Unskinny Bounce: How 5th Ward Weebie's "Let Me Find Out" Captured the Hearts, Minds, and Asses of New Orleans
Sometimes it pays to have a viral hit.
“A lot of people can’t handle the truth, but they can tell you about you all day!” exclaimed 5th Ward Weebie, pointing a friendly finger in my face. “People always judge other people, always talk about other people, but really don’t self-check. This is like my own personal revenge for people that can’t defend themselves.”
Weebie’s revenge is a track called “Let Me Find Out” that’s become phenomenon on the New Orleans bounce scene. Mostly, it’s a list of offenses to taste, culture, and society that range from superficial to criminal. Weebie has a name-and-shame on order for welfare fraudsters, uninsured drivers, flip phones users, and Lifetime TV fans. The first line he wrote was, “let me find out that ain’t your real booty meat”—a reference to the back-alley silicone butt injections that will pump up your twerk, and maybe rot your ass off. In “Let Me Find Out,” nothing is too serious, trivial or ludicrous to escape scorn.
I met 5th Ward Weebie at his office, an anonymous, low-slung building in Uptown. Leftover goodie bags from the video release party and stacks of orange-and-white “Let Me Find Out” yard signs lined the wall. The couches looked familiar: Big Freedia filmed her scene for the video on them. The manager of Weebie’s label, Fat Boy Entertainment, was setting up a backdrop for a photo shoot. Weebie sat behind his laptop at a massive dining room table, facing a dry-erase board so large you could have played air hockey on it.
“I seen it on Facebook or whatever, and I started saying it myself. It was just a little thing going around the city. It wasn’t popular at all. I just started joking with it,” he said of the four little words that turned into his biggest hit. Weebie’s “let me find out” jokes kept coming until he had a whole song’s worth: “Let me find out that Gucci purse ain’t real. Let me find out you got a stripper pregnant.” And on and on, until the totality of humanity had been chastised for their trivial sins. Once I started asking, I realized that everyone in town has a favorite. The guy at the doughnut shop likes “Let me find out you still rocking flip phones.” My roommate is a fan of “Let me find out your old man wear sandals.”
According to Weebie, the key to his success isn’t that he’s judgmental, it’s that he’s even-handed. “I’m mindful of trying to keep a certain balance, a balance of not going too hard on the women, not going too hard on the men, but making it kinda equal,” he said. “Everybody took it for what it was, even people who felt like that was them. They see me and say, ‘I’m still rockin’ a flip phone! Don’t talk about me, Weebie!,’ things like that. I’m like, ‘It’s all good. I ain’t trippin'.’ It’s just some things I thought was funny.”
Despite the sudden popularity of his single, 5th Ward Weebie is not new on the scene. He goes way back with the people who invented bounce, and if you’re into music from the first wave of bucket hats, you may have heard him before. He was in on the golden years at No Limit Records, appearing beside Master P on tracks like “Ooohhhwee” and “Rock It." “1998, baby! I been in the game since ’98!” he told me. “Block parties and barrooms, that was the story of my life.” He got discovered rapping on top of a pool table and went on to collaborate with top New Orleans artists like Kane and Abel, Partners-N-Crime, and Mystikal.
But if a lot of “Let Me Find Out” seems devoted to making fun of people because they’re broke, it’s probably because, until recently, Weebie was too. Before the song took off, he was scraping by. “I was working on different little songs, doing shows, promoting shows, doing everything under the sun just trying to make money,” he said. “I hit hard times, you know what I’m saying? Back was against the wall.” He had a few local hits like the topical “Fuck Katrina," but nothing he could expect to gain traction away from home. He hasn’t put out a full-length record since 2004.
It's fitting that Weebie's second shot at the top is all New Orleans. It’s built on the classic "Triggaman" beat, the one Weebie got his start with and the one that anchors most native bounce music. Bounce diva Big Freedia pops in just long enough for a signature, “Let’s go!” The final line of the hook is a homage to Wing Shack, a Tremé chicken joint, and a deep reference to a line about Popeyes that Juvenile recorded when he was 17.
When I told Weebie I’d never eaten at Wing Shack, he decided to order me some chicken. Wing Shack is pretty far from his office, so he called Chicken and Watermelon, a restaurant owned by his friend Skip, another local rapper. Skip, Juvenile, and Wacko made up UTP, best remembered for “Nolia Clap," a song dedicated to the old Magnolia Projects. Chicken and Watermelon is across the street from where the projects used to be. Weebie ordered us each a Boogie Bird special, then called Skip to let him know. You can stop making music, but in a town this small, you don’t exactly leave the scene.
Though Weebie never really left, but he’s overjoyed to be back. “Let Me Find Out” has been everywhere this summer, at every barbecue and block party. Someone painted a picture of his head on a garage. There are “Keep Calm and Let Me Find Out” stickers on the walls at bars, and a girl on the corner with a sign that says, “Let me find out you got change on the loose.” Hype hit fever pitch at the video release, when fans packed a downtown club past 2AM on a weeknight to see the seven-minute epic make its debut. “It was history!” said Weebie. “Anthony Davis from the Pelicans, he came with his mother and his dad. I think the weather lady from Channel 6 came out.”
With the local market near saturation, Weebie has two options: extend his brand or expand it. He’s going for both. Support from people like Lil Wayne, Questlove, and Solange has convinced him he might be sitting on a national hit. His next goal is to let the rest of America find out. To prepare for mainstream success, he made the video family-friendly, or as family-friendly as a song about infidelity and ass injections can possibly be. The new version features Weebie’s own son, scrubs the word “titties” and includes an improbable illicit trade in red bricks.
At home, the masses are begging to hear “Let Me Find Out Part 2,” which Weebie has teased since practically before the original dropped. “People are chasing me, people are calling me, people are threatening me,” he joked, but he wouldn’t reveal much about his plans. He’d wiped off the dry-erase version of the storyboard before I showed up. Here’s what I do know: Part 2 is a movie. Juvenile and Snoop Dogg are in it. New Orleans is going to lose its collective shit.
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