Live Review: Big Freedia


Hackney on a shitty Monday is the last place you’d expect to find New Orleans Bounce. But that’s not stopping Big Freedia.

“I got that gin in my fist yo” Freedia hollers at the crowd

 “Somebody’s gonna be my victim” we yell back- after some tuition. The beat kicks in, and the place goes mental, again.

Big Freedia

Shouts to my buddy Mista Maker for actually having a phone to take this picture on. I am the least prepared journalist in town.

Freedia is the reigning champion of sissy bounce, a sub genre of a sub genre. Bounce itself is the raucous New Orleans rendition of rap. As Bmore has the Think and Sing Sing breaks, and Jungle the Amen and Apache, so Bounce is almost entirely based a single, crazed, snare heavy breakbeat, known as the Triggaman. In the hands of Bounce artists, the rigid kick snare of the Triggaman sounds like the hardest parts of Public Enemy, minus the social conscience, plus ass shaking. When you hear the music in its raw, live splendour, not dancing is only an option for the physically or spiritually deceased.

Sissy bounce is the high camp version of the genre that has come to the fore in New Orleans – the way local producer Mannie Fresh tells it, the city has a long tradition of acceptance at odds with the rest of the rap game. Whilst mainstream hip hop is still trying to work out whether it can handle Frank Ocean admitting to having loved a man, New Orleans has been accepting queer rappers for years, so the ascent of a group of sissy bounce acts has been fairly painless on a local level – the style being accepted as bounce with a bit more flounce. 

So here’s Freedia, 6 foot something, in a dip dyed wig, on stage, werking it. She’s come with two dancers, a skinny guy with a wild pink green Fro-hawk and a thick, booty shorted girl with some serious flexibility. From the off the DJ drops beats that sound like a shattered apocalypse. Sirens wail, snippets of recognisable sample fight to be heard – a snatch of Bill Hailey, a couple of bass hits from the Nicki Minaj track Truffle Butter, all of it stomped on by the ferocious beat and Freedia's near operatic tones. Let up doesn’t happen. The trio grind and twerk and everyone in the venue is hyped in seconds.

Freedia’s secret is simple, old fashioned showmanship. Bounce is a one dimensional sound : banging beat, wild-up samples, shouting. The fact that Freedia keeps this entertaining for an hour is in itself remarkable. First of all the crowd are exhorted to call and respond, then half an hour in, she’s dragging bodies onto stage. After a life time of watching black women twerk, white men and women are being coerced into doing the same. And as 10 audience members convoluted their batty, sheepish at first, but with increasing vigour, I learnt that, as a nation, by and large we’ve got a way to go when it comes to ass shaking.

Remarkably, it didn’t matter. By the end of her set Freedia had convinced an entire club to shake the monkey. The whole room was touching it’s toes and twitching backsides, a bountiful, joyous sea of arse. Freedia was belting out ‘ass everywhere ass everywhere’ and, yep, there it was.  As reversals go it was sick- the floor turned into the stage, objectification replaced with inclusion. The good vibes were spilling sideways, everyone had the pie eyed look of a punch drunk dancer, and as Freedia asked if we wanted one more, the room roared YASSSS. 

A hands down (booty up) triumph. Here's hoping Big Freedia comes again. Cause if it gets this crazy on a Monday night, Christ knows how this would have gone off on a weekend…