Big Freedia (pronounced "FREE-da") is one of the best known ambassadors of bounce music, a subcategory of hip hop that started in the streets in New Orleans in the 1990's.
That fact that Freedia is a gay man who uses female pronouns doesn't affect her popularity in the hip hop community. In fact, her sexuality is part of what packs the clubs for every one of her shows.
It's All About The Beat
For the uninitiated, Freedia says you can tell bounce music by the beat. "The sound of it is different from anything else that's out there," she says. This up-tempo, heavy bass party music also has a call-and-response aspect to it.
If you need more to grab onto than just the beat, listen to the underlying harmony. This distinctive hook is pulled from the 1986 song "Triggaman" by the Showboys, which in turn sampled the four-note theme from the television program "Dragnet."
She adds that the incessant clapping heard in many bounce tunes is thanks to the group Cheeky Blakk.
Together Through Music
Big Freedia is one of many gay and transgender musicians making waves in the bounce scene. It all started twelve years ago with a performance by drag queen Katey Red. Since then, queer artists like Sissy Nobby, Chev off the Ave, and Vockah Redu are the "hardest working artists on the scene," according to Freedia.
This influx has led some to categorize this specific flavor of bounce as "sissy bounce," a term she dislikes.
It's not the word sissy that bothers her - she's gay and proud of it. It's the fact that bounce music shouldn't be splintered into factions.
"No one says it's split up into two different sections, sissy bounce and heterosexual bounce," she say. "We don't split it up here in New Orleans. We all love each other, and it's all bounce music at the end of the day."
A World Of Bounce
Her summer schedule will take her all over the country to clubs in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Phoenix, and Denver, and over to Europe for shows in Stockholm, Amsterdam, and Paris.
There's a universality to bounce music that even Freedia never expected.
"What amazes me is that (audiences) get it before I even get there. I'm trying to teach it to them but they already know it, and that blows my mind."