Interview: Mannie Fresh Talks Bounce, Brass Bands, And Twerking for Pop

When Mannie Fresh released his cheery 1989 single “Buck Jump Time” alongside his friend and rapper Gregory D, he didn’t know it would later become known as the start of an entirely new musical movement in New Orleans. The song, a fusion of Miami bass’ upbeat drums and the brassy horns that defined local street-band culture, is now commonly credited as one of the first “bounce” tracks. (It predated the genre’s pick-up and popular use of the “Triggerman” beat taken from The Showboys’ “Drag Rap.”) With lyrics that shouted out New Orleans wards and projects and a call-and-response hook, the playful track became an iconic anthem to the then-teenager’s hometown.

Fresh’s signature sound came from a youth influenced heavily by the sound of local jazz and school bands, an aesthetic that stayed with him even as his popularity grew. In 1993, the young producer’s influence over the city’s rap community grew when he joined fellow hip-hop trendsetter Birdman’s Cash Money Records as the label’s in-house producer. He’d go on to executive produce five albums for Big Tymers (his collaborative project with Birdman), three for the label’s all-star collective Hot Boys (featuring Lil Wayne, Juvenile, B.G., and Turk), his solo album The Mind of Mannie Fresh, as well as chart-topping solo tracks for the lot before leaving the imprint in 2005. While he’s been making music for the likes of T.I., 2 Chainz, and Wiz Khalifa since, 2014 finds the producer’s focus shifted back towards DJ’ing. It’s a way for him to return to the lively, dance-oriented community in which he originated.

Last month in New Orleans, we spoke with Mannie Fresh — who headlines the after-hours Red Bull Music Academy Stage at Bonnaroo this weekend — about growing up with Rebirth Brass Band, the birth of bounce, twerk in pop culture, and playing house music to rap heads.

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