[Author’s note: Because my Magnolia Shorty interview was so sparse, AntiGravity bundled it together with the following Q&A with old-skool N.O. rapper Ricky B. and called it “the Bounce Report.” This is “the Bounce Report pt. 2.” I also did this one on the phone, but Ricky B. is an example of someone who wanted to be interviewed. I knew much more about Shorty and we ostensibly already had a report, but I got far more out of Ricky B., to the point where this a pretty valuable interview, I feel.]
New Orleans bounce artist RICKY B. He was detailed in the Ogden Museum’s recent Where They At bounce music exhibit, but otherwise is represented almost exclusively by his ubiquitous block-party hits “Y’all Holla” and “Shake For Your Hood.” ANTIGRAVITY spoke with the man and found him to be focused on positivity, old-skool New Orleans vibes and a return to the spotlight of sorts via the upcoming release of dozens of songs from his archives.
Even though I hear your songs a lot, I couldn’t find much on the web about you.
Ricky B.: Well I didn’t really get myself out there really… The music wasn’t that popular back in the day.
When did you start out rapping, making music?
I grew up in the St. Bernard Housing Projects, 7th Ward. I started rapping when I was in 10th grade at John McDonough Senior High in 1985. Mention that year and everyone will know: John Mac bathroom! I was freestylin; I didn’t write back then, just freestyle about what’s going on, people’s clothes, how tall he is or how short he is, what color the walls is. I used to battle other guys from other projects who’d come out to our block parties. I wasn’t making money or didn’t have a record deal but I was hot and everybody knew me. Then I realized I sounded pretty good for a first time around so I started writing.
Tell us about your first and, I suppose, most famous recordings.
That was with the Mobo clique. We recorded about 12 songs—we had some good songs, some real good songs. We had one that I just didn’t know what to do with, so I listened to the track a couple of times and that became “Shake Fo Ya Hood.” And when someone wanted to put it out I was like, “Serious man?” cause that was my worst song! People responded to it because it was different.
And am I correct that you were the first one to use that sample—which is now heard in so many bounce songs–of the John Mac marching band?
That wasn’t a sample, that was the actual band! I went to that school so I knew the band director and I told him I wanted to do a song with members of the band. This was in 1996. I set up a studio session and they did it in one take.
So after a bit you dropped out of music for a while?
Not really but. The record label I was with moved in a different direction at a certain point because the head of the label he went away for a minute. Then I started working with producers around the city and I was coming with a different sound. I always did love bounce music but I was always creative with it; I never did whatever anyone else was doing with it. And the guy who was running the label at that time, he decided to stay in the local direction with bounce—my music was still bounce but it was on a different level, it was a national sound.
In what way was it aiming for a national sound? What was your idea?
I had the catchy hooks with the bounce beat. I used the hook from an R. Kelly song and remixed “Y’all Holla” with that hook. (Sings a few bars). And I mixed in that Rob Base sample. I completed that song for No Mercy Records in 1998. Then I had a song, “Mama Used to Say,” (Sings a few bars). It’s pretty much what they doing now with the bounce songs, where they take a national artist and mix it with the “Triggerman” beat. So what the label didn’t want to do at that time is actually popular now.
Do you produce your own music? You sound like you have a good handle on how it should sound.
Oh of course, of course. I schedule my recording time and I create my songs from beginning to end and I know the sound I want. When I go to the producers I work with we just work on getting that sound—I won’t drop a lyric till I get that sound. Once I get that sound it’s on; I’m ready. Artists need to be creative, not just grab a microphone and start yelling out crowd chants. I mean, that’s good! That works! But to get a whole other sound, you gonna have to do something different. And that’s what I’m tryin to do and always did. When they hear me they know, ‘That’s Rick right there.’
So now that your style has ostensibly become popular, are you gonna step back out stronger?
Well my plan now is to hit em with the archives. I have 37 recordings that have never been heard so I’m gonna put out volumes one, two and three. I actually did a song with a “Back Down Memory Lane,” sample that talks about how music used to be in New Orleans from the radio to the nightclubs. That’s gonna put me back where I need to be with this music thing.
Who is putting out your archived material?
I am, on my own imprint, Mossberg Records. But right now I am working on it with Southern Music Group (SMG) and we’re gonna collaborate, because I am going to feature some of his artists on some of the songs. A Mossberg/SMG joint thing.
Are you going to tour behind it?
No I just do special engagements. People call me for parties, to come down to the club and hang out for the evening. I know most of the DJs round here now. I go into the club and maybe get on the mic for a minute and get the crowd ripe, help em have a good time for a few minutes. Then I chill out for the rest of the night.
Does it seem to you like bounce has surged in popularity recently?
A lot of places I travel to, if I hang out at a club all night they will play a bounce track. Usually it’s a Jubilee track, “Get Ready” (Sings a few bars). I mean that song is poppin in a lot of cities out there. Because the thing that happened is that [after the flood] people relocated to other cities and the networking took hold. And people heard bounce music and wanted to bring it to their clubs. Now people want to know about bounce music—we been local for so long! We made bounce and then Lil John did it on a slower speed and they called it “crunk” and everybody loved it and people were all “Crunk! Crunk! Crunk!” I also just think bounce music is working right now because people need some good time party music, that feel-good aspect. I think it’s really coming back because of those reasons.
But can you really imagine people all over the country bending over and shaking it like they do in New orleans?
I can see it! I was watching BET the other day and they were doing this dance we had down here called the Beanie Weenie—and they were doing the Beanie Weenie on BET but they were calling it something different! But I can definitely see people going toward bounce. It keeps people on the dance floor. In New Orleans, you can play bounce music all night and that dance floor will stay packed. You play some Jay Z, people gonna go sit down. So I think it could happen everywhere.
Are you working on any new music now?
I got plenty of it. But I am not even trying to sell my music. I know how the industry is right now, with the internet and all. So all I’m doing is making feel-goodmusic. Wherever I go, I give it away: ‘Here you go.’ Money’s not a big deal to me. I mean, I don’t want to be raped by the music industry. But I just want to get it out there because this is what I love to do. That’s why I never signed a contract, because I wanted to do it just because I loved it. It was all entertainment to me, and I just loved what New Orleans was doing and wanted to be a part of that. But also, I want to say something that will spark the brain. Not just something a teenager can listen to but that their mom can listen to. I have this new song, “Save My City,” the way I start that song off: “If you’re under 21 and you wanna peep this…” then I just go back down memory lane; I just go back to some great songs and some positive stuff.
But in glorifying the past…I was kind of under the impression that New orleans was actually a more violent outlaw place back then.
That’s what “Shake Fo Ya Hood” was saying: “Yo, chill out with all that.” I was involved in a certain lifestyle and a lot of things happened to me and a lot of my friends that took me to those lyrics. All we had was people reppin their hood, but we just wanted to have fun with it. But that’s what I am about now really, helping these kids out here. I really want to start a program for kids called Lyrics Anonymous Recording. All these young kids wanna rap, they want to be part of the music industry, but all they want it for is the money, the lifestyle and the name. They wanna be an outlaw or a thug. All of the wrong reasons. I want to start this program so I can… not preach, but help them understand how to put thought into some music that makes sense. Like a 14-year-old wanna rap about girls and drugs, but there are other things that a 14-year-old should be talking about in music. So that’s my angle on that project.
What can people expect when they come see you perform at the Saint?
Well I plan to start off with some new stuff, have some fun with em and then take em back. But I do always gauge what I am going to do based on the crowd—I always come with a backup plan. I am gonna entertain em, especially if they know me. If they don’t know me, they gonna get to know me!