N.O. Block Party: Public Housing Tour
This tour includes the sites of the “Big Four” public housing complexes demolished by the city of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. All had been home to generations of musicians, Black Masking Indians, and social aid and pleasure club members.
The Magnolia, officially the C.J. Peete Public Housing Development, is best known as the launching pad for Cash Money Records, a dominant force in hip hop since the late 1990s, and the childhood home of rappers from Soulja Slim to Jay Electronica. Its construction also led to the establishment of the Dew Drop Inn, and the great Harold Battiste was one of its first residents.
The Calliope, officially the B.W. Cooper Public Housing Development, was home to Master P, whose label No Limit Records reconfigured the rap music industry in the 1990s. Other stars preceded him: the Neville Brothers lived here, as did two of the three Dixie Cups, brothers Earl and Wilson “Willie Tee” Turbinton, and piano titan Henry Butler.
The Lafitte, located in the heart of Downtown New Orleans’ parade routes, was home to a gamut of first-rate brass band musicians, from “Uncle” Lionel Batiste to James Andrews to Lumar Leblanc, leader of the Soul Rebels. Legendary vocalist Johnny Adams lived here, too, as did Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr.
The St. Bernard is shouted out in rapper Ricky B’s bounce classics, a style pioneered by fellow St. Bernard resident DJ Irvin Phillips. Gospel star Raymond Myles grew up here, along with Dirty Dozen Brass Band leader Gregory Davis. Rhythm and blues hero Eddie Bo also lived here when he was young.
Read more on the role of public housing in the development of New Orleans music.
Places in this Tour
"Enter the Magnolia: The Story of the C.J. Peete Housing Projects" 35-minute documentary by Newtral Groundz from 2020.
"To Me It Will Always Be The Calliope," a 30-minute documentary on the history of the B.W. Cooper public housing complex.
A 10-minute report on the post-Katrina demolition of public housing in New Orleans.