Big Freedia, The Queen Diva, has long been synonymous with Bounce music. Hailing from New Orleans, Freedia has created a culture around herself and her music that exudes freedom. Being an ambassador for not only the urban New Orleans Bounce scene, but also for the LGBTQ community, Freedia surrounds herself with power, beauty and confidence. Fellow New Orleanian and tour-mate Alfred Banks says that growing up in the 504 forces one to, “be confident, be tough, [and to] persevere.” Freedia and her dancers, clad in matching neon camo outfits, are the physical embodiment of that fierce mentality exactly. Their tour represents a war against stereotypes and a campaign for freedom.
NOLA and Houston share a rich history together, and Big Freedia considers Houston her second home. However, not all cities on her 2019 tour are as open-minded at H-town. Banks recalls how some cities are not as receptive to the performers and their art, especially as it celebrates African-American and LGBTQ culture. He says sometimes the crowd, “gives you energy you don’t like,” but that you just have to keep going. This is the type of resilience that Big Freedia, her tour, and New Orleans stand for.
During the Houston show, for example, Big Freedia, her dancers, and her fans bounced dem cheeks for over half an hour on stage together, completely uninhibited by stereotypes or judgments. Freedia, acting as the shaman of the twerk tribe, continually hyped her fans up using ad libs like “drop,” “wobble” and “yaka,” encouraging them to express themselves in whatever way they saw fit — as long as it involved ass shaking. This is the type of energy she brings to the cities she visits regardless of the naysayers.
Newly inducted member of MidCitizen Entertainment, and opener to Freedia’s Houston show, Alfred Banks, has over a decade in the rap game. Repping Underdog Central, Alfred Banks easily connects with the crowd on the basis of hustle, impressing his listeners with his seamless and clever lyrical abilities. He is the type of artist who refuses defeat, and stands tall in his artistry —just like The Queen Diva herself. As a native New Orleanian, Banks has seen Bounce (a subgenre of Hip-hop) flourish from the streets of NOLA into a worldwide movement. When asked about the intersection between Hip-hop and Bounce, Banks said that the two have a lot in common in that “they utilize ‘call-and-response’” between the artist and audience. Banks notes how both genres share a rebel mentality and offer a form of escapism for the listener, but the difference is in the lyrical content. Bounce music is meant to keep you going, with less emphasis on storytelling and more focus on ass-shaking.
Big Freedia often speaks on the power of music and how it acts as a vehicle to understand the world around us. During her performances, Freedia places the focus fully on her fans. The crowd becomes a collective. Banks says he looks up to Freedia for that reason: She always cultivates a safe haven for her fans to “do [their] thang and be 1000 percent [themselves]” to release themselves from the constraints of society and dance until they can’t anymore. Like the city of Houston itself, Freedia’s concerts are an environment where anything is possible and you can truly embrace yourself. This is the magic of her tour: creating a space for people to just be free, if only for a couple of hours.
For someone who is not familiar with Bounce music, give it a chance. It’s fun, it’s unique, and it’ll always get the party started. Listen to some of the Queen Diva’s biggest hits, like “Azz Everywhere” or “Explode” to understand her urban New Orleans influence. And if you already know, then you know. Big Freedia is not only a symbol of Bounce, but a mindset. She’s the purveyor of freedom of expression, self-love and inclusion. There’s still time to catch her on tour this summer as well. She’ll be performing next in her hometown during Jazz Fest with fellow New Orleans artists. So, get your tickets while you can, JUST BE FREE, and don’t forget your booty shorts.
Sunday, May 12: Birmingham, AL
Saturday, May 18: Long Beach, CA
Friday, May 31: Morrison, CO
Friday, June 21: San Francisco, CA
Sunday, July 7: New Orleans, LA