Big Freedia

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Big Freedia
Big Freedia in 2014
Background information
Birth nameFreddie Ross
Born (1978-01-28) January 28, 1978
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States[1]
Years active1999–present
LabelsAsylum Records
Associated acts

Freddie Ross[2] (born on January 28, 1978) is an American musician best known by the stage name Big Freedia (/ˈfrdə/ FREE-də) and for work in the New Orleans genre of hip hop called bounce music. Freedia has been credited with helping popularize the genre, which was largely underground since developing in the early 1990s.[3]

Freedia started singing in the choir of her neighborhood Baptist church, Pressing Onward M.B.C., and started her professional performance career around 1999. In 2003, she released the studio album Queen Diva.[4]

She first gained mainstream exposure in 2009, and her 2010 album Big Freedia Hitz Vol. 1 was re-released on Scion A/V in March 2011, as well as a number of music videos.[5]

Freedia has been featured in publications such as Village Voice and New York Times, and has performed on Last Call with Carson Daly, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and at SXSW, where she received a positive review from Rolling Stone. In 2011 she was named Best Emerging Artist and Best Hip-Hop/Rap Artist in January's "Best of the Beat Awards,"[6] and was nominated for the 2011 22nd GLAAD Media Awards.[7]

In 2013, she got her own reality show on the Fuse Channel, which chronicles her life on tour and at home. On July 7, 2015, she released her autobiography God Save The Queen Diva.

At the end of 2016 Freedia was featured in a local New Orleans television ad for the Juan LaFonta Law Office, in which she is shown rapping with bounce music and dancers.

Shhe continues to release new music, with the 2018 EP, Third Ward Bounce.

Early life

Freddie Ross was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a child, Freedia took piano and sang in choir,[8] and has said music was always a part of her life. Her mother exposed her to artists such as Patti LaBelle, and she was also influenced by the late disco singer Sylvester, Michael Jackson, and Salt-n-Pepa.[9]

She attended Walter L. Cohen High School, where she continued to perform in choir and also became the choir director. This experience made her realize she could write and produce.[9] According to Ross, she initially suffered from stage-fright, and had to coax herself onto stage until she became comfortable performing.[9]

In 1998, a young drag queen by the name of Katey Red performed bounce music at a club near the Melpomene Projects where Ross grew up. Ross, who had grown up four blocks away from Katey Red, began performing as a backup dancer and singer in Red's shows.[10] In 1999, Katey Red released Melpomene Block Party on the city's leading bounce label, Take Fo Records.[11] Freedia adopted her stage name after a friend dubbed her "Freedia" (pronounced "Freeda"). According to Ross, "I wanted a catchy name that rhymed, and my mother had a club called Diva that I worked for. I called myself the queen of diva – so I coined it: Big Freedia Queen Diva."[9]

Music career

Early years

In 1999, Freedia released her first single, "An Ha, Oh Yeah," and began performing frequently in clubs and other venues in New Orleans. Other local hits included "Rock Around the Clock" and "Gin 'N My System," which was later quoted by Lil Wayne on a mix tape. She released her first studio album, Queen Diva, in 2003.[5][11][12]

Freedia was often described as an artist within the "sissy bounce" subgenre,[13] though she had stated "there's no such thing as separating it into straight bounce and sissy bounce. It's all bounce music."[14] About her popularity with women at live shows, music journalist Alison Fensterstock wrote, "When Freedia or Sissy Nobby's singing superaggressive, sexual lyrics about bad boyfriends or whatever, there's something about being able to be the 'I’ in the's tough to sing along about bitches and hoes when you're a girl. When you identify with Freedia, you're the agent of all this aggressive sexuality instead of its object."[10]

Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, and Freedia, along with other bounce artists such as Katey Red and Freedia's protege Sissy Nobby, were forced to vacate the city. Freedia settled for several months in Texas, where she began performing bounce shows for the locals, helping spread awareness of the genre like other displaced bounce artists. She moved back to New Orleans at the first opportunity. According to Freedia, "The first club that reopened in New Orleans was Caesar's, and they called me immediately and said let's do a regular night with you here. So we started FEMA Fridays. It was the only club open in the city, and a lot of people had a lot of money from Katrina, the checks and stuff, so the joy inside that club – I don't think that'll ever come back."[11]

She played six to ten shows a week at block parties, nightclubs, strip clubs, and other venues while the city recuperated.[11] According to Fensterstock, "Freedia was one of the first artists to come back after the storm and start working, and she worked really, really hard. If you lived here, it became impossible not to know who she was."[10]

