which I'd said I would but suddenly wasn't feeling), watch Departures or The Isle, or have a low-key game night. My friend Karen Lee offered a solitary vote for game night, but after another friend, Anne Kelson, offhandedly said, "There's some Nola thing going on at El Cid," I received a sudden jolt of energy. Of course I was intrigued. She told me someone named Big Freedia was performing. My Lenten abstinence of booze was thrown out the window (again).

             Big Freedia and Katey Red                             A fan modeling what may quite possibly be the sissiest shirt ever

Big Freedia (née Freddie Ross) is a New Orleans rapper from off Josephine in the 3rd Ward. About fifteen years ago, Freddie hooked up with a Melpomene resident and fellow Walter L Cohen student who called herself Katey Red. Freddie was a cheerleader and Katey a baton twirler. The two began rapping together as duo, Big Freddy and K-Reddy. Katey Red signed to Take Fo' and was the first openly gay rapper on the bounce scene. Big Freddy became Big Freedia and performed backup vocals and danced as part of Katey's posse. In 2000, Neil Strauss's article, "A Most Unlikely Star," appeared in The New York Times.

Despite the media exposure and the national popularity of New Orleans' Cash Money and No Limit, by 2005, bounce and its sissy off-shoot seemed like they were never really going to move beyond New Orleans in a big way. After Katrina displaced thousands of New Orleanians, the expatriates' beloved music seemingly began to crossover in Houston, where many had settled. I watched from afar with excitement and glee when Latino Houston musician Chingo Bling hooked up with 5th Ward Weebie and morphed Hotboy Ronald's bounce hit "Walk like Ronald" into "Walk like Cleto," but when, as Eric P. Poptone, I DJed what was falsely billed as a Katrina benefit (all the benefits went to the bar), I was angrily berated by a particular hipster-wannabe for, although undeniably "keeping it real," supposedly playing music that "no one is feeling" -- this despite grinning and grinding going on with the more down-to-earth visitors to the dance floor.

A couple of years later I wrote, "Sissy Rap - tell me what a sissy know" about the sissy scene for Eric's Blog. In August 2008, Sissy's premier historian, Alison Fensterstock wrote "Sissy Strut" and afterward offered me some helpful corrections and additional info. In September, XLR8R followed suit with "Sissy Bounce" which included a fashion spread. That year, Ben Ellman of New Orleanian hippie funk jam band Galactic collaboed with Katey Red. When Galactic went on tour, they took Freedia with them. Galactic's 2010 album was heavily indebted to the bounce and sissy scene, featuring contributions from Cheeky Blakk, Katey Red, Sissy Nobby and of course, Big Freedia. In 2009, the "mother-daughter" pair Big Freedia and Sissy Nobby performed in notoriously cutting edge Williamsburg, Brooklyn. There, a mere eighteen years after TT Tucker & DJ Irv cut the first bounce record, the trendsetting crowd was on board.

What, in this internet age, took so long? Are audiences finally tired of mainstream hip-hop spending the last twenty years mired in a cesspool of self-seriousness, stupidity-valorizing thug posturing and hideous, de-humanizing uniform of style-less, over-sized clothes? Did the miserable, newbie, proselytizing backpackers finally grow tired of delivering the same boring sermon about the elements of hip-hop to a crowd old enough to remember Dana Dane and Whodini?

Rusty Lazer - a man who knows his music

Naturally, after performing in the East Coast's most famous scenester enclave, Big Freedia and DJ Rusty Lazer came to Sunset Junction, a 500 foot stone's throw from Silver Lake, Williamburg's supposed West Coast franchise. I had heard a few mentions about how bounce was the latest "hipster" accessory but I was still surprised and delighted by the size and energy of the crowd. Rusty Lazer, from what I recall, played classics, including songs by the likes of Jubilee, Juvenile, Magnolia Shorty. To my surprise, someone called out a request for Josephine Johnny. My reserve worn down via gin and dancing, I randomly approached strangers curious about how they'd come to bounce. As a response, I was more than once treated to an unnecessary historical lecture about brown beats and triggaman by Sierra Nevada-drinking beardos. Others were just curious. A few didn't seem like they knew. Whatever, even if Queen Diva isn't likely on heavy rotation back at their cribs, almost everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves and it was refreshing to see a crowd largely made up of white Angelenos for once not standing stock still with their arms folded.

If you missed it, one of the next stops for Big Freedia a d Rusty Lazer is a bounce showcase at SXSW, where they're scheduled to play a bounce showcase with Jube, PNC, Ms. Tee, Magnolia Shorty, Katey Red and Vockah Redu. Anyone want to carpool?


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New Orleans Block Party - Bounce Music goes to SXSW 2010

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 18, 2010 09:04am | Post a Comment

This looks incredible. South By Southwest is hosting a bounce music showcase. This is your chance to experience some of the biggest talents to come out of the New Orleans Rap scene.

Although they made their pledge goals, you can still donate and get various merchandise. Now I may have to go to SXSW for the first time.


Partners-N-Crime DJ Jubilee

PNC were one of the star attractions at Big Boy Records in the '90s and were pioneers of that gangsta bounce sound. Jube is the glue that holds Take Fo' Records together and the man who wrote "Back That A$$ Up," among many other classics.

Magnolia Shorty has released several bounce classics, my favorite being "Monkey on tha D$ck" when she was on Cash Money Records.


Katey Red , Big Freedia and Vockah Redu

Katey is the most widely recognized name in bounce's off-shoot, sissy rap. Another big name in the sissy scene, Freedia gave us the classic "Gin In My System." Yet another big name in the sissy scene, Vockah Redu created sissy beef with "F*** Katey Red."


Ms Tee
Ms. Tee was the R&B hook singer for Cash Money's early releases who often continues to collaborate with Magnolia Shorty.
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