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News and updates from around the Ujima Ecosystem.

Twerk as Church: Resonances of Mutual Aid in DJ Jubilee’s album Take it to the St. Thomas, by Simone Delaney

In this Black Music Month Edition of the Ujima WIRE, Boston-based designer (and former New Orleans resident) Simone Delaney examines DJ Jubilee’s classic bounce album Take it to the St. Thomas and daylights its cultural, spatial, and historical context.


Now demolished, New Orleans’s St. Thomas Development was often considered to be one of America’s most dangerous housing projects in the 1980’s due to systemic disinvestment by the Housing Authority of New Orleans and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (or HUD)––both government entities with a  notorious history of withholding public funds from predominantly Black neighborhoods. By the turn of the millennium, the demolition process for St. Thomas had already begun. Funded by a HUD Hope VI grant, The Housing Authority of New Orleans sought to redevelop the area in an effort that ultimately relocated close to 3000 residents.

Hailing from the St. Thomas projects in  New Orleans’s 10th ward and dubbed “The King of Bounce,” DJ Jubilee released the early bounce album Take it to the St. Thomas in 1998 to honor the then-relegated projects he called home. Through the hyperlocality of his rhythms, lyrics, narratives, and spatial references, the album is a powerful contemporary example of what Matt Miller calls “parading mutual aid societies,” through which collective forms of musical expression such as social-pleasure clubs and funeral second lines provide Black residents with joy-centering frameworks of communal care to process racialized trauma (1). Within this context, DJ Jubilee’s public bounce performances offered a decolonial third space to strengthen community bonds through rhythm and movement at a time when residents were imminently facing displacement. Today, it also serves as an archive of the cultural vibrancy within the community at the end of the twentieth century.

A large part of the hyperlocality of DJ Jubilee’s sound can be attributed to the New Orleans “Triggaman beat” – also known simply as “dat beat”(2). Almost all tracks use a one-bar drum loop that hovers around 100bpm, which is reminiscent of bamboula patterns from the Congo Square drum circles that famously birthed jazz pre-emancipation (3). This comes through strong in “Hot Girlz on Fire,” which wins listeners’ immediate acclaim for its reconstruction of the jazz classic “Iko Iko” against a Triggaman backdrop, all while reimagining the song’s typical grandmother figures as “hot boyz” and “hot girlz” as a preface for exuberant calls to twerk and shake ass. 

Although DJ Jubilee doesn’t explicitly speak to imminent threats of displacement faced by many residents of local housing projects at the time, he instead offers a conduit for kinetic orality to collectively process trauma through the joys of movement. Lauron Kehrer, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology and Musicology at Western Michigan University, describes kinetic orality as the shared production of social memory through sounds that facilitate both oral storytelling and embodied movement (4). This is particularly significant to a 1990’s New Orleanian context, considering the city’s struggles with a violent backdrop comprised of the War on Drugs, gang rivalries, and urban disenfranchisement.

In 1986, the Reagan administration’s Anti-Drug Abuse Act federally enforced a five year minimum prison sentence for possession of five grams of crack cocaine, and as a city at the frontlines of the crack epidemic, waves of mass incarceration initiated by this policy disproportionately targeted Black residents in New Orleans. High demand for crack also led to higher rates of trapping (5), which additionally caused rates of over-policing and incarceration to rise exponentially. These crises coincided with a nation-wide period of mass displacement from public housing, as H.U.D.’s introduction of the HOPE VI program in 1992 distributed billions of dollars in funding to municipal housing authorities in an effort to to demolish deteriorating public housing, permanently evict residents, and replace designated areas with mixed income housing that rarely had capacity for those displaced. Given these conditions, bounce block parties emerged as life affirming portals of kinetic orality through which collective manifestations of trauma release could be materialized.

Take it to the St. Thomas deploys familiar frameworks of collective care by centering techniques rooted in Black spiritual traditions. For instance, “What’s the Name of Your School”  invokes call and response techniques of local Black churches to offer a friendly environment for youth to rep each of their schools on the dance floor, safely mirroring more intense rivalries present in the outside world. Although most of the vocals involve chanting, callouts, and relatively slow rapping, tracks such as “We’re Getting Ready” and “Why” also incorporate female gospel vocals to weave a spiritual aurality throughout the album. The cover image of DJ Jubilee raising his hands at the altar further reinforces this influence of the Black church, as it suggests a preacher-esque status for the DJ as he sets the lively vibes of the dance floor.

As the respected spiritual leader of his church of twerk, Jubilee repeatedly champions the bounce “roll call” to call on specific members of the crowd to showcase vernacular dance styles. This is especially prominent in “Back that Thang Up”, in which he calls for dancers to “ride that dog,” “fly with it,” ride that bike,” and “do the river-river.” At the end of the album, “Why” also uses roll-calling to explicitly speak to the collective grief of the Black community. The final track removes the bassline to offer a simple 3-chord guitar strum as a backdrop to a woman’s mournful gospel vocals. DJ Jubilee’s final roll call recounts the names of beloved community members passed, elevating Take it to the St. Thomas to a shared healing experience for residents of all ages in the 504.



  1. Matt Miller, Bounce: Rap Music and Local Identity in New Orleans (Amherst: University of Massachusetts  Press, 2012), 6. 

  2. The Triggaman (or Triggerman) beat is a sampled loop from Queens-based duo The Showboys’ 1986 track “Drag Rap” that became foundational to early Southern rap tracks, particularly within trap, bounce, crunk, and phonk. For more history on the the loop, visit:

  3. The bamboula pattern is the basis of second line rhythms, which evolved from the sounds of mutual aid societies in Congo Square. For an ethnomusicological overview of “dat beat” in New Orleans, refer to:

  4. Lauron J. Kehrer, “‘Sissy Style’ Gender, Race, and Sexuality in New Orleans Bounce Dance” in Journal of Popular Music Studies 35, no. 3 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2023), 79.

  5. Colloquial term for selling drugs.


Simone Delaney (they/them) is a multidisciplinary designer interested in reparative practices at the intersection of race, space, ecology, and sound. Currently pursuing a Masters in City Planning, their research interests include fugitive landscapes, maroon legacies, Black Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Black-Indigenous interrelationality, liberatory sonic practices, and climate disaster collectivism. Informally, they’re a rootworker and unserious bedroom DJ.


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