Despite its relatively recent global prominence as a dance style, “twerking” has much older origins in bounce, a style of dance music native to New Orleans’ Black communities. As Nadine “DJ NOLA” Robertson said during the “Bring That Beat! New Orleans Bounce” panel at South by Southwest (SxSW) in Austin, Texas, today (March 17), that term traces back to Cheeky Blakk’s 1995 song, “Twerk Something.”
Robertson and co-panelists Frederick “DJ Flipset Fred” Palmer and John and Glenda Robert discussed the genre’s development by artists from the Crescent City’s impoverished Black neighborhoods during the 1980s. John Robert, who created the bounce-chronicling documentary “Ya Heard Me?” with wife Glenda, described how the style grew out of hip-hop. Early artists like DJ Jimi, DJ Irv and T.T. Tucker popularized the genre in local clubs before rappers like Juvenile brought the style to popular 1990s rap hits like “Back that Azz Up.”
John also discussed the importance of LGBTQ artists like Big Freedia and Katey Red keeping the genre alive. “They had a big influence on bounce music,” he said. “They kept the music viable, and a lot of the chants and sayings come from them.” Those phrases, including Big Freedia’s frequently used “yaka,” “glaka” and “duffy,” form a major component of bounce’s call-and-response dynamic.
The panelists also discussed the genre’s future, as stars like Fly Boi Keno and the now-deceased Nicky da B incorporated electronic dance music to push bounce’s boundaries beyond its original sound.
For those looking to learn more, the Roberts co-authored “Bounce Baby Bounce: The True Story Of Bounce Music” last year.
*Note: This story has been updated to reflect that Fly Boi Keno, and not Big Freedia, mixed bounce with electronic dance music.