Big Freedia (pronounced “FREE-da”), known as the Queen of Bounce, is at the forefront of the Bounce rap movement (a subgenre of hip-hop born out of New Orleans and known for its call and response style and lightening speed booty-shaking dance). Performing five out of seven nights in any given week with dancers she calls The Divas, Big Freedia’s show is nothing short of dazzling. She tours every city in America from New York to San Francisco and is always a favorite at festivals such as Electric Forest, Hangout Fest, FunFunFun Fest, SXSW, and Bonnaroo, among many others.
Though gay and proud, Big Freedia asserts that her (Freedia is a he but uses the feminine pronoun for her stage persona) sexuality has little to do with her music and rejects the term Sissy Bounce (the queer brand of Bounce). “All Bounce is Bounce,” he insists. “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!” And therein lies the beauty of Big Freedia: She can rock a pair of dangling gold earrings and light up a blunt and chop it up with the hardest rapper around. She’s not a gay artist, but rather an artist who happens to be gay.
Big Freedia has gone from a local New Orleans phenomenon to a national one over the past two years. After appearing in two episodes of HBO series ‘Treme’ [as herself] and in 2010, she released her debut EP on Scion A/V Presents: Big Freedia, produced by NOLA producer BlaqNmilD. The EP featured notables “Excuse” and “Almost Famous; other fan-favorites include “Gin in my System” “Azz Everwhere” and “Y’all Get Back Now.” Adding to her catalog, this year she released “Nah Who Mad” and “Booty Whop,” and she was featured on Spank Rock’s Everything is Boring and Everyone is a Fucking Liar LP, on the track “Nasty.” This month, she was featured on “Peanut Butter” with actor Ru Paul.
This January, Freedia made her television network debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! She appeared on “Last Call with Carson Daly,” FADERTV, PITCHFORK TV and has been lauded in press outlets such as The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Fader, RollingStone.com, SPIN, OffBeat, Chicago Tribune, Columbia Spectator, Pheonix New Times, San Francisco Chronicle, LA Times, LA Weekly, among many other media outlets.
Always pushing artistic boundaries, this year Big Freedia went hi-tech by releasing the Big Freedia Booty Battle Video Game, which Forbes magazine covered, calling it “…everything a great game should be.”
Raised on Josephine Street in uptown New Orleans, Big Freedia, born Freddie Ross, was raised by his mother, a hairdresser, and stepfather, a truck driver for Coca-Cola. When Freddie was 15, the family moved to a more upscale neighborhood in New Orleans. Freddie—along with his brother Adam and sister Crystal Ross—were immersed in music at home by their mother, who often sang along to her Gladys Knight and Patty LaBelle records around the house. But it was the Baptist church choir where a young Freddie flourished. ”My mother made sure I never missed practice,” recalls Freedia. It’s no wonder that by the time he was 18, Freedia moved from member to director of the choir.
A product of the hip-hop generation, Freedia was rocking RUN DMC, Salt ‘n Pepa and Adidas Shell Tops as a teenager. One night in 1991 he heard “Where Dey At” by MC T Tucker, (what many believe to be the first recorded Bounce track) and he was transfixed. After starting as a back-up dancer for Katey Red, the original “Sissy Bounce” rapper, Freedia knew Bounce was his calling and eventually broke out on his own.