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Each month, Juste1Question offers you the portrait of a player of the Baton Rouge rap scene. It’s the opportunity to discover a rich musical scene that’s still unknown in France. For a long time, Baton Rouge has been outshined by its big sister : New Orleans. But nowadays, Baton Rouge stole the spotlight in the USA, with a very vivid gangsta rap scene lead by NBA Youngboy. This scene is described as violent by its detractors but when you live in this city, you can discover a complex rap scene, with a long history, a lot of different kinds of rappers, and a youth that dreams to follow Boosie Badazz and Kevin Gates and become well-known outside of Baton Rouge. This month, let’s discover DJ Amp and his host Gockiboi.
When I started to write my first paper on Baton Rouge’s rap scene after spending two months in Louisiana’s capital, writing about DJ Amp and Gockiboi appeared to me as an evidence. Indeed, it’s thanks to both of them that my trip became really unique. More than simple guys that I met, DJ Amp and Gockiboi have been for me the ones who allowed me to go deep inside BR’s rap scene. For weeks, I followed the tandem everywhere, visiting Baton Rouge and its surrounding. They taught me a lot. Thanks to Amp’s car, sometimes we would go to three different places in the same day. « That’s part of DJ’s life ! » Amp told me one day while he was driving. Always being on the move, until the end of the night. We had become a kind of trio : Amp was mixing, Gockiboi was hosting, and me… I was observing.
I met Amp for the first time at a showcase organized by a local website : ThaAntidote.com. I immediatly took his Instagram and I started to follow him to each of its DJ sets. With time, we got to know each other. One August night, we spent the whole night talking in a bar where DJ Amp was supposed to mix later. And then, step by step, we started not to leave each other.
DJing is an art, especially in Baton Rouge where club culture is a central component of the rap scene. At weddings, at birthdays, at dance contests, or in night clubs, Amp and Gockiboi deliver different kind of DJ sets. In a wedding, they will play some zydeco, Lafayette’s music, in the evening, whereas in a chic bar they will play some Baton Rouge’s blues. But in rap clubs, these small places where the wall resonates with the bass, the kind of music that makes everybody crazy is jigg music, a local kind of rap.
Like bounce music is THE New-Orleans kind of rap, jigg music is THE Baton Rouge kind of rap. Jigg is characterized by a bouncy bass, a fast beat, the presence of brass, and simple and catchy lyrics. Jigg music has some common points with Memphis’ crunk or of (of course) New Orleans’ bounce, two other majors kind of Southern rap. But what makes jigg music specificity is its dance. On the dancefloor, when a jigg song begins, everybody goes crazy and make some specific kinds of footsteps.
In this kind of situation, whereas Gockiboi, always full of energy, entertains the crowd, Amp remains calm, and watches with amusment the jigging crowd. The duo works as yin and yang. On the one hand, Gockiboi is always full of life and has always something to say or dance moves to make. It’s the same generosity that we can find in his music. Gockiboi is indeed preparing his first mixtape as a rapper.
On the other hand, Amp is always calm, always serene. He doesn’t talk a lot but always after careful consideration. Amp isn’t living from DJing since many years. He began mixing in front of his family with the equipment that his uncle gave him. But nowadays, he got his own hardware that he brings everywhere with him. In the club, he knows how to entertain the crowd. He plays some of the last BR bangers (sometimes even before their official release), with some powerful trumpets and crazy choruses.
But Amp and Gockiboi also have to be careful about the madness of the crowd. As Gockiboi (who previously has been a radio host too) told me, jigg is a music traditionnaly linked to ecstasy. So sometimes, with pills and alcohol people go mad. So, as soon as people get upset, Amp and Gockiboi have to calm down everybody with some chill tracks. To Amp, what makes a good DJ is this ability to put the right song at the right moment. Each Monday, at Club Dreams, a small club in the northern part of the city (which is mainly populated by black people as the city is very segregated), Amp manages the crowd with know-how.
Amp loves music, but if he does all this stuff, it’s to feed his family, especially his children. His DJ name is constituted in part by his children’s initials. So for him just because DJing is his passion doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deserve to be pay. Because his relatives’ lives depend on it. One of the only time I saw Amp annoyed was after being pay a very small sum of money for a whole night of DJing. Now that he’s a full-time DJ, he wants to work as much as he can, and he wants to be paid for it. He wants to be like all workers. That’s why he dreams of becoming the official DJ of an artist and going on tour with him. Amp wants to be paid at his true value.
What’s more, DJing isn’t his only talent. Alway informed about BR’s last bangers, Amp releases some mixtapes too entitled 2 Amped 2 Quit. And he doesn’t produce rap mixtapes only, but all kind of music mixtapes. And he allows anybody wanting to be part of one of his mixtape to be part of it. Amp doesn’t want to leave anyone behind. People bring him some CDs at the exit of clubs, or send him some mp3. Amp allows everybody to be part of his mixtapes and delivers them for free.
In a city with a lot of violence, Amp doesn’t want to do it alone. He regrets all this violence and when I ask him if there is a rapper he knows I could interview he refuses to tell me about someone. Because it would be unfair for the others I wouldn’t interview. Proud of his town, Amp always wants to help his relatives and after each of his DJ set, he drives each of his friends back home. He’s also the one who brought me back to the airport, two month later. In the meantime, I met a lot of rappers, video makers, DJs and beatmakers… To be continued !