For those reading this that don’t know what bounce music is, it is an energetic and celebratory music devoted to dancing and the ass. It’s sexual. It’s fun. It’s magnificent. Born in New Orleans, this quick and loud style of hip hop has elements of dancehall, juke, and call and response chanting. Yet is wholly its own, tailored for movement and partying. It features booming bass, ticks, whistles, symbols and shouted refrains. You find anyway to move, no matter who or where you are, after a few bars of bounce music.
Over the past year I have come to really enjoy bounce music, particularly the offshoot of sissy bounce — a few queer identified folks have made a tremendous impact on the scene and preach visibility and positivity for LGBTQ persons of all shapes, colors and genders. The only critique I could ever have of it would be that it can be a bit too loud and repetitive at times. Other than that, Big Freedia’s “Excuse” and Choppa’s “Choppa Style” have fueled many caffeine-drenched writing sessions and shower dance parties.
I actually had stopped listening to bounce as of late because of my aforementioned issue, until a couple of nights ago. I had the pleasure of attending the Do312 Bash. My good friend and our illustrious editor Dominick informed me it would be a drunk and wonderful night. I looked it up the night before and found out the line-up of performers included the artist Nicky Da B. I had never been to a live bounce show. I had watched clips online though (if you haven’t, please depart, watch three, then come back and understand). Needless to say I was excited.
Sadly Dominick had to leave before the performer’s sets began, to be a better boyfriend to his lady. I though, still with a usable drink ticket in hand from RSVPing on the site beforehand, would not let the party end. I did have plans with other friends, but they were for later, now was the time for well vodka drinks and dancing. Nicky Da B was up first.
A lot of bounce rappers bring a cadre of dancers with them on stage. It’s a part of the show, it enforces the fact that the music is about all of us moving together and having a good time. Nicky had two; a thinner tall man who could make his ass move on a handstand and a thicker woman who could isolate her hips and move like no one I had ever seen before. I moved to the nearer to the front, stage right. Drink in hand, alone, in thick soled Doc Martins and a deep V that I wore because I knew I was going out to Wicker Park, the groove of Patrick Gill began. Drink, downed, my ass rumbled and switched as my shoulders worked with oiled piston efficiency. It was light for the first few songs, but as my grin grew, so did the exaggeration of my movements. The music was incredible, and the crowd sunk and rose and swished in a patchwork, some people needed space for all that their bodies could do. Some even got on stage and danced with Nicky and the dancers.
I do have issues with self-esteem, some of them stemming from how I view my body. I see my nights on the dance floor often as a private battle against an old pernicious paradigm, but I don’t expect anyone else to see this; to see me loving and fighting. So at the show, when people were being invited up on stage, and people climbed and rose up, someone next to me said “I want to see what this guy can do,” I was a little nervous and afraid. It was near the end of the set. I knew this experience could never come again. I got on the crowded stage and the beats commenced, my whole body was smooth shaking, I moved, I dropped and swept the floor with it, I tried my damndest to isolate my hips, I rolled and popped and I breathed heavy for a solid 10 minutes after that four minute exercise of rump shaking. And I didn’t mind the eyes on me, for once I didn’t mind.
This moment didn’t fix me, or fix my sense of self. Do you know how much work it takes to eradicate a self-deprecating sense of humor, especially one so tightly lashed to my sense of self? It’s like unspooling 5,000 canisters of Annie Hall and splicing in smiley faces every five frames. But it got me smiling, it got me to open up and laugh and feel near palpable confidence. I was walking down Division to meet up with friends; someone from the show slapped me on the shoulder and said “You were awesome up there.” Everyone on stage and in the crowd, just felt the music, felt themselves, and loved how they collided with the sound and what they could do together with it.
I also think I understood bounce music more. The repetition creates a space for your response, through movement or sound, you feel that when it is performed in front of you. You are a part of the performance; you’re worth the stage time and the song.