Not Your Average Role Model
Jermy Tassin from the Magnolia Projects evolved to become LuckyLou, a 25-year-old rapper, dancer and community leader. For the past two and a half years Tassin, with his own big cast of young, positive characters, has been making and performing bounce-influenced New Orleans dance rap that is nonetheless wholesome. Positive but not corny, LuckyLou could be bounce’s answer to Dee-1, though Lou would whup Dee in a dance-off. LuckyLou’s Stomp the Violence campaign and tour of New Orleans KIPP charter schools is soundtracked by the rapper’s “Stomp the Violence,” single and video, which will both see release at Café Istanbul in the Marigny Healing Center this month. ANTIGRAVITY sat with LuckyLou to discuss Stomp the Violence, his unique dance style and how he stole his son’s nickname.
So I first saw you at One Eyed Jacks with NOLA Fam and Nicky Da B, and the most striking thing about the show was that most of the people who were rapping were also incredible dancers.
LuckyLou: Dance is everything to me. Dance is my heart. Or, dance is in my heart and music is like, around my heart. Music and dance is like best friends so you can’t have one without the other. They both go together. Without the beat you can’t really move. But I could…
It’s almost dumb to ask when you started dancing, because you started when you were born if you’re from here. But when did you start on stage? Did you study dance?
No. But when did I realize I had a gift? Was at a block party. I never was a sportsman; I couldn’t play football, basketball. Best friend was the MVP, but it just wasn’t for me. I was searching for something that I could share, and one day a song came on at a block party and I just went into a zone. And it was like Oh snap, that’s it! And I saw the response of the people and I was like, Oh, let me try that again. From then on I knew that’s what it was.
How would you describe your style?
Bounce has a big influence on my style of music and dance. I do me though. Bounce is in me, but I didn’t want to do bounce. I wanted to do something bigger than bounce. I express myself whether I’m acting crazy and being stupid – that’s part of my style and personality – doing wild moves.
It seems like you shy away from the more questionable aspects of bounce dancing.
You know, some people consider bounce dancing to be… pretty over the top provocative. It seems like you uh, add different things…
I was a bounce dancer, I danced with the Body Rockers dance crew, and they used to dance with Shav off the Ave and Vockah Redu. And I always wanted to grow up and be like Shav. I always wanted to be like Jubilee. They was doin it at the time. So I was like, When I get my turn I’ma hold it down. I wanted to be like them.
So you only recently started rapping?
I was introduced to rap two and a half years ago by my man K-Gov. I always wanted to be an artist but I didn’t want to be a bounce artist. Where I’m from, I am always around bounce and bounce artists. So that’s the direction I was heading. But K-Gov is a hip-hop boy. He’s great. He just gave me the hip-hop perspective that shaped my artistry in a different way. He’s why I am not a bounce artist.
Your lyrics are very much in the spirit of bounce, though. They exist mostly to create a good mood, and you’re not necessarily telling stories, right?
No. But I have more of a spiritual aspect to life. Like, I strive for a pure heart. If my heart is dirty I can’t move forward; I need to clean my heart before I can move forward. So my lyrics are like, “I strive for a pure heart, and they don’t understand / That’s the reason I’m the winner, label me the champion.” My lyrics are my spiritual perspective.
So am I right in thinking you’re creating expressly for family-type environments?
You can’t teach these young women how to be grown women if you playin songs on the radio like, “He woke me up, early in the mornin / asked me I want it?” It’s not healthy for their ears. If you want these kids to act right…play “Stomp the Violence” on the radio! Put “Red Light” on. Play “Ninja Cold,” that’s some dance music people can vibe to and you don’t have to worry about none of that. WWOZ has been playing it a lot. But my music is able to be in the church, community centers, schools, clubs. I can go anywhere with my music. Because I have good soil. In the world of music you have 99 percent negative influences. Try being a positive influence, it’s not easy! You can get on a song [and curse] easy, but try getting up and motivating somebody, making them conscious of their surroundings. It’s not easy. There’s so much more to that than just getting up there and doing it. And you don’t get the response that you get from the negative.
It became clear to me at your Mic Check event at Big Top Gallery around Mardi Gras that you’re actively trying to be a leader for a big group of young people.
That’s who I am as a person. I am a leader. I didn’t choose to be a leader, it chose me; growing up, I was the only boy out of five sisters, and who they all came to for advice? Me. When I got around 13, 14 years old, the one my friends all surrounded was me. I couldn’t understand it. Now as I get older, everything I do it seems like they surround me. Now I am a leader and I know people look up to me so it’s like, I take responsibility for other people’s lives. And I’m trying to get that to the masses.
And in that vein, you’ve been taking your music, dance and message to all of New Orleans’ KIPP charter schools?
Ermylou records, my record company, we organized a school tour, where we go around to different KIPP schools to perform for the kids. Stomp the Violence has grown! I wouldn’t have thought it would get this big. KIPP pays us to go around to the majority of KIPP schools during the school day. We haven’t been to Renaissance in the 9th Ward, not yet, but I been to all the other KIPP schools: in the Quarters, believe, I been at Central City. Just to be that positive presence – somebody gotta do it.
How did you get KIPP to say yes to this? Did you make a business plan? Give a presentation?
Did you just walk in the front door with no papers in your hand and ask to talk to the Principal?
Yes. That guy MJ of NOLA [a very dedicated young local Michael Jackson impersonator], he came up with the idea of a Stomp the Violence school tour. I just brought it to life. We didn’t go in all fake, we just went in there and just talked, pulled the principal aside and told him we wanted to be that positive influence and role model and he was like, that sounds good. We went to a next meeting and they gave us a date to do this Friday assembly celebration and whoa, it worked. We donated our services the first time, then the second time they called us back, and they knew what we were capable of doing, so they paid us to come back.
What is your show like at the schools?
We rap and dance and speak to the kids about non-violence. Some kids think violence is a game like, Ooh, I killt that nigga. Like it’s fun! [laughs] Nah that ain’t fun you can’t go around killin somebody! Some kids goin around thinking like, being bad is fun. It’s cool to be bad. We tell them this is serious, it ain’t nothin you play about.
Tell me about your association with the group NOLA Fam, which features DJ Q.
I met NOLA Fam through (Big Freedia’s DJ) Rusty Lazer. They’re a rap group, got their conscious stuff going, not your average. They got some nice insights and perspectives into what they doin. They doin something different. I wound up getting cool with DJ Q; we got some songs we looking to work on. I perform a lot with NOLA Fam and Nicky Da B. Nicky and I do a little tag team.
How’d you get your name?
I actually bit my name from my son. He’s six years old. His name is Lucky cause when he was born his heart rate had dropped to like, zero, so everybody started calling him Lucky on his mom’s side, and my side of the family started calling him Lou. And the guy who introduced me to rap, K-Gov, he fused both of them together: LuckyLou.
The “Stomp the Violence,” single and video release party with LuckyLou, DJ Rusty Lazer, NOLA Fam and Nicky Da B takes place at Café Istanbul in the Marigny Healing Center on Saturday, March 10th.
photo by David Zatarian Jr.