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New Orleans bounce rapper Jerome “5th Ward Weebie” Cosey, whose career spanned from his own local standards "Let Me Find Out" and "F*** Katrina" to a cameo appearance on Drake’s 2018 hit “Nice for What,” died Thursday. He was 42.
Cosey had reportedly undergone surgery for a ruptured artery and died of related complications while still hospitalized.
“It broke my heart to learn that Jerome Cosey — our 5th Ward Weebie — has passed," Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement via Twitter that included one of his song titles. "'Let me find out' you didn't know who he was. He was an iconic personality, a New Orleans legend, and a beloved friend. He was the Bounce King, who showed us how to move, how to love, and how to bring passion and humanity to everything we do. New Orleans has lost a cornerstone of our culture. Our city will not be the same without his voice and his spirit.”
At John F. Kennedy High School, Cosey played drums in the marching band. He was later a member of a dance crew, the Street Fighters. He danced at talent shows and behind various local rappers before deciding to transition into rapping himself.
As New Orleans’ distinctive bounce rap sub-genre took hold at local block parties and on DJ turntables and urban radio airwaves in the 1990s, Cosey was in the thick of the action, collaborating with various artists.
He issued his own albums and singles on various labels. His full-length debut, “Show the World,” came out in 1999 on Mobo Records. His 2000 album “Ghetto Platinum” was on rap duo Kane & Abel’s Most Wanted Empire imprint.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Cosey scored a regional hit with the bluntly titled “F*** Katrina,” a rallying cry for those affected by the storm, including himself. The song was used in a first-season episode of the HBO series "Treme."
He also collaborated with Lil Wayne on the single “Bend It Ova” and rap duo Partners-N-Crime’s 2009 regional hit “So Attracted.” Years later, he could still be found performing "So Attracted" with Partners-N-Crime at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and in local clubs.
During a 2014 interview with journalist Alison Fensterstock, Cosey explained his musical philosophy: "Don't be serious and overthink, just have fun,” he said. “Let it be the funny truth. ... The 'F*** Katrina,' it's the funny truth. I turned a drastic situation, something that was horrific to the world — and I was a part of that situation, so I was able to turn something that was so dramatic and so drastic into something you can laugh a little bit about — and that's the truth. Same element, same energy."
In subsequent years, he released less music under his name while working behind the scenes as a promoter. But he jumped back into music in a big way with his humorous 2014 hit “Let Me Find Out” and its equally uproarious, rump-shaking video. With its old-school bounce beats, sing-song cadence and string of clever, good-natured put-downs, “Let Me Find Out” received heavy airplay on WQUE 93.3, New Orleans' dominant urban radio station.
Its popularity spread beyond the city as the likes of Snoop Dogg and the Roots’ Questlove subsequently proclaimed themselves 5th Ward Weebie fans.
More recently, another superstar rapper found his way to Weebie.
Wanting to include bounce elements on his 2018 album “Scorpion," Canadian rapper Drake consulted with Lil Wayne’s manager, Cortez Bryant, who recommended Drake work with 5th Ward Weebie. Cosey in turn recommended veteran New Orleans bounce producer Adam “BlaqNmilD” Pigott.
Both Cosey and Pigott contributed to the final version of the single “Nice For What,” which also featured Big Freedia and a sample of New Orleans rap duo the Big Tymers’ “Get Your Roll On.” The single hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
When Drake headlined the Smoothie King Center in September 2018, he brought out Cosey for a guest appearance.