Mainstream exposure

Freedia first began to gain national exposure after a 2009 fest-closing gig with Katey Red and Sissy Nobby at the Bingo Parlour Tent and the 2009 Voodoo Experience.[11] On January 18, 2010, she self-released the album Big Freedia Hitz Vol. 1 on Big Freedia Records.[7] The album was a collection of previously performed singles from 1999 to 2010.[11]

In March 2010 she was booked for a showcase of New Orleans bounce music at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, but cancelled after an injury. She signed to the Windish Agency afterwards, and booked a summer tour.[11] Along with Katey Red, Cheeky Blakk, and Sissy Nobby, she was a guest on the May 2010 album Ya-ka-may by funk band Galactic.[10] She joined the band for several gigs, and the album peaked at #161 on the US Billboard Chart.[15]

In May 2010, Freedia began touring with DJ Rusty Lazer and a team of "bootydancers," along with pop band Matt & Kim.[11] She performed at Hoodstock in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn in May 2010, and afterwards was written up in the Village Voice.[12] She performed for contemporary art mogul Jeffrey Deitch at Basel Miami and at New York's MoMa art museum.[11] Upon returning to New Orleans, she was pursued by a New York journalist and was featured in The New York Times on July 22, 2010.[10] She continued to tour throughout the United States, and in Fall 2010 had her first national television appearance on the Last Call with Carson Daly.[11] In October 2010, the New Orleans Times-Picayune called her an "overnight sensation".[11]

In 2011 Freedia was named Best Emerging Artist and Best Hip-Hop/Rap Artist in January's "Best of the Beat Awards." Big Freedia Hitz Vol. 1 was nominated by the 22nd GLAAD Media Awards in 2011.[7] The album was re-released on Scion A/V in March 2011, along with a number of music videos.[5] She also won an MTV 0 Award in 2012 for "Too Much Ass for TV."[16]

She appeared on HBO's Treme, a drama following residents of New Orleans as they try to rebuild after Katrina.[9] She performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on January 25, 2012.[9] Her performance at SXSW in 2012 was reviewed by Rolling Stone as "Probably this writer's favorite SXSW set."[17]

Freedia toured with The Postal Service in 2013, opening for the band at numerous venues throughout July and August.[18]

In 2013, music television channel Fuse aired the first season of Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, a reality show chronicling Freedia's growing mainstream attention and life back in New Orleans. During publicity for the show, Freedia led a crowd of hundreds in New York City to set the Guinness World Record for twerking. The second season of the show aired in 2014 and followed her mother Vera Ross's battle with cancer, which she lost on April 1, 2014, while Freedia was away doing a show. Freedia immediately flew back to New Orleans and planned a jazz funeral through the streets of the city, which the show aired.[19] The show has now been airing for six seasons, was expanded from 30 minutes to an hour, and is now called Big Freedia Bounces Back.[20]

On July 31, 2014, Freedia headlined "4th Year Anniversary of Bounce" at Republic, as well as the next year's event at the same venue.[21][22]

The book, Big Freedia: God Save the Queen Diva!, written by the "gay, self-proclaimed mama's boy who exploded onto the formerly underground Bounce music scene" along with Nicole Balin, was released July 2015.[23][24]

On February 6, 2016, Beyoncé released a surprise single, "Formation", and an accompanying music video, filmed in New Orleans, which sampled speech from Messy Mya and Big Freedia. Freedia is heard saying, "I did not come to play with you hoes, haha. I came to slay, bitch! I like cornbread and collard greens, bitch! Oh yas, you besta believe it," in the music video.[25]

Beyoncé also uses Freedia's voice to open her 2016 "Formation" World Tour. Freedia says, "Oh Miss Bey, I know you came to slay! Give them hoes what they came to see. Baby, when I tell you, I’m back by popular demand. I did not come to play with you hoes. I came to slay, bitch! Oh yes, you best believe it, I always slay. You know I don't play!"[26]

Artist, like Beyoncé and Drake promoting Big Freedia have been criticized for using Big Freedia's voice but leaving her completely visually absent from their videos. However,in a 2018 interview with Wendy Williams Freedia said she was out of the country doing a show. Therefore she could not be in the formation video with Beyonce.



Recent Work

In August 2016, The Fader premiered the "big room banger", "Marie Antoinette feat. Big Freedia", a song by New Orleans-based artist Boyfriend (rapper).[29] In December 2016, Big Freedia released A Very Big Freedia Christmazz which she also collaborated on with Boyfriend (rapper) who co-produced and co-wrote 4 songs on the EP.[30]

On September 2017, Big Freedia released the single, "Dive" which featured rapper Mannie Fresh, who is also from New Orleans. They decided to work together after Fresh appeared on her show, Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce.[31]

"Make It Jingle" is part of the track list for the rhythