Mannie Fresh: Wheel man

To cap off the 10-day cultural feast/bacchanal that is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival – recognised the world over simply as Jazz Fest – the Microsoft-sponsored pop-up arts and culture organisation 1MSQFT paired up with local arts initiative New Orleans Airlift to host a rather eclectic rally.

Held under the Claiborne Avenue Bridge leading into the city’s Lower Ninth Ward, this gathering celebrated the unique vehicular culture of the city. There were motorcycles and tall bikes from the Dirty South Riders and the Crescent City Pedalers, there were flamboyantly costumed steppers from the all-male Prancing Elites troupe and there were donks – those exuberant, big-wheeled ambassadors for American car customisation – courtesy of the Louisiana Whipz car club.

On hand to judge this passing parade was New Orleans-native DJ, producer, rapper and all-around entertainer Mannie Fresh. Known for his collaborations with chart-toppers including Lil Wayne, BG and Juvenile, as well as his solo work, Fresh is also an inveterate car lover. Here, he discusses the how his varied interests intersect, overlap and collide.

Note: contains adult themes and language.

Brett Berk: We know about your skills as a musician and producer, but tell us a bit about what makes you an ideal judge for this rally?

Mannie Fresh: What makes me a good judge for this? I don’t think you could have skills to be a good judge for this. You just got to be a well-rounded person, you know? I think I have automobile skills and musical background. I am what you get.

What are three really memorable cars you've owned during your life?

That’s a tough one. I think I only have two. My 1969 Camaro, because it was my grandmother’s car, then my dad got it and then I got it. It’s always been in the family, so that’s super-cool to me. And my 1961 Corvette. I always wanted that car when I was growing up, it was one of those cars I had a poster of, thinking, maybe one day I’d get that car. It was always my dream car.

What were some of your favourite cars at the rally?

I had one hands-down winner: the blue Oldsmobile Delta 88 with the white interior.

New Orleans residents seem to have a special affinity for some otherwise under-appreciated American cars of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Why do you think that is?

Real talk? This is crazy, but all of us as kids grew up with raggly-ass cars from the ‘80s and ‘90s and had to work on them. So we just grew accustomed to it, and fell in love with those cars. I remember that my dad worked on cars from the ‘70s and ‘80s, and that’s where my love came from: appreciating – even if it was a piece of crap – how much he loved American muscle. My first car was a piece of shit from that era, but it also taught me to work on cars.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you in a car?

I’ve always had good connections with cars, and always knew how to fix them, so I didn’t have trouble with breakdowns. If I could say, the most embarrassing thing was probably getting caught having sex in a park. And then having to call my parents. And they were like, really?