Free Press Summer Fest

Big Freedia: The Queen Diva of Bounce Music

Hip-hop, like any other form of music, is subject to localization. Different cities have different scenes with different sounds and different superstars. These scenes go largely underappreciated in the mainstream until a local hero makes good or the sound becomes too big to ignore.

Like the San Francisco Bay's hyphy and Houston's chopped and screwed, New Orleans has its own brand of localized hip-hop. It should come as no surprise that the style is characterized by many of the things we typically associate with that city, plus Mardi Gras: Call-and-response shouting, fast beats and a big emphasis on sexy dancing. When you see the amount of ass-shaking going on, you start to get an idea of why they call it bounce music.

This weekend bounce returns to Houston via Free Press Summer Fest. And while producers like Diplo incorporate bounce into their sonic palette, there is one artist performing this weekend who flies the banner of bounce higher than anyone else: the Queen Diva of Bounce, Big Freedia.

When asked about what she's working toward, Big Freedia makes it pretty clear: "My next big goal is to keep trying to make bounce music mainstream."

Rocks Off caught up with Freedia the day before she hit the road for her current series of summer shows across the nation. It's a tour that'll take her from coast to coast spreading the gospel of bounce that has already included a headlining slot on the Beach Party Stage at Bamboozle and later features a late-night slot at Bonnaroo.

Taking a new sound to an audience of strangers at a show like Summer Fest might freak some artists out. A festival veteran, including a couple of classic performances at Austin's Fun Fun Fun Fest, Freedia understands the importance of playing shows to new audiences.

"It's always exciting. It's another chance to go out and pick up more fans," says Freedia. "I'm not intimidated, but it's definitely a challenge. It's definitely important to venture out into new venues."

Freedia should find the Summer Fest crowd welcoming. Texas is right next door to her home state, and she says she gets lots of love in Austin, Dallas and here in Houston.

The challenge is taking bounce and getting it past the regional level and into the mainstream, but bounce artists like Freedia may not have much further to go in their mission. Plenty of people have already suggested that bounce might be the next big sound, and Freedia is already seeing interest in her music pick up.

"I'm getting tons of media and interview requests. I'm getting lots of calls from people wanting to work with me," she says. "We're on the verge of something big."

There's more to Big Freedia than just the current tour. Although her primary focus is on finishing up her next album and doing shows here and overseas, she's also got her hand in a few other projects, including the movie Bounce Queen with other bounce superstars like Katey Red and Sissy Nobby.

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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia