Big Freedia Talks Bounce, Bad Twerkers, and All Things "Asstastic"
Big Freedia: "Queen Diva, Late-Night Creepa."
Photo by Koury Angelo
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Miley Cyrus gets a lot of credit for bringing twerk to the masses. But Diplo told ladies to "Express Yourself" before pop's most ratchet princess ever cranked up that booty. And hell, the Ying Yang Twins sang "Whistle While You Twerk" in 2000. Still, no one's got a thang on bounce music's queen diva, NoLa's own Late-Night Creepa, Big Freedia.
A gay male born Freddie Ross who "answer[s] to either 'he' or 'she," Freedia may not be the original, but she and her raw dance crew have become global ambassadors of bounce, bringing the New Orleans-bred brand of party rap to clubs on every continent. And this week, she's returning to Miami for a real twerk throwdown.
Between writing a book, recording an album, and filming the fourth season of her successful reality show, Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, airing on the Fuse network, she's one busy gal. But Freedia did take the time to chat with us about all things "asstastic."
Crossfade: If someone's not watching your show, what are we missing out on?
Big Freedia: It's very interesting. It's entertaining. You get a little peek into my life. My mom was on the first two seasons. It's a family thing, and we really work hard to keep on putting bounce music out there and reach the next heights. People get to see all of that. They get to see the struggles. They get to see the fun times.
With reality shows, people wonder how true to life everything might be. Is Big Freedia really letting them get it the way it is?
Oh yeah, definitely, they're just following my life. They get it all. That's what it becomes. It's the real and it's not scripted. They just follow my life as I go, and you get to really see the good stuff.
You seem extremely comfortable in your own skin. Has that always been the case?
Actually, no. I used to get stage fright when I first started on my own. You know, I background danced for my friend Katey Red for about a year and a half, and then when I started on my own solo thing, the studio process was very easy because there wasn't anyone in the studio. But I was very shy at performing in front of an audience and I used to actually throw up every time. Being a performer, I knew I had to overcome that fear and I had to put that down and just do the best that I can do and be the best at it. You know, it was about practice, and now I'm very confident after 15 years of working a stage, to be able to perform in any space, for any audience, anywhere.
Where does Big Freedia come from? How did you get into all of this?
Well, I started in gospel music when I was really young, and that's my background. When I started background dancing for my best friend, Katy Red, in 1998, that lasted with me backgrounding her for about a year and a half, or almost two years. Then I started doing my own bounce music and stepping into the game and making a name for myself. One of my friends gave me the name Big Freedia. The "I" is silent, so you don't hear the "I." One of my best friends, they used to called me Big Freddie, so she was like, "Well, you need something more catchy. We gon' call you Freedia," and it just stuck with me since then. I made up names to go along with it, Freedia Queen Diva, Freedia Late-Night Creepa, Freedia Dick Eata. Just catchy little phrases that can rhyme and people will be shocked when they hear my name.
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What's a real evening of bounce? What is a show like with you at the helm?
Well, we bringin' New Orleans to Miami. We're bringin' the flavor of New Orleans, the spirit of New Orleans, the history, and the culture. People will get a chance to experience that. The wall should be sweaty, people will be sweating, the room should get thick and cloudy, and you will get the experience of the asses. It will be asstastic when we finish.
How has the recent popularity of twerking, spearheaded by Diplo and Miley Cyrus, affected the bounce scene and your own career?
Definitely, it has put a bigger spotlight on what I do and people trying to mimic what I do and the culture of New Orleans. I definitely have got a lot of attention from other people tapping into the culture, which makes it good for me and other producers out there definitely want to work with me and make things. That scene has made people aware of what I do. It was working in favor of me as well. I'm very happy with people expanding and giving it to the music even more.
Do you ever watch people try to twerk and just want to grab them and teach them what they're doing?
If there was anything you'd want to say to people about the culture, what is it? Is there anything important you think people are missing?
Well, when you come to a show, you have to experience it. That's what makes you connect with the music. It comes together when you see it live. You may not understand it when you see it on TV or if you hear about it, but if you come into the experience and you come into the room where I'm at, you will definitely get a chance to experience the whole movement and feel connected to it. Then you'll get a deeper understanding of the history of Bounce music.
Where in New Orleans can I get a taste of the real real?
It's all throughout New Orleans. People play it everywhere, all toot it, all in their cars, all of the clubs. You can't get by without playing Bounce music in New Orleans. People will not come to any event.
I love things that are really firmly rooted in community.
It's definitely a community thing, and it brings people together. The Bounce music, the spirit of it is at all of our cores. It's the happening music at the party, so they play the hip-hop and they playa little bit R&B, but when they put the Bounce music on, it's a different feel in the room, it's a different change. Everybody is dancing, everybody is having a good time. You can not get away without playing Bounce music in New Orleans.
You're the Queen of Bounce, but who else is carrying the torch out there?
Katey Red, Sissy Nobby, Keedy Black. There's many artists. Ms. Tee. There's so many of them. DJ Jubilee, Partners-N-Crime, Choppa Styles. There's tons of artists. They can Google "New Orleans Bounce music" and tons of artists will come up. They have new and up-and-coming artists. Fly Boy Keno, Hot Sizzle. They're all out there. A lot of 'em are working really hard but some of us are the torch carriers and some of us are the new generation.
When you come to Miami, who's coming with you?
Dancers, DJ. I'm not really sure how many yet, but between two and four.
Are you going to teach people something while you're here?
If time allows, but definitely throughout the show, they will learn some moves. I also have a moment where I engage with them and bring them on stage. Some people can come up and learn.
Are you looking forward to coming here?
Oh, I'm very excited. I love when I come to Miami. I came to Art Basel a couple of years ago. I'm excited just to be back in Miami. I love the feel, I love the heat, I love that feel there. We're all excited to be coming to Miami.
Any music or any other news we should look out for?
Oh yes, new album coming out, the new Freedia memoir coming out in 2015. I have a lot going on, writing a book, working on the TV show, working on the new album. Just be looking for Big Freedia because I ain't going nowhere.
Crossfade's Top Blogs
Big Freedia. Thursday, December 18. Bardot, 3456 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $15 to $20 plus fees via showclix.com. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-576-5570 or visit bardotmiami.com.
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.
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