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Meet Flagboy Giz, a Rapper Uniting New Orleans Cultural Traditions

In his cluttered two-room apartment in Gentilly, a small neighborhood just south of Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, Flagboy Giz used dental floss to thread brightly colored beads through black gym shoes on a stormy February afternoon. His desk held a humble recording setup — a microphone, laptop and two speakers. An assemblage of neon feathers and phosphorescent beads burst out of drawers and scattered across the floor.

Though he was out late at Mardi Gras balls the night before, Flagboy Giz, 37, had awakened early and headed directly to the bead store. “This is a tradition that you have to preserve,” he said, “so you’ve got to make sure you’re out there every year masking. Last year, I caught Covid two weeks before Mardi Gras, and I was still sewing with Covid. The year before that, a spider bit me in the eye, and I was sewing with one eye in the hospital.”

Flagboy Giz is a Black Masking Indian — the flag-bearer of the storied Wild Tchoupitoulas tribe — who has risen to prominence in New Orleans by blending traditional Mardi Gras Indian music with hip-hop, with many of his songs assuming characteristics of the city’s bounce subgenre.

Since 2021, he has been releasing up-tempo songs that feature stories about his culture and sharp social commentary concerning the shifting demographics in his hometown. On “We Outside” from 2022, he rhymes about marching on Mardi Gras day and talks trash about fellow Black Masking Indians while incorporating a call-and-response chant (“We outside!”) echoing the cadence of songs like “Ho Na Nae” and “Firewater” that have been passed down for generations.

Flagboy Giz makes his suits in his two-room apartment in Gentilly, a small neighborhood just south of Lake Pontchartrain.Credit…Emily Kask for The New York Times
Giz is a flag-bearer of the storied Wild Tchoupitoulas tribe, and his suits celebrate that affiliation.Credit…Emily Kask for The New York Times

The track became his signature song and led to a 14-minute remix featuring over 25 New Orleans artists including Choppa, 504icygirl and Hotboy Ronald. “‘We Outside’ is gonna be one of them records that never dies,” said Giz’s manager, Raj Smoove, a mainstay New Orleans D.J. whom Lil Wayne called “the greatest D.J. in the world.”

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