Big Freedia on Being in Her Own Lane, the Difference Between Shows in L.A. and New Orleans, and Flipping Postal Service Fans' Heads Out
Big Freedia plays the Independent Friday, Nov. 15.
By RYAN RITCHIE
For the uninitiated, Big Freedia is the queen of bounce music, which is known for its high-energy beats and repetitious call-and-response lyrics. In particular, Freedia's known for ass-shaking live shows that include songs such as "Gin In My System," "Y'all Get Back Now," and, of course, "Azz Everywhere." It doesn't matter if you know these songs or not -- you can show up to a performance, not know any of the words and walk out of the club repeating the lines, "I got this gin in my system/Somebody gonna be my victim" like you've known it since third grade. And then there are the dancers, whose bent-over, ass-in-the-air moves are the greatest live act since Barnum met Bailey.
Now, because of her reality show on Fuse, "Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce," Freedia isn't just the world's best known bounce artist, she's on the verge of becoming a household name. That said, television didn't make Big Freedia -- because Big Freedia was a star long before TV came a-knockin'. If you want to know why, simply go to the Independent Friday, Nov. 15. We (meaning our biggest Freedia-superfan of a writer) caught up with the Queen herself a few days before the show to hear about what it's like to be bounce music royalty.
Why are you so awesome?
Just being myself, not trying to sugarcoat anything, being naturally me. That's what makes me the person I am. I don't try to hide anything. I do things as they come towards me and try to be the best person I can be, be social with everybody. I really work hard and I put a lot of dedication into what I do. This is my craft and I want to take it as far as it can go, take it to the stars. I put a lot of effort and time and thinking and skills and creativity into my career, myself and into the culture of New Orleans to make it happen.
Would you say you're the artist representing bounce music right now?
Oh, most definitely. I'm on the forefront. I am bounce right now.
Is a bounce show different in New Orleans than other cities?
Everybody in New Orleans is so familiar with me, they know all of my lyrics front to back. They've been there for so long they just know what to do. They're going to be screaming and hollering and jumping...you know, all of that on the floor. They might not be all standing in the audience like an L.A. show or whatever. The girls are bent over. You'll see the majority of the crowd bent over.
Have you ever had a problem with bringing people on stage? Has anyone ever fallen off?
I've had people fall off stage before, but I'm really good with crowd control and getting people on stage. Sometimes, some of the festivals be really assholes [sic] and don't want to let anybody up. But me engaging my audience is a Freedia show. I fight for that a lot. Sometimes I break the rules and I let people up because that's what it is, you know? But nobody's ever got really hurt where they had to go to the hospital or anything like that, thank God. I don't want that to ever happen. But I've felt like stages were about to cave in with the people I brought up. Shaking and vibrating like crazy. I was just on a stage in Durham and I was like, "Lord, please don't let the stage cave in."
How are the crowds since the tour has been going on for a few weeks?
Awesome. They're bigger, they know the lyrics, they're requesting certain songs they saw on the show. People feel like they're more connected to me now when they come to the shows. The people who've been supporting me before the show really feel connected. A lot of people said, "I never had cable. Girl, I got cable cuz of you."
I love that your mom is a part of it.
That was a chance to open another door to inspire people going through that situation. My mom's sick. She's going through all of her trying times. I'm having some really rough times being away from home, not being there to be with my mom. I want to be able to be a role model, to inspire people to go as far as you can go. Never give up on your family and things you're trying to accomplish in life.
What's your mom's status?
It's up and down. She's been through so much. She don't want to take any more chemo. It's a lot. It's really rough. I don't wish it on nobody, not even my worst enemy, and I don't have any of them that I know of.
What does the rest of the hip-hop community think about you and/or bounce?
I'll be honest with you -- I really don't know and it really doesn't bother me because I'm in my own lane and bounce is in its own lane. I'm happy with what I do and how I do it, so when I don't get any response from other hip-hop artists, it's not nothing that bothers me. I'm not worrying, "What's he think?" I just have to keep on doing what I have to do for me and for bounce.
What were your thoughts going into the Postal Service tour? What did you think when it was over?
Going into it, I thought, "Wow. I'm really excited they chose me to be a part of this. I don't know how these fans are going to react because it's a new audience for me, but I know I'm about to pick up some fans regardless. Some people will love it in that audience." Once I started doing the shows, I was flipping their heads out. I had mouths dropping and I was excited about it. I was like, "I'm about to shake this dance floor up. The critics are going to be talking and I'm going to just keep busting my ass and shake it up." And that's what I did. It wasn't like the fans were booing us or anything. When you're the opening act, it feels like, "Well, I need to get them really wound up before the big dog comes." Whatever it is, I bring it every time.