Big Freddia: a love letter
She’s black and beautiful and sings songs of empowerment. No, not Beyonce´.
Big Freedia is my Beyonce´.
Before the Beygency gets me, let me explain. Big Freedia, the stage name attached to the persona created by New Orleans native Freddie Ross, is simultaneously the embodiment of freedom and self-definition.
Self-creation is a distinctly American tradition, and we, as Americans, love a good self-reinvention. It’s what made a homely farm girl transform into Marilyn Monroe, and it’s what made a little boy who listened to RUN DMC and Patti LaBelle with his mother transform into Big Freedia Queen Diva, the reigning queen of bounce, which is less than a genre and more of an experience.
Bounce, like Big Freedia, could only have been made in the crescent city, which accepts and encourages oddity among its denizens. Like New Orleans, the beauty of bounce is its immersiveness. You can’t passively enjoy a bounce song; you must do as the genre implies and move. She gets you to do that within seconds of her first official release, “Just Be Free.”
The album opens with “Turn Da Beat Up,” and features the call-and-response lyrics bounce is known for paired with a drum machine designed to accelerate your heart rate in record speed. She can’t wait any longer. She’s ready for you now, even if you aren’t ready for her.
If a 6-foot post-gender screamer/singer/rapper tells you to turn da beat up, you’re going to do it. Her vocals are dubbed and layered, sounding like a sonic assault on the senses. It will make you wake the f*ck up.
It’s impossible to be sad while listening to “Just Be Free.” There are no woe-is-me ballads to offset the lightning-fast beats. There is no low to complement the high. You just don’t come down.
On my favorite cut, “Ol’ Lady,” Big Freedia addresses the thots who are jealous of her by placing herself at the top of the female food chain: “I’m the ol’ lady / I’m the ol’ lady” she repeats. “cause you have his baby / bitch is you crazy?” By the time she replaces “I’m the ol’ lady” with “I’m the first lady” you kind of really wish she was.
Big Freedia, like New Orleans, represents new beginnings, and just shutting up and having a good time. As she says on the track “Explode,” she wants you to “release ya anger / release ya mind/ release ya job / release the time / release the trade / release the stress / release the love / forget the rest.” The chorus is the simple command to #releaseyourwiggle, and it’s one of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard, but I could say that about any track on this record.
“Explode” is the first single because Queen Diva knows she’s about to do just that: explode. She’s going to do it whether or not America is ready for her, which is the mark of all great self-created entities. They don’t wait for you to be ready. They make you want to get ready.
She said it best herself in her intro to the “Explode” music video: “I am more than just Big Freedia. I am more than just Queen Diva. I am more than just Freddie Ross. I am me.”