You could call Freddie Ross, who performs as Big Freedia, the Louis Armstrong of bounce music, helping bring mainstream attention to the style of what’s been knocking around New Orleans since at least the ’90s —maybe even earlier, according to some — a lot like Armstrong did with New Orleans’ jazz in the early 20th century.
Bounce blends elements of hip hop and drag culture with the rhythm and pulse of New Orleans’ long musical history, and Freedia’s song “Gin in My System” is one of the most recognizable songs in the style. It offers bounce music’s trademark call ‘n’ response structure, Mardi Gras atmosphere, dance call-outs and Freedia’s voice, big and round, with a flow recalling early hip-hop emcees like Grandmaster Flash.
When asked to describe bounce on Fuse Magazine’s YouTube channel, Freedia called it “heavy music, ass-shaking music” that’s “simple” and “up-tempo.”
Freedia’s last full-length studio record, Third Ward Bounce, came out in 2018. The song “Third Ward Bounce featuring Erica Falls” is a big love letter to New Orleans, written straight from the heart of the city’s more-disadvantaged communities. “We do it for the N.O.,” Freedia raps before Falls picks up the hook, singing “Ain’t No Place like New Orleans.”
Along the way, Freedia — also an actor, author and reality TV star — has become an outspoken advocate and icon for gay culture in the African American community. Performing in drag, Freedia identifies as homosexual rather than transgender, but does use the pronoun “she,” as Freedia told Out magazine in 2013.
This year, Freedia appeared on the Kesha’s single “Raising Hell,” a club banger mixing bounce and gospel with pop music, Kesha playing the role of a big-hearted party girl who’s learned her lesson.
“Doing my best, bitch, I’m blessed,” she sings, before Freedia commands us to “drop it down low.” ν
Big Freedia performs with Low Cut Connie and Boyfriend 9 pm Saturday, Nov. 16, at WOW Hall; $25 advance, $27 door, all-ages.