I was planning to have BIG FREEDIA as FEATURED ARTIST for the most recent DEAD AIR BASS PODCAST, but upon organizing my notes, I quickly realized that there was too much needed to be said about her for the confines of the show’s feature section. No, this one requires a proper full article.
Her popularity has exploded over the past few years, but as her ass-centric dance style, and flamboyantly gay bravado can be too over the top for some many mainstream media outlets, it still remains possible that Big Freedia has managed to escape your attention. Believe me, that won’t remain true for much longer, but for the time being, let’s start with some important points about the undisputed “Queen Diva” of BOUNCE music.
First and foremost, Freedia is the reason that you know about TWERKING. It may be MILEY CYRUS who got the conservative press talking about it, but where do you think Miley got the idea? Not from Freedia personally, mind you. She, in fact, CONDONES Miley’s misappropriation of a dance that is so close to Freedia’s people and culture. Besides, while sharing the same basic maneuvers, the twerkings of these two artists come from practically polarized intentions. Miley’s is one of sensational exhibitionism, while Freedia’s is all about personal enjoyment and freedom of expression. Anyways, enough about undeserving Pop starlettes. We’re here to talk about Bounce.
For the past 15 years, Freedia’s mission has been to expose the sound and culture of her home town’s beloved local music scene to the entire world. In order to better understand this mission, we’d better lay down a few quick points about exactly what NOLA BOUNCE is.
A BIT ABOUT BOUNCE
In the early 90s, a distinct sound was budding in the predominantly black attended dance clubs of Freedia’s birth place, NEW ORLEANS. This high energy sub-genre of HIP HOP was unique in that it maintained the original intentions of early RAP culture, by keeping the focus on dancing, and the DJ, with the MCs involvement being predominantly one of call and response with the audience. This local music, which became known as NOLA BOUNCE, was quite distinct from similar scenes, in other cities, where Hip Hop had become focused on MCs, and linguistics.
As the popularity of Nola Bounce spread, it grew out of its localized roots, and individuals rose as leaders of the scene, most notably JUVENILE, and artists on CASH MONEY RECORDS, like LIL WAYNE. In order to solidify their rise to fame, these artists shed their Bounce roots, in favour of more radio friendly sounds. Abandoned by its star power, the popularity of Bounce waned in the late 90s…. but not everywhere.
Bounce music remained popular in the GAY bars, and clubs of New Orleans. As the city’s straight MCs strayed from the scene, a new breed of BOUNCE ambassadors was born. Dubbed with the title SISSY BOUNCE, this new crop of gay MCs carried on with the party, and BIG FREEDIA soon found herself at the helm. She, however, has never supported the idea of “Sissy Bounce” as a gay offshoot of the original sound.
“All Bounce is Bounce … There’s no need to separate it out. All types of people—gay, straight, rich, poor, black, white come to my shows. People just wanna get out and shake their azzzz and have a good time!”
Sissy Bounce remained a regional New Orleans scene until HURRICANE KATRINA forced Freedia, and other artists, to relocate, taking Bounce music with them, and causing it to spread. Interest in Bounce culture was now growing around America, thanks to the exodus of its purveyors. Upon returning to New Orleans, Bounce music also took on a whole new meaning, locally.
“Katrina had the odd effect of suddenly making Bounce into a kind of rallying point … [it] has become the symbol of what they used to have” – Nik Cohn, author of Triksta: Life and Death and New Orleans Rap
“…a lot of people had a lot of money from Katrina, the [FEMA] cheques and stuff, so the joy inside that club – I don’t think that’ll ever come back.” – Big Freedia.
With the local love of Bounce culture now stronger than ever, and popularity rapidly spreading all over North America, the world was finally primed and ready for the genre’s seminal hit.
Every musical movement needs its anthem, and Freedia’s AZZ EVERYWHERE was the right song at the right time. It became a monster underground hit in 2011, gaining world wide exposure for Freedia and Bounce music. Ofcourse, the success of the song was no accident, by any means. It was all part of Freedia’s plan, really. She had been touring non-stop, fiercely spreading her sound and vibe. The attention gained by Azz Everywhere was simply a product of Freedia’s hard work, and working hard is something that the Queen Diva is accustomed to.
She is currently one of the busiest people in show business. In addition to a demanding schedule of festival appearances, Freedia has a REALITY TV SHOW, a VIDEO GAME, a DOCUMENTARY, an upcoming INSTRUCTIONAL DANCE DVD, and she recently even found time to set a GUINESS WORLD RECORD for most people twerking.
All of these factors easily make Freedia one of the most interesting musicians around. But then Freedia is so much more than just a musician. She is a modern day profit of a different design.
AN ACTUAL POSITIVE ROLE MODEL FOR SEXUAL EXPRESSION
Even in the most liberal areas of America, sexual expression is still faced with a lot of repression, which can result in mixed feelings towards Bounce culture which, in true New Orleans fashion, is sexually charged by nature. Freedia has no problem with sexual expression. In fact, she views it as healthy and even uplifting.
During SXSW, in 2010, Freedia made an appearance at a local Austin strip club, that was heralded as one of the best performances of that year’s festival. It was announced 36 hours before hand, and details were only communicated through Twitter. Now, a rapper performing at a strip club is not an original idea at all, but when Freedia does it there’s something very different happening. I’ll let her tour DJ, RUSTY LAZER, explain.
“This video marks a unique turn for people’s perception [of] Freedia, who performs at and decorates a popular strip club called Little Darlin’s back in New Orleans, while also hosting family reunions, block parties and birthdays as well. Fans of Freedia are familiar with her role as an impromptu dance instructor, and many women and queer people credit her with creating “safe spaces” that allow for all kinds of sexual expression while encouraging respect from spectators and participants alike. This video takes that idea a step further, as Freedia encourages the dancers at Sassy’s to shake not for the customers specifically, but rather for their own pleasure and expression. The result is evident in the cheering and support of the crowd. In these three songs money rains on the stage (a necessary part of the work these girls do) despite the fact that the girls themselves rarely acknowledge the crowd. No longer performing “for” the men and women who are visiting the club, the energy of the room transcends the practical nature of “stripping as a profession” and illustrates that what works the best when trading sexuality for sustenance is a genuine expression of sexual joy. Happy people having fun and being a little dirty is simply more pleasurable (and in a workplace situation, more profitable) than performances that are designed to impersonate intimacy, but rarely are.”
Perhaps I can paraphrase a little bit. From her immersion in Bounce culture, one very important thing that Freedia knows all too well is that human being like to shake their asses. It’s innately pleasurable for us, and that pleasure is reason enough to forget whatever other connotations might be associated with the act, and just let that booty pop!
Through her efforts to get the world bouncing, Freedia has also, inadvertently, become a champion of gay acceptance and gender equality. She is breaking down barriers that separate classes, races, and cultures. Her message is stated, in beautiful simplicity, as the title of her most recent ALBUM…
“JUST BE FREE”
This message is conveyed rather unconventionally. She spreads it without preaching, or speeches, or politics. It is done simply through an open and enticing invitation for people to come together, forget their surroundings, and do what makes them feel good.
The Queen Diva? You betta believa.
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