Black and Gold and the Soul of New Orleans – Part 2

Edwin Buggage
Editor

A Data News Exclusive with JMK the Producer of the Original Version

New Orleans and Celebrating through Dance

As the Black and Gold continue their march toward the Super Bowl, the Who Dat Nation celebrates as only people in the Big Easy can. Throughout its storied history from Bamboula, Jazz to Second-Line, and now Bounce; this city has always been one where dancing has been a prominent part of the culture.

Building on this tradition this football season “Choppa Style,” a nearly two-decade old song by Choppa, has emerged as the unofficial Saints Anthem as players danced to it in the locker room after celebrating a victory. Since then, the video has gone viral and now Who Dat lovers everywhere are dancing to “Choppa Style.”

Because of this some have attempted to write about the song, its origins and the story behind its music and lyrics. While the attention is great, unfortunately, many have fallen short of getting to the essence of what is behind the music. In addition, pieces are inaccurate or missing.

The True Story Behind “Choppa Style”

To get to the truth behind the song, its origins and the music and culture of Bounce; Data News Weekly had the unique opportunity to speak to music Producer JMK (Kirk Edwards), who is the producer of the original version of “Choppa Style” released on local label Take Fo Records in 2001, before being released later on Master P’s No Limit Records in 2003.

He is also the producer of Bounce classics “Walk Like Ronald” by Hot Boy Ronald and “Swing Yo Keys” by Kilo. On this night we meet at his studio where we talk about a range of topics; that included “Choppa Style,” the Saints, the music business, and the spirit of the people of New Orleans.

We begin by discussing the new attention to a song he originally produced 20 years ago becoming an unofficial anthem for the Black and Gold this season in their quest to get back to the Super Bowl. With the smile of a proud papa he says, “I like the attention getting. Even though a lot of people outside of the city are hearing the Master P version which is a derivative of what I originally did.”

Giving some background on how he met Choppa and how the song came to be he recalls, “I did the track in November of 2000. I was doing a DJ gig at a club and Choppa was performing and I saw something in him that I thought with the right material he could blow up. I liked him as an artist because he had a lot of energy. So I told him I was going to go into the studio and do a track and come back to the club with the instrumental and the rest was history.”

Tru Dat: Two Versions of Song

Those who are true NOLA folks know that there are two versions of the song. Most would say that the original JMK version is more organic and authentic to the Bounce music that gets the people on the dance floor. In New Orleans speech, it goes harder than the other version.

Speaking of the songs and how two versions came to be and how his stamp is on them he says, “In both versions the melody is mine, the bass notes, the trumpets those are all instruments I played, and they covered it.”

Continuing he speaks on how the song came to have another version, “They only did that because the group that produced it Full Pack Music who are good friends of mine Fess and Don Juan, they were signed to Master P on his production label at the time. They were out in Houston at the time they said they would re-do the song. They asked me what keyboard I used, and I told them a Kurzweil 2500 and they had a 2600, so they reproduced the song and made it what it was, but everybody in New Orleans like the original version. I guess maybe because it was the first one to come out and I had two versions of it, a radio version and a club version. It really used to go hard in the club.”

Possible New Music from Choppa and JMK

Since “Choppa Style” has been re-launched I asked JMK will there be any new music coming from him and Choppa and have people reached out to them?Slightly swiveling his chair as to face his recording console he says, “I have a couple of tracks in the computer for him, but his direction with financing on a label he was once with Take Fo; he is in talks with them and also a representative from Master P called me and talked about it. There was also talk about DJ Black and Mild being involved in a collabo between me and him.”

New Orleans Music and its Nationwide Impact

Bounce music elements have shown up in many hits by national artist, most notably Beyonce’ who have incorporated elements of New Orleans music and dancing throughout her career. Pop artist Miley Cyrus Twerking and Drake, who is signed to Cash Money/Young Money records owned by New Orleans natives Bryan “Birdman” Williams and brother Ronald “Slim” Williams borrowing elements of New Orleans music and dance.

And one who is making a major impact is New Orleans native Queen Diva Big Freedia, who has a reality show and music is blowing up is putting New Orleans Bounce on the map.

As one of the pioneering producers of the genre he says of its evolution, “I am humbled and grateful and there are a lot of good producers doing bounce.” Distinguishing himself from them he remarks, “I think I am different in some ways because I make nationwide club music. Songs that can go anywhere. To have the New Orleans stamp, but still be different. I think that is one of the reasons “Choppa Style” stood out.

Bouncing to the Bank and Business Basics

In the music business many often forget the 90 percent part of it that is business. There are so many stories of artist who had hit records and may have made money in the industry who find themselves broke because of poor business moves and financial decisions.

JMK is not one of them; he says of how he structured his deal with “Choppa Style,” Take Fo Records stated if the song secured a national deal, I would get 30 percent of whatever was made off it. They did a joint release with Master P and Universal records, so my publishing checks were coming from Japan, Romania, the UK, because Master P was able to put the song out there worldwide. In the recording industry it is about publishing and keeping money coming in and that is where the longevity is in terms of making money in the music industry. So, I am glad there is a renewed interest in music I made with Choppa to continue to monetize something I created.”

Bounce Music Breaking New Ground

In addition to creating music, JMK is involved in other business ventures including shooting videos, making films and bringing Bounce Music to new audiences, and cementing its social and historical significance. “I just came back doing some work with Legendary Bounce Artist Ricky B for a festival called the Richmond Folk Fest, we are the first rap group to be at that festival and because of that we are going to in the Library of Congress, and also in the Guinness Book of World Records for that.”

Who Dat, Saints Pride, and Being 5-0-4-ever

Just like many, JMK, is a proud New Orleanian and a Saints Fan. He believes as many do and is excited about the possibility of a Super Bowl Victory and what it could do for the city. While also noting the creativity and the spirit of resiliency is what makes the city and its people special. “You have to be a survivor to be here and that was before Katrina. And there is a pride that comes with being from New Orleans in all that we do and how we live life. In spite of the problems we sometimes have we find ways to enjoy life. And that is why dancing is such a part of who we are and have been throughout our history. I am honored to be part of that tradition by making people dance to many of the songs I have created and seeing “Choppa Style” come to mean so much to the people of our City.”

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