[NSFW] Say what you will about the Internet; it has definitely sped up the process of dropping jaws. No longer do you need to murder a few family members or a song on American Idol to become notorious overnight. Such is the case with NOLA bounce artist Mr. Ghetto, who uploaded a little guerilla video called “Walmart” on May 17. Within 48 hours, it had garnered 400,000 hits from a shocked YouTube audience, been removed for “content violation” (presumably user complaints, though the video doesn’t violate the site’s posting rules), been featured on the tosh.0 website, inspired at least one reaction video, and been trumpeted by Perez Hilton as the “smash hit of Summer 2011!” The fact that summer hadn’t started yet was a mere formality. Hits have now topped 2 million.
Notably, those YouTube hits split right down the middle on likes and dislikes, which is almost unheard of for a popular video. Then again, “Walmart” seems like a parody of bounce, rap videos, and ghetto life itself, what with the big butt dancers (from NewOrleans Shaketeam) shaking booty right there in front of riverfront traffic, crawfishing down the aisles of everyone’s favorite big box outlet, and using their Louisiana Purchase card to pick up boy shorts, pantyhose, and “dush” (that one puzzled quite a few out-of-towners). In Mr. Ghetto’s view, the retailer is the new club, a cheap place to go to get “somethin’ new.”
Maybe he’s right. Locals on YouTube comments and in other forums were adamant: the Tchoupitoulas Wally World where Ghetto did his thing is apparently the most hood of any in the country. But as it turns out, the video (done on the run by Bonose Productions) was shot partially in the Harahan location. Only the parking lot exteriors were shot Uptown. (“I found it funny that he wanted to shoot the whole thing at Walmart,” says Bonose, who’s trying to get some new equipment out of the deal. “But I always keep the customer satisfied.”) And not only is the video not all that different from other bounce vids, it’s not even the first with the box store idea: Two summers ago, local dance group Da Chaotic Shakaz released a promo video called “Hammertime” where the girls were shown clapping ass in Lowe’s and Home Depot.
The shots done there were relatively tame and brief compared to Mr. Ghetto’s video, though, which has folks of all colors and ages across the nation complaining that he’s disgraced hip-hop, New Orleans, women, Walmart, black people, and just about everything else that’s good and right. Ghetto is having none of it.
“This is our culture,” he says, calmly but defiantly, when I manage to catch him in between his phone blowing up with offers. “Just like Mardi Gras or jazz. Bounce is a major part of New Orleans and ain’t one better than the other. This is just an introduction. We have our own flavor, our own style down here, and that’s why all the tourists come down. They gotta understand that.” Doesn’t he think he’s lowered the bar, though? “BET, MTV, Hollywood blockbusters, they all have half-naked girls,” he says. “They have sex scenes. Is that degrading? You wanna point the finger at one, point the finger at all.”
Mr. Ghetto moves on to the other philosophical question raised by those who’ve been exposed to the video, namely, is this a joke? No. “Hey, pretty women be there. Everybody gotta make groceries,” he laughs. “Why go to a club, pay 20 or 30 dollars in drinks? I save a lot of money that way. Besides, women flirt also in Walmart. It ain’t like I’m predatorial. It ain’t just one-sided.”
The controversy also hasn’t stopped the rapper and his DJ, Joe Wit Da Dreadz, from rushing out a DVD featuring the video, some “uncensored” material, and comedy from actor/comedian Mike Epps (only $4!), as well as a new album on II Fire Records. “I’m Mr. Ghetto. This is my music. Anything that happens to me I put in my music. If I see a woman at Walmart, I put that in there, too. It ain’t no gimmick. This is real.” Maybe so, but the retailer itself doesn’t seem to be so happy about the success of the clip, reportedly threatening a lawsuit (although its corporate offices didn’t return OffBeat emails). And the Tchoupitoulas location? Don’t ask. “Yeah, we’re not interested in talking about that,” said the manager. “You might as well hang that up.” Click.