Over the course of the twentieth century, African Americans in New Orleans helped define the genres of jazz, rhythm and blues, soul, and funk. In recent decades, younger generations of New Orleanians have created a rich and dynamic local rap scene, which has revolved around a dance-oriented style called "bounce."
Hip-hop has been the latest conduit for a "New Orleans sound" that lies at the heart of many of the city's best-known contributions to earlier popular music genres. Bounce, while globally connected and constantly evolving, reflects an enduring cultural continuity that reaches back and builds on the city's rich musical and cultural traditions.
In this book, the popular music scholar and filmmaker Matt Miller explores the ways in which participants in New Orleans's hip-hop scene have collectively established, contested, and revised a distinctive style of rap that exists at the intersection of deeply rooted vernacular music traditions and the modern, globalized economy of commercial popular music. Like other forms of grassroots expressive culture in the city, New Orleans rap is a site of intense aesthetic and economic competition that reflects the creativity and resilience of the city's poor and working-class African Americans.
In this first musicological history of rap music, Cheryl L. Keyes traces the genre's history from its roots in West African bardic traditions, the Jamaican dancehall tradition, and African American vernacular expressions to its permeation of the cultural mainstream as a major tenet of hip-hop lifestyle and culture.
Rap music, according to Keyes, addresses the political and economic disfranchisement of black youths and other groups, fosters ethnic pride, and displays culture values and aesthetics. Blending popular culture with folklore and ethnomusicology, Keyes offers a nuanced portrait of the artists, themes, and varying styles reflective of urban life and street consciousness. Her analysis draws on music, lives, politics, and interests of figures ranging from Afrika Bambaataa, the "godfather of hip-hop," to early artists like Grandmaster Flash, to crossover pioneers like LL Cool J, De La Soul, and Public Enemy, to megastars like Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. At the same time, Keyes delves into the impact of the rapper-turned mogul phenomenon, the rise of Death Row Records, and the East Coast-West Coast tensions of the Nineties.