Hollywood or Hollygrove? Bounce music, Drake, and culture-vulturing collide and create discussions

Adelaide Basco | Art Director

“Bounce music is New Orleans, New Orleans is bounce music,” junior Satchel Joseph said. “I think it’s difficult for others to understand, but it holds a significant place in the development of New Orleans hip-hop.”

New Orleans as a city is widely-regarded as having its own identity and culture. Many different aspects, including food and language, distinguish the city from the rest of the United States. The popularity of one particular aspect of New Orleans culture has been gaining traction around the country: bounce music.

The origins of bounce music can be traced back three decades. In the 1990s, DJs and MCs in New Orleans experimented with beats and rhythms in various nightclubs and block parties. They had the hope of creating a new subgenre of hip-hop that felt distinctly New Orleans, a sound created by and for NOLA natives.

Two performers, MC T. Tucker and DJ Irv, released a track dubbed “Where Dey At?” in 1991, and it became the very first bounce song, characterized by a fast-paced rhythm with frequent slow-downs containing aggressive beats. Many of the people who danced to the song would shake their glutes up and down vigorously to the pace of the song a dance move now widely known as “twerking.”

For many New Orleans natives, bounce music proves to be a major aspect of their identity.

“Bounce music has been a part of my life since I was born,” junior Joye Pate said. “That being said, I don’t know the city without it. New Orleans without bounce is basically red beans with no rice.”

Bounce music’s presence may not be new to New Orleans, but it likely is to the rest of the US. So much so, in fact, that you may not even realize you’ve been exposed to its influence. Artist Big Freedia, born and raised in New Orleans, started to become a signature icon for the genre since the release of her first album in 2010.

Big Freedia gained so much mainstream exposure that it did not take long for her to be approached by Beyoncé. She was featured in Beyoncé’s track, “Formation,” where she expressed her Southern roots in her lyrics. The single, released in 2016, was an homage to Southern hip-hop and black culture, and the music video was filmed in New Orleans. After getting Queen B’s royal recognition, it seemed like bounce finally solidified national status.

Enter: famous rapper Drake in 2018. In April, Drake released his single, “Nice for What,” and it adopted many elements of bounce music. Big Freedia’s vocals were used in the track, but she was not credited in the song’s title.

There are mixed opinions towards Drake’s decision to make a bounce track without explicitly crediting bounce music itself, let alone Big Freedia. There is no question, however, that he helped elevate bounce’s popularity to its highest point.

Drake did not stop his adoption of bounce after this. In July, Drake released yet another bounce single, titled “In My Feelings.” What distinguishes this track from “Nice for What” is the highly viewed music video that accompanied it, which was filmed in New Orleans.

The video showcased sights such as the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Frenchman Street. The dancers in the video were New Orleans natives themselves, one of them being Joseph, who was thrilled to find out she would be in Drake’s music video.

“I freaked out, honestly,” Joseph said. “I was at a loss for words, and I was pretty nervous! I think those who are from NOLA have a certain standard that they hold the culture to, so I just wanted to represent that in the best way that I could.”

Ever since the release of “In My Feelings,” debates about whether Drake is “culture-vulturing” New Orleans bounce have been on the rise. Being a “culture vulture,” or adopting the product of a culture different than one’s own without giving credit, frequently spurs conversations.

New Orleanians are no exception, and there seems to be an ongoing debate on the controversy.

“I think he’s doing some good work in showing the world the beautiful culture of New Orleans,” Joseph said. “He’s also providing a platform for the artists of NOLA, like me. It’s kind of like ‘You have the attention, now what will you do with it?’ I think that’s pretty cool.”

Others are more skeptical of Drake using aspects of their culture without consent or credit. “I think Drake is certainly culture-vulturing NOLA. Drake, as an artist, absorbs other cultures all the time. He has multiple styles of music and rapping represented throughout his discography but we know he’s not from New Orleans,” Pate said. “We know he had to play a character to even begin to be like us, especially in relation to the music video for ‘In My Feelings.’”

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