Last November, New Orleans rap progenitors Partners-N-Crime (comprised of Michael “Mr. Meana” Patterson and Walter “Kango Slim” Williams) toasted to their 25th anniversary with a concert at the Joy Theater alongside DJ Jubilee, the Showboys and a bevy of special guests. The event was a testament to the staying power of PNC, a mainstay in an industry plagued with a revolving door of rootless trends. Having written for Juvenile, T-Pain and Boosie, PNC has left fingerprints on much more than their own discography and are vowing to expand even further. A quarter of a century after solidifying its rightful place in the annals of hip-hop history, the pair are preparing for their most ambitious work to date: a double-LP showcasing both the signature PNC bounce sound and full-fledged hip-hop jazz and funk. On April 12, the two will perform with Jubilee and The Big Easy Band at French Quarter Fest, where they’ll showcase the versatility that’s allowed them to let the good times roll for so long.
What’s the most striking difference between New Orleans hip-hop today versus 25 years ago?
Kango Slim: The hip-hop in New Orleans has changed a whole lot. Even back then, you used to hear artists like Black Menace, Mr. Ivan and Mystikal but you still had your bounce artists like Partners-N-Crime and DJ Jubilee. A lot of the artists used to really rap, though. It wasn’t just bounce, even though that had always been ‘our thing.’ But even back then, fans embraced bounce music but they also embraced the artistry of rap.
Mr. Meana: When we came in, the game was analog. Now, the game is digital. The work today between artists and producers is much different because producers just want to send you beats. Then you [as a rapper] have to put your creativity around that instead of working together and building chemistry. Back then, you got in the studio with the producer and built something from the first drum kick to the first vocals until things gelled together. That’s what made songs what they were then, compared to now. There’s beatmakers and rappers now. It’s not artists and producers anymore. It’s a popcorn, microwave industry.
How have these changes affected your creative process as a duo?:
Kango Slim: We like to create different sounds, but most of the producers you go to these days just make the same sound. Everything is either trap music or something along those lines. It’s all mimicking something else, which makes it hard for us to work with a lot of different producers. We’re looking for something much more.
Mr. Meana: They want to give you the sound that’s ‘in.’ I don’t want to do what’s ‘in.’ People find out what’s winning, like the Atlanta sound today. Everybody sounds like they’re from Atlanta. We used to be able to hear an artist and say ‘Oh, they’re from the West Coast’ or ‘That’s an East Coast rapper’ or ‘Okay, they’re from down South.’ Now, you can’t tell where nobody’s from.
Bootlegging was a negative shift [in our creative process], too. People stopped supporting CDs from artists when they could get five CDs from different artists for $20 versus one CD of ours for $17. We started to wonder how we were supposed to make money because we couldn’t place as much value in what we do. It wasn’t worth the time and money we were putting in. I think that’s when the popcorn started coming because artists stopped putting in as much effort into what they were releasing. There was no return on the equity being put into the music.
There has been a lot of criticism about the lack of infrastructure for hip-hop artists in New Orleans, particularly as it relates to local artists finding success in cities like New York and elsewhere, but not here, at home.
Kango Slim: That’s because [other cities] have a music industry that supports artists. We don’t have people here that’s willing to do that. When our music moguls make money, they move to other places and they don’t really come back and say ‘Okay, this is what I want to do for my city.’ That leads me to think that they only care about themselves and what’s going on with them. In New York and other places, you have guys who have the mentality of ‘This is a business. If I want to succeed in this business, I have to put other people on.’ Most of them look to their hometown because they care about their hometown and they care about the artists that are in their hometown. They really give a fuck about their city. In New Orleans, people don’t reach back. And I don’t mean reach out and give out a turkey on Thanksgiving. Reach back and make a difference. Who are you when you say ‘I’m from New Orleans’ but you choose to leave here? There’s nothing wrong with leaving and achieving success, but once you leave here, you no longer are a part of New Orleans.
Is there a way for the music industry to improve the situation so that New Orleans is seen as a city in which hip-hop success can be found?
Mr. Meana: We gotta stop saying things like ‘I’m doing my own thing, forget this guy or forget that guy.’ When we first entered the game, regardless of there being different labels, we still all used to come together and throw a concert. So, all these artists would be on one platform. People these days tell me they try to throw local shows but people don’t support it. I tell them the reason people don’t support it is because the game changed. Now, you can pay to get put on a showbill and being the hottest talent no longer matters. So the people performing are wack and make the event wack for the people there to see the headliner. Nobody wants to keep supporting that kind of show.
Kango Slim: We used to have this thing called the WYLD Talent Show and they had this thing where, whoever won this talent show, were able to get recording time and things like that. If it’s something as simple as that, where we just showcase local talent, why can’t we have a big music mogul or a big A&R available to do that again, someone who’s paying attention to local talent and helping the artist develop?
After all these years, how would you describe the legacy of Partners-N-Crime?
Kango Slim: It all started out as fun and games with us. But when we finally hit and realized Partners-N-Crime was going to be a household name, we were, like, ‘Oh, shit. This is what we is now. We are Partners-N-Crime.’ That was a blessing for us because we set out on a mission that was a mission we merely just talked about walking to the store, getting a sandwich. It was as simple as us saying ‘Okay, bruh. You rap, I rap.’ 25 years later, here we stand as a major factor in the music business, especially in New Orleans. The fact that we matter here means more to us than the world.
FQFIQ: Thursday, April 12, Big River Stage, 3:30p