Big Freedia is busy- almost too busy to take this call. That’s forgivable, given that she’s coordinating the national roll out of bounce music, the high-energy club sound of New Orleans. After she was the subject of a career making style piece in The New York Times, Freedia started working on the level that fills up a day. She’s gone from hustling shows where she could find them to playing sold-out halls, offering lectures and classes in the finer points of bounce, and blowing the mind of a likely unsuspecting Jimmy Kimmel. Freedia is currently playing select shows across the country, prepping her new mixtape, and dropping little hints that there might be some more television in her future.
How are you living in the first part of 2012?
There have been a lot of blessings. I made Jimmy Kimmel live and got some national exposure, so I’m very happy with the first part of the year. It has been a one long blessing out here.
To start off, let’s put the “sissy bounce” thing to bed one and for all. You’ve talked a little bit about this, but explain why the term shouldn’t be used.
All of the rappers in New Orleans are not gay rappers. We don’t separate it at home. It’s just called bounce music. We don’t divide ourselves on the basis of who we are; we want to feel like a big family. There’s lots of love and we want to keep it that way. That’s why we don’t use the term “sissy bounce,” and that’s the way it is. It’s a New Orleans thing.
For someone interested in bounce, where is a good starting point?
Meaning if you’re interested in finding out about it or musically getting into it?
Well, you’re the face of bounce right now, but what are the next steps?
There are a lot of us right now. If people want to look us up, we’re all out there. We’re just as close as the Internet. I am the face of it, because I take a chance on things and putting a little money back into my own self to make sure that I am out there, you know? But bounce is as close as your computer.
But you really have to see it live, right? Does bounce translate to a recorded medium?
Well it does, but you have to see it live to get it all the way across. Put the song with the show, and you’ll get the true feel of it.
If Big Freedia is coming to your town, how should you prepare?
You should prepare yourself to have a good time, watch some of my videos on YouTube, and put on something comfortable.
You’ve been out on the road a lot lately, but how is New Orleans doing? To what degree has the music scene come back?
The music scene is still buzzing down in New Orleans, and it’s going strong. You know after Katrina, it actually helped us out. We were able to spread our music out a little further, and that’s the joy of it all. It helped us grow.
As we move into the post-Katrina years, how far has New Orleans been able to come back to what it once was?
I would say about eighty percent. We have all types of music jumping off every night of the week. I would say definitely eighty percent.
Your major exposure came from a piece in The New York Times. How did that article come about?
Somebody came down to New Orleans to look me up. I actually did a show in New York, and they came down and found me and did the piece on us. It was my story, and it went from there.
Did that change your life in any great way?
I was in The New York Times. It was big buzz in New Orleans and in New York and on the music scene. People all of a sudden knew who I was, people found out about me that never would have known, and there was just the kind of mainstream exposure that I had never had before.
Did you get any negative vibes from people over the article?
No. None at all.
But you’re being made the face of bounce. Not everybody’s going to be happy.
There are haters out there, but I don’t entertain all of that. If there’s any negative aspect of it, it comes to me directly, and that’s fine.
Hating doesn’t register with Freedia?
Not at all. I have to keep on moving. I don’t have time for that kind of thing.
You’ve started giving bounce classes and lectures before your shows. How is that important for your music?
I think it’s important for people to know about the culture and history of music, in particular bounce music, in New Orleans. I think it’s also important that people learn to shake their asses correctly. It’s fun and it’s a way that I connect with my fans and share a genuine experience with them. It’s my music and my culture, and people are coming out to take a class from me on the subject. It’s an honor; a great honor. Trust me.
You think that bounce can be a bridge between cultures.
Maybe tell me a little bit about that.
Me being a black gay artist and performing for people from all walks of life provides the bridge. We can all party together and have a good time and not worry about the color of our skin or whatever else is going on. It’s just a big fun party, and that’s my main goal. We come together to party, but really we’re one community united under one roof. We jam. It’s not about race or sexuality. I pull everybody to my parties. That’s very important to me.
Mainstream rap often contains some very homophobic imagery. How do you feel about that?
To each his own; it doesn’t bother me. The rappers should slack up with it some, and I feel like some times when there are such homophobic things going on in their songs, it must be always on their minds; maybe they’re the ones with the problem. You know what I’m saying?
There was a story going around Jay-Z giving up the word “bitch.” Would you like to see that kind of language dropped from the conversation?
Would rap still be good without it?
I would have to say yes. People focus on the lyrics of rappers, and the words that they use. It plays a big part in our community and every day life, and people try to emulate what they hear in songs. Of course it would be better for them to take that sort of language out of their music.
What’s next for Big Freedia?
I’m getting ready to release my new mixtape, shooting some videos, and there will be some steady touring, and then getting ready for another tour that I have scheduled. Just working. That’s all I can do- try to stay focused and keep steady work.
What about a reality show?
We’re working on it.
Yeah, I can’t say anything about it right now, but when the time comes we’ll let you know. It’s close.