New Orleans artist Big Freedia is irrepressible. A product of the Crescent City’s incredibly diverse music scene, Freedia accessorizes with fabulous hair, makeup, and handbags, and spits explicit and often hilarious lyrics about sex, drugs, dancing and fun.
Freedia, whose given name is Freddy Ross, helped bring to prominence the local rap/funk/freak musical genre known as Bounce, as part of a glorious coterie of queer rappers including Sissy Nobby and Katey Red. These artists featured machine-gun beats, twerking booty-dancers, and indelible costumes. But Freedia’s origin story is a bit more conventional.
“Like a lot of artists, I started out as a singer in my church choir when I was a child,” Freedia says about her start in the music world. “Then when I was in my 20s, my best friend Katey Red starting performing at clubs and when she asked me to back her up, I was in. Soon, we were performing almost every night of the week and getting calls from promoters in Houston. It just grew from there.”
Freedia has produced numerous mix-tapes, and four studio albums, and just dropped a single with famed NOLA DJ and producer Mannie Fresh. Her music has appeared on soundtracks for movies like Office Christmas Party, Bad Santa 2, Entourage, and Endless Love. She’s performed with The Postal Serivce, Matt & Kim, Galactic, and, of course, RuPaul (you remember, “Peanut Butter,” right?) She provided voiceover for Beyonce’s “Formation” video and world tour. And you should be thrilled to learn that she has a top-rated reality show on Fuse, now called Big Freedia Bounces Back, which will be returning to air tonight (Sept. 12) for an all-new season.
“I just signed a deal with a record label, so my next goal is to make some really ground breaking music,” Freedia says about her upcoming plans. “I’ll be announcing the juicy details about this in coming weeks, but this next year is all about me and my music.”
The show covers Freedia’s career and growing appeal out on the road, but gains its heart from tracking her many challenges, including the illness and death of her mother, her up and down relationship with her boyfriend Devon, and her legal battles and court-ordered spell in a halfway house for failing some court-ordered drug tests. This is a lot of drama.
“I draw my strength from my mom, who passed away a few years ago,” Freedia says of how she gets through all of these struggles. “She taught me from the day I was just a little boy to never give up and be proud of who I am. That, and my faith in God.”
Big Freedia’s show, and life, isn’t all issues. There is also a lot of ass shaking. “Of course, Bounce is all about the dance moves,” Freedia says. “We have new dancers this season too, and they are lit. We are taking this to a whole new level.”