On Thursday, January 9, New Orleans lost a regional hip-hop legend when producer and rapper 5th Ward Weebie died.
Reigning supreme as the city’s “Bounce King,” the 42-year-old man born Jerome Cosey was a monument of New Orleans’ distinctive culture. The voice behind anthemic hits like “Fuck Katrina” and “Let Me Find Out” — the latter inspiring his mural on Decatur Street in the Marigny — Weebie’s national profile grew exponentially when rap superstar Drake included him on 2018’s bounce-infused hit “Nice For What.” At the time, he visited OffBeat for an interview in which he discussed the historical significance of bounce music and the value in national acts employing New Orleans talent.
Also in 2018, Weebie loaned his voice in support of voter outreach, remixing “Let Me Find Out” for a music video in which he encouraged Louisianans to get more involved politically (“Let me find out you’re not registered to vote”).
2019 was also a milestone year for his career, both in and out of music. Weebie co-founded the Seafood Trap Festival, which debuted in May. He also appeared at the National Fried Chicken Festival in September, participating in OffBeat’s “Who Dat Playlist” lineup saluting the New Orleans Saints, where he performed his anti-NFL referee record, “Get Out the Way.”
Weebie’s career dates much further back; he was a drummer for his John F. Kennedy High School’s marching band, and strutted more performance talent as a member of the Street Fighters dance crew.
“I marched with John F. Kennedy on tenor drum,” Weebie said in an interview for the NOLA Hip-Hop and Bounce Archive. “I took it from there and grew love, even more, for music. I decided to take it further when I got older, 11th, 12th grade, I started taking it really serious. I wanted to rap. I created the dance group called The Street Fighters and we were number one in the city.” From there, Weebie immersed himself in various talent shows and block parties, developing his own rapping style. With his 1999 solo LP debut, Show the World, he cemented himself as one of the city’s unadulterated rap musicians and followed it up with the equally original piece of work, Getto Platinum (via No Limit).
Post-Katrina New Orleans spurred in Weebie an urge to vocalize the grieving but triumphant air hanging in the city. “Fuck Katrina” became such a cultural keystone that it ended up in HBO’s Treme. Though recorded during an arduous era for New Orleans, the song showcased Weebie’s signature idiosyncratic humor. In a 2014 interview with Alison Fensterstock, Weebie said “Don’t be serious and overthink, just have fun. Let it be the funny truth. And that’s what I’m known to do, if you go back in history with my music. The ‘F— Katrina,’ it’s the funny truth. I turned a drastic situation, something that was horrific to the world – and I was a part of that situation, so I was able to turn something that was so dramatic and so drastic into something you can laugh a little bit about – and that’s the truth. Same element, same energy.”
5th Ward Weebie was the recipient of a 2016 OffBeat Best of the Beat Music Award for Best Hip-Hop/Rap Artist.
Jerome “5th Ward Weebie” Cosey reportedly died post-surgery, after complications from a ruptured artery coupled with kidney and lung failure. In a statement, Mayor Latoya Cantrell said “It broke my heart to learn that Jerome Cosey — our 5th Ward Weebie — has passed. Let me find out you didn’t know who he was. He was an iconic personality, a New Orleans legend, and a beloved friend. He was the Bounce King, who showed us how to move, how to love, and how to bring passion and humanity to everything we do. New Orleans has lost a cornerstone of our culture. Our City will not be the same without his voice and his spirit. May he rest in God’s perfect peace.”
WWL-TV announced that funeral arrangements have been organized. On January 19, the Mahalia Jackson theater in Armstrong Park will host the public service, with public visitation running from 8 a.m. to noon, followed by a public funeral.