Big Freedia, the Queen Diva of Bounce, has done more than any other artist to bring the unmistakable New Orleans hip-hop sound to the world. His output is as unrelenting as the bounce beat, with singles, EPs, videos, all-star collaborations, LGBTQ rights advocacy, and a reality television show now entering its sixth season.
Born Freddie Ross Jr. in Central City, Freedia grew up in the 1980s and ‘90s walking distance from the Melpomene housing projects, a.k.a., the Guste Apartments. That’s where Katey Red — the transgendered woman MC and bounce music pioneer — lived. As young, gay, black residents of a tough neighborhood, they had a lot in common. But perhaps their strongest bond was in music. As a teenager, Freddie, a.k.a. “Big Freddie,” began performing with Katey Red in clubs around New Orleans and even appeared on her 1999 release, Melpomene Block Party.
But a future in bounce required Freedia to step away from pursuing a career in gospel music, which had been a possibility. In his 2016 memoir, Freedia said his work with the Pressing Onward Baptist Church choir and in various choirs around New Orleans only fed his deepening interest in all kinds of music. Bounce won during Freedia’s early years. But he tells Gwen that 2018 may be the year when bounce and gospel meet again.
“I’m not going to give you too much, but next year in 2018 you will see a difference on stage for me. Something new that I’m bringing that has never been done… You know, even just taking the sound of the Bounce and doing a gospel album on top of it and for a whole different audience. The children that is still in church. The older people who love up-tempo beats. Something totally different that has never been done.”
All hail the Queen Diva!