Local rap group dominates the national charts.
January 30, 2002
While rap acts across the nation are trying to claw their way to the top, Lafayette rap group Da Entourage debuted last week at No. 3 on Billboard magazine’s Hot Rap Singles chart. Now into the second week, their song “Bunny Hop” has remained at No. 3. From their CD release titled Entourage 1, the tune also entered at No. 6 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales, No. 19 on the Hot 100 Single Sales and No. 88 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks charts.
The emerging young rappers have managed to catapult themselves to the top of the charts seemingly overnight. And while the oldest member of the group is only 24, this isn’t your typical glamorized Hollywood showboat of young men.
Damon Spencer (aka Red Boy) is the oldest member of the group and the namesake of Da Entourage’s record label, Red Boy Records, headquartered in a modest music shop on Evangeline Thruway. He sports tiny braids in his hair and his arm is inked with elaborate tattoos. The other three group members include Paul Brown (Bunny B), Tomosa Griffin (Toemas) and Travis Zeno (Alley Cat), all from Lafayette.
As with any successful outfit, there are others working diligently behind the scenes at Red Boy Records. President Keith Moncrieffe and Vice President Gerald Singleton run the day-to-day operations of the company, seeing to it that the demand for the record is met with a constant supply. Harold Guillory (aka Gambino) laid down the tracks for the album and has worked with Spencer in the past on other recording projects. Reagan Pierre is the album’s local promoter, the one who saw to it that radio stations spun it, that the DJs in the clubs pushed it and that local record bins stocked copies of the CD.
At first glance it might appear that “Bunny Hop” is an overnight success, the typical story of good luck and even better timing, with local average Joes creeping out of Lafayette undetected onto the national scene, but the story is one of determination and hard work.
Even when he was developing the song, Spencer knew that it could be big, but he also knew that there are tons of potentials in the music business, with few rewards to show for it. What the song needed was a hook. So the group created a dance of the same name to go along with the song.
Spencer says, “I can’t dance and even I can do it.”
The simple steps of the line dance allow anyone, even those with a warped sense of rhythm, to get into the groove of the track and participate in the group dance.
Singleton says, “It’s good feeling music. People are looking for something to grab on to.”
Spencer points out that there are two different versions of the album, an explicit one (with the now infamous parental advisory stamp) and a clean version “for the kids.”
He says the group was “beating the streets and showing them the dance.” They traveled to Louisiana State University, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, local high schools, day camps and anywhere they could to show off their moves and push the new record.
Guillory says that the label has been “fighting it out in the streets.”
Spencer acknowledges that it has been difficult literally beating the streets, but that their success also includes working with a dedicated staff and exercising humility, patience and persistence.
Singleton says that for a while, a number of record stores were having a difficult time keeping the record in stock. He says he’s managed to work out the kinks, but he still admits with a smile, that “it’s a good problem to have.”
The grassroots, guerilla-marketing of the album has managed to fly under the radar of the major national record labels. Only recently have the media moguls begun knocking on Red Boy’s door, though no one seems inclined to answer it. Spencer says he’s “trying to keep it independent.” He says it’s important to keep the operation local so it can give back to the Lafayette community. Almost in the same breath, he says it would be nice to experience all of the trappings that come with fame, but what’s more important is a vision that repays his community, maybe even in the form of scholarships.
The album is currently being re-mixed and re-mastered by Grammy Award winning engineer Tony Daigle. Singleton says, “With Tony’s experience, he can give us a better sound. We want to give the audience everything we’ve got. We want to give them their money’s worth.”
Red Boy Records is also gearing up for its “Hop ‘Til You Drop” promotional campaign. Da Entourage plans to shoot a video in Lafayette for “Bunny Hop.” They say that they want the entire city to be included in the video shoot – and there are only a couple of conditions to be a part of the action.
Singleton says, “Buy that CD and learn that dance.”