One of my earliest memories of “leaving your woes on the dance floor” was at about five years old, when my big cousin and her friends put on this bomb bounce cd, and as New Orleans folks do, proceeded to catch every wall in my family’s living room! My mom heard all the noise from the kitchen, and though we’d only vibe to slow jams when she cooked and cleaned, decided to join in on the fun.
She couldn’t miss out on taking part in music and movement that felt new and so old at the same time. She heard R&B samples from songs she sung growing up, the tempo now much faster and reminiscent of drums heard at the second line, the dancing as historical as it was contemporary. The music could be broken apart and a little piece of it was for everyone. Just know, we heard “what you know about this” the whole time and nothing else really mattered.
I carried that understanding of music and dance with me, so I’d never shy away from getting down on any dance floor! You could imagine my excitement when I was invited to groove to a Pinkroom set, a collective gaining heat in New Orleans for mixing the block party atmosphere and sound of bounce, the angst and rebellion of punk-rock, and the liberating thump of hip house.
Led by rapper/singer Brandon Ares and producer (and one of our favorite guest DJs) Lil Jodeci, Pinkroom Project is a group of musicians and visual artists mostly based in the city, tightly strung together with the belief that music and dance could truly unify and free people. Something I’ve experienced firsthand; something they seek to do with their audacious, experimental musical style.
Their sets are electric and spontaneous. Just last weekend, I watched a shirtless Ares ignite the crowd below as he wildly dangled from the balcony above. Assisted by sounds from Lil Jodeci on the ground, Ares freestyled on top of everyone’s favorite tracks with the energy of an MC from the ballroom scene or roll calling heard in our bounce scene. The crowd vibrated in pink light and not one soul managed to hold the wall. And how could they? The music and sequence blended across cultures and time. There were mosh pits, booty bouncing, dutty wining, a little hand performance and a lot of head bobbing almost all going on simultaneously. None of our social identifiers seemed to immediately matter either: rich or poor, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, the rhythm was for all of us.
Now it may be a
Pepsi—uh temporary solution (‘cause I see you know who still think n*gga in rap lyrics is for them too 🙄), the dance floor is still healing nonetheless. Very new in this game, Pinkroom acknowledges they’re no vocal, political entity just yet. But if talks of decolonization and togetherness spark after their sets, they feel they’ve done their jobs tenfold.
Punk-neo-tech is a term Lil Jodeci coined to describe their ambiguous sound with predominant punk-rock, soul/R&B, and dance/techno elements. Interestingly enough, most of which have origins in resistance and unity, so it will be cool to see how Pinkroom continues to manipulate these genres as their own form of protest, New Orleans and beyond.
Their debut single “Back To 99” is a raging track, featuring Ares on lead with mates Lil Jodeci and Hirakish assisting with additional vocals. Lil Jodeci cryptically opens, chanting, “back to 99 like I’m Prince,” recalling a time when they say authenticity and fluidity went appreciated. The visual glorifies New Orleans at the height of its hip hop popularity during the Cash Money era, hoping to reposition the city back as a cultural powerhouse and back in the hands of its natives. The video closes with a silhouette of Ares accompanied with one of the most melodic bounce mixes I’ve ever heard. Whew.
WATCH “Back To 99” below: