Sometimes a shrimp sandwich just inspires poetry. Singleton’s
Mini Mart is a New Orleans lunch counter owned by the Nguyen family and
profiled in Hyphen’s Issue 24, the Survival Issue. Their work ethic and
memorable seafood po’boys inspired a New Orleans rap group called Double
Trouble to film their first video in Singleton’s, aptly titled “Watch Me Work.”
I was curious what compelled the MCs to disregard the typical video settings of
yacht, street corner or nightclub in favor of their neighborhood Vietnamese
Ruk22 (also known as Denise Lampton, 29), and Flo’rescent
(Deshantrel Coleman, 18) are New Orleans natives that performed separately
until they concluded that two women would have better luck in hip-hop if they joined
forces. In the video, the women take orders, prepare sandwiches, and restock
shelves with a rotating cast of local and unsigned artists (including Flo’s
dad, their manager). Their first mixtape, D.O.P.E. (Determined, Originality,
Preparedness, Eager to Do What We Need to Do) will be released later this year.
I reached them at their homes in New Orleans.
Why did you film your
video at Singleton’s, casting yourselves working at the cash register and in
Ruk22: Flo’s dad, our manager, is friends with the Nguyens.
We used to live in the neighborhood. The song was inspired by working hard at
whatever you do. Putting work in together, you got to go through different
obstacles, different stages in life. After Katrina and the BP oil spill, so
many people and so many businesses suffered. So many businesses relocated to
another city where they don’t have too many hurricanes and oil spills.
Singleton’s was a store that stayed back and still served the community.
Like Flo says in the song, as long as the music’s bumpin’,
we gonna stay right here. For Singleton’s, as long as that building is still
standing there, they’re still gonna serve the community. They’re still going to
do what they need to do, through anything. They started working hard, trying to
get their business back together, and not letting the BP oil spill affect what
they do for their community and for their family.
That’s what we’re trying to do with our music, just trying
to strive for perfection and try to get to the top. Keep working hard, don’t let
anything stop you. Being two females it’s going to be pretty hard for us. We’re
just trying to stick together, work hard, and reach our goals.
What are your day
Ruk22: I was laid off over the summer from my job at Radio
Shack. I was the top salesperson, but I was an at-will employee and still got
laid off. I put so much hard work into that job, while going to school and making
music… so getting laid off like that really hurt. At the same time, I just pray
and ask God to show me the way to go. I’m trying to take the closed door as a
blessing and pursue the music. God sometimes closes up some doors to open up
new ones. I’m working hard on the music and trying to find some new gigs.
Flo: My day job is at a hotel. I’m a PBX (switchboard)
operator for hotel guests.
Food seems to be a
big theme in New Orleans music. Last summer a runaway Youtube hit featured a
family shopping with food stamps at a local Wal-Mart. What is it about New
Orleans culture that has people always thinking about food, and incorporating
it into their music?
Ruk: We grew up eating. We just love to eat down here. Flo
loves to eat. Shrimp, chicken, family gatherings, cookouts -- everybody always
talks first about who’s bringing what food. They just love to eat down here.
But it’s hard, and groceries are getting expensive everywhere. I thought that
video about the food stamps was pretty funny, because some people can’t afford
to buy food, but food stamps do help with a percentage of your income every
month. All I can say is, they love to eat down here. Everyone knows how to
cook, even if you can just fry an egg.
Flo: I agree. I love food, I really do.
What are your
Ruk-22: Red beans and rice. Gumbo. Jambalaya.
Flo: Jambalaya, gumbo, crayfish, shrimp. A lot of people
down here like any anything Cajun and spicy, anything seafood. Growing up, I was
at Beau’s (Singleton’s) a lot, getting my po’boys, pickles and chicken plates.
My grandma lived around the corner.
Many rap videos
feature artists amidst expensive cars, diamonds, and furs. Yet you’re taking
orders at a corner store. Why?
Ruk-22: You have to work to get to that. I didn’t have
anything growing up, so I’m not trying to pretend I have something I don't. No,
I’m not going to do that. Even when I do get that, I won’t make videos like
that, because when God gives you a gift, and you’re inspired to do something,
it's not all about the materialistic things. It’s about what’s inside, what’s
in your heart. All the rest will come, but show how you really got there, and
the true meaning behind your music. What strives you to sing, what strives you
to rap, what strives you to dance? What’s your inspiration? That’s what we’re
trying to do. Showing that it takes hard work to do whatever you need to do in
Flo: I agree.
You can see more
Double Trouble on the Phreedom Records YouTube channel.