Not too long ago, Big Freedia might have been considered a relative unknown outside her native New Orleans. Of course, there’d been a minor New Orleans bounce boom in the early 2010s when jack-of-all trades DJ Diplo dipped his toe into those murky waters with the late Nicky Da B on the revelatory “Express Yourself.” That genre-bending collaboration caused a surge of interest in the regional sound, but that interest eventually faded over time.
That is, until a spate of top-level superstars from across the hip-hop spectrum began to tap into the once-obscure style that had previously formed the foundation for the initial Dirty South rap boom of the late ‘90s led by Cash Money and No Limit Records. First Beyonce, then Drake, then more artists began to incorporate samples of N.O. bounce into a run of breakthrough hits that included “Formation,” “Nice For What,” and “In My Feelings.” When they needed the voice of authenticity, they tapped Messy Mya and, of course, bounce pioneer Big Freedia to lend that unmistakable Big Easy spice to their hit-making formulas.
Over the phone, Big Freedia was more than happy to speak about her lasting, recurrent impact on both the underground bounce scene and on mainstream pop culture while breaking down the song choices for her Pride Month Topsify playlist. Check out an edited and condensed version of the conversation below.
Let’s talk about why this playlist is so important to you.
I mean, my playlist, for me, is just to identify where I’m at during that time in the space that I’m in, and to just put people on what I’m on and what’s important to me at the time. So playlists change a lot and I try to keep up with what’s current and what moves me.
And how did Lizzo get on there?
That’s my girl. We wrote it together like that. We’ve been friends for over five years and we finally decided to do something together on her project and my project. I’m not sure when hers will come out, but Lizzo is just a great person. She’s an amazing spirit and she’s so fun to be around. We’ve done many things together and the song plays wonderfully into Pride. It’s a happy song.
Here’s one that might surprise some people: Big Tymers’ “Get Your Roll On.” Now, I feel like I know why Big Tymers made it onto the list, but why don’t you explain for the people why Big Tymers is important to you.
Well, it’s a New Orleans, Louisiana, down south thing, and I’m always repping my people and the culture. You know, Pride… everybody is getting they f*cking roll on. Everybody rolling around showing their pride, their true colors. It can go perfectly into it. All the songs don’t have to be specific to Pride vocabulary. It can also fit into the Pride movement of just having fun in expression.
Speaking of “true colors,” you’ve got Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” on here, you’ve got “Born This Way,” and then you’ve got some really more bounce-oriented, high-energy stuff. Was that a balance that you were looking for?
Definitely a balance of a playlist that can kind of shake up an audience. You can shake everybody there. That’s what Pride is about: There’s all walks of life in Pride, and there’s a little bit of something in there for everybody.
It might be that lesbian that want to hear something gangster, or that gay guy that want to hear something very flamboyant. Everybody wants to hear something a little bouncy, something that’s going to get the party all crunk. It’s just the little variety of different things that fit different audiences.
Well, the one song that I feel like hits every audience is Beyonce’s “Formation.” That was such a big movement when that song dropped. Could you describe what that song did as far as the culture and how that song did as far as your career? I think that may have been a lot of people’s first exposure to the Big Freedia experience.
It was a powerful meaning in the song. I was blessed to be a part of it and when I got the phone call, I died at home and came back to life, because Beyonce called me personally. When my publishers called and said that she wanted to talk to me, I was like, “Girl, why is you still on the phone?”
So that was a very life-changing moment for me for my career and for bounce in general, opening up doors for the culture and for bounce music. It definitely helped New Orleans in a whole lot of ways. It made other artists look at me and want to look at me. It also made other artists want to get exposure here, so it opened many doors and I’m very grateful for Beyonce.
So what’s your process for picking the perfect Freedia songs to go on this list that might be the first time somebody is hearing you?
I just think about where I’m at right now and what I’m pushing, and I speak it over with management and my publicist and we kind of put it together. So, it just really depends on what we’re pushing at the time and the direction that we’re going in.
Looking around at the political climate of our nation, it feels pretty awful and scary right now. What do you think is the function of something like Pride in this political climate? What can we hope that Pride can do as far as pushing back against this fearful climate that we’ve fallen into?
Well, the hope is that Pride can lighten everybody up and let them know that even through all the political bullsh*t we’re going through, we can still live our lives and we can still be happy, and choose to love who we love and be who we are, and that there is hope on the other side. That’s what Pride is: Being hopeful of all those things, showing who we are, and just being out there and doing what we love to do.
It’s spreading love. That’s the main thing, spreading love. Pride is about spreading love all around, and it’s not just with our homosexual friends and our lesbian friends, but it’s with our heterosexual friends as well. Showing love and letting them step into our world for a while.
Big Freedia is offering a chance to watch her perform from side stage at a Pride concert in New York’s Central Park. For more information, check out the sweepstakes here.
Big Freedia is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.