In her music video "Y'all Get Back Now," a Godzilla-size Big Freedia dances on the streets of New Orleans, sounding the call for the city's awestruck inhabitants to "shake for the money, bounce to the floor." And when a queen tells you to bounce, you bounce.
It's a fitting if somewhat silly visual representation of the way New Orleans bounce/pop musician and emcee Freddie Ross, aka Big Freedia—pronounced "Free-da"—aka the Queen Diva, aka the Queen of Bounce, has brought the city's previously underground genre of bounce music to the world. With her (the openly gay Freedia uses the "she" pronoun with her stage name, and "he" when he's Freddie) larger-than-life personality, charisma and passion for bounce, Big Freedia commands her subjects to leave their worries and inhibitions at the door and shake their troubles away.
Although it might seem like twerking—the type of dancing most commonly associated with bounce music—is the dance trend of the day, it isn't new. "Everybody wanna shake their asses now," Big Freedia says. "From Miley Cyrus to Jennifer Lopez to Iggy Azalea, everybody wanna twerk now. But we been shakin'. We been twerkin' a long time."
As the unofficial ambassador of bounce, Big Freedia's mission is to bring its beats and booty-shaking to the people, a role that she says is "a lot of hard work and dedication and havin' to network with a lot of people, so it's definitely a job. And I think I've been doing an awesome job at it."
Lately, part of that job has been touring in support of her debut full-length album, Just Be Free, which dropped in June. Musically, the album is unique, Big Freedia says, because it's the "first worldwide bounce album to go out to be clear," meaning not one note of the music or any of the beats are sampled from other artists' work, a common characteristic of bounce as well as her past work.
The album is personal to Big Freedia, who was inspired while writing and recording it by her mother, Vera Ross, who recently passed away, "and her hard struggle of going through what she went through with cancer and bein' so strong and still positive through it all," she says.
For that reason, Big Freedia says, the record was "a hard album to complete." But the messages found within—crystallized in the title Just Be Free—are ones of self-possession, confidence, self-expression and, of course, freedom.
"Be free to be who you are, be free to love who you love," Big Freedia says. "Be free to love, be free to express yourself through dance, be free to do whatever you choose to do."