NPR Music hosted 8 Million Stories: Hip Hop in 1993 at Ace Hotel New York with us in Liberty Hall last night. Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, Uncle Ralph, Prince Paul, Mike Dean, Stretch, Faith and NPR’s own Frannie Kelley and Saidah Blount (re)presented and we all made beautiful music together.

NPR Music hosted 8 Million Stories: Hip Hop in 1993 at Ace Hotel New York with us in Liberty Hall last night. Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, Uncle Ralph, Prince Paul, Mike Dean, Stretch, Faith and NPR’s own Frannie Kelley and Saidah Blount (re)presented and we all made beautiful music together.


Thirty years ago Wild Style gave a world stage to New York City’s burgeoning hip hop culture while deftly skating the chasm between its subject — young graffiti writers, break dancers, MCs and DJs making something from nothing — and the Manhattan elite that had begun to take notice. So much has happened since. Hip hop would soon bypass the cultural elite with no regard to established rules of etiquette and make its appeal direct to youth worldwide. The graffiti styles documented in Wild Style inspired a generation of street artists who have now thoroughly infiltrated the overground art world. Stateside, hip hop eventually surpassed country as the number one music-of-choice for working and middle class America, and continues to thrive in the post-record sales music business. And though the Manhattan elite has to some extent re-established its dominance as an arbiter of culture, young hip hop artists from the Bronx to Meridian still insist on ignoring its conventions. NYC Parks SummerStage is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Wild Style Monday with a free outdoor screening at the East River Bandshell with live performances by Chief Rocker Busy Bee, Grand Wizard Theodore, the Cold Crush Brothers and Rodney C, and appearances by director Charlie Ahearn and stars Fab 5 Freddy, Lady Pink, Lee Quinones and Patti Astor.

Thirty years ago Wild Style gave a world stage to New York City’s burgeoning hip hop culture while deftly skating the chasm between its subject — young graffiti writers, break dancers, MCs and DJs making something from nothing — and the Manhattan elite that had begun to take notice. So much has happened since. Hip hop would soon bypass the cultural elite with no regard to established rules of etiquette and make its appeal direct to youth worldwide. The graffiti styles documented in Wild Style inspired a generation of street artists who have now thoroughly infiltrated the overground art world. Stateside, hip hop eventually surpassed country as the number one music-of-choice for working and middle class America, and continues to thrive in the post-record sales music business. And though the Manhattan elite has to some extent re-established its dominance as an arbiter of culture, young hip hop artists from the Bronx to Meridian still insist on ignoring its conventions. NYC Parks SummerStage is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Wild Style Monday with a free outdoor screening at the East River Bandshell with live performances by Chief Rocker Busy Bee, Grand Wizard Theodore, the Cold Crush Brothers and Rodney C, and appearances by director Charlie Ahearn and stars Fab 5 Freddy, Lady Pink, Lee Quinones and Patti Astor.


INTERVIEW : BIG FREEDIA THE QUEEN DIVA SENDS HER BEST WISHES TO NY

It’s not quite clear if New York will have to weather the Sandy aftermath with or without Big Freedia — who we realize needs no introduction here. The Nola Bounce Queen Diva’s scheduled Halloween show at Brooklyn Bowl is looking likely — but nobody can make any promises. We got in touch with her Monday in the Crescent City via phone, where she chatted with us about the music and politics of bounce and sent her prayers from storm country.

There’s been a couple darker records to come out of New Orleans post-Katrina — like Juvenile’s Reality Check comes to mind. But overall New Orleans music is pretty joyful — especially for having been through something like that. Why is that? What makes it so resilient?

Well, definitely Bounce music is more of a happy music, and then you know we have all other other types of music here in New Orleans — the Jazz and Brass bands and even the Hip Hop, some of them keep it positive. We have a lot of versatility here and we use that. 

Yeah, it seems like that can’t-keep-it-down energy is just engrained in the musical culture, sort of like a jazz funeral. How do you feel about the term “Sissy Bounce”? The piece in the New York Times a couple years ago said the artists didn’t really like it — not because of the word ‘sissy’ but because they just didn’t want to be separated from Bounce music in general. 

Right, we don’t separate it here in New Orleans. It’s all bounce music. There’s no such thing as Sissy Bounce. We have some gay artists who do this music but we don’t separate it. There’s a lot of straight artists, [many who came before] the gay artists who feel offended when people be saying Sissy Bounce because it’s not Sissy Bounce, it’s Bounce music in general — New Orleans is really open to all artists.

Does it ever get competitive in Bounce? Are there battles like there are in other genres of Hip Hop?

Oh definitely (Laughs). We get competitive in many ways. When there’s a hottest artist all the other artists are trying to get to that point and they’re definitely gunning for that artist. 

Any battles you’ve had you want to talk about?

No, but I’m always battling. That’s why I’m always on stage. 

Are you still doing interior decorating?

Yeah, every chance I get I am.

As you tour more does it get harder to do that?

Yeah, it does. I’m touring a whole lot more and it’s been a challenge to try to decorate and perform at the same time. When I’m not here though I send out my staff and they go take care of it. 

The more you tour and do shows around the country, is the vibe at a Bounce show becoming more similar to the way it is in New Orleans?

Yeah, it’s changing a lot. They’re learning the music. They’re jamming even more. They’re learning the dances. It’s feeling more and more like home everywhere I go.  

How do you feel the rebuilding effort in New Orleans is going at this point? 

I’m very excited with the way that the city’s coming back. It’s amazing what they’re doing. It’s an uplift on the whole city — it’s a slow process but it’s definitely changing.  

Do you feel like the music scene is back in full swing?

I would say yes. It’s gotten back to where it needs to be at. It can always get stronger and bigger and better.

Quintron mentioned you in his shortlist of New Orleans artists when we interviewed him a few weeks back. Have you played with Quintron and Miss Pussycat?   

Oh yeah, definitely. We’ve performed together before. When I first started touring a lot, Quintron was a big help with that. Yeah, he’s very familiar with me and I’m very familiar with him.

We have our own storm situation here as you know. 

Yes and I’m very disappointed. I’m praying for you guys that the best happens, that God takes control over the whole situation. We’re a storm city here so we’re definitely praying that you guys will be safe.

Photo by Bon Duke for The Block Magazine


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