With the release of his brand-new album, diva supreme Big Freedia is primed for bounce music’s world domination, but first he has some twerking tips for a certain tongue-wagging pop star
Photos by Koury Angelo Photography
When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the New Orleans shore in 2005, America looked on with heads bowed as one of the country’s liveliest communities was reduced to a harrowing wasteland. Residents who had called New Orleans home for a lifetime were forced to flee the Gulf Coast, dispersing throughout the Southern states in an attempt to restore a semblance of balance to daily life. Among those displaced were musicians—the lifeblood of Louisiana culture—including the founders of a New Orleans-based genre of hip-hop called bounce music.
If there is a silver lining to be found inside Katrina’s widespread devastation, perhaps it is the fact that following New Orleans residents vacating their homes, that lively and dynamic culture was allowed to permeate other areas of the United States. Bounce music—characterized by provocative lyrics, quick beats and hypersexual female dancers—infiltrated hip-hop circles around the country, from Houston to Atlanta, bringing its New Orleans flavor to the forefront of local hip-hop scenes.
One artist who spread the gospel of bounce music, himself a founder of the genre, was Big Freedia, an openly gay, flamboyant force of nature who never appeared to struggle while working in an industry that told him he was ‘less than.’ Freedia settled and performed in Texas for several months, hawking the brand of music as only he could. Despite moving back to New Orleans the first chance he had—starting a regular night at local haunt Caesar’s called FEMA Fridays—the trigger had been pulled, and Freedia’s was the name on that bullet; he quickly became the face of bounce music’s widespread appeal.
In the near-decade since Katrina’s attempted destruction of the New Orleans spirit, Big Freedia is well on his way to becoming a household name. With three studio albums under his belt, another—this month’s Let’s Get Free—on the way and a second season of the hit reality series Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce (a massive success for the Fuse TV network) currently in the works, it’s your home he’ll be barging into next.
We sat down with Freedia the day before a show at L.A.’s Echoplex to push the new album, delving into his newfound national appeal and what he has in store for us on his path to achieveing mainstream success once and for all.
Let’s start out by talking about bounce music, which is something you know a thing or two about. How do you describe bounce music to people who aren’t familiar with it?
I usually say it’s uptempo, heavy bass, ‘call and response’-type music. It’s definitely party music, and it makes people happy. But it has created its own culture as well, within New Orleans especially.
I’ve seen the term ‘sissy bounce’ used to represent some gay artists working in bounce music, but I understand that’s not necessarily a term that you embrace.
No, and we don’t embrace it because we’ve never separated bounce music in New Orleans—it’s always just been called ‘bounce music.’ There are gay artists in bounce, but [the term can cause offense] to other artists. People be like, “Oh, you do sissy bounce” when they really don’t know if that artist is gay or not. It’s a controversy for us gay bounce artists, because some feel like we’re encouraging this word—in the media or whatever—when we never made it up. There’s just no such thing in New Orleans. We don’t separate artists. We don’t want to be categorized. We just want to be artists. We’re all artists no matter what our sexual preference may be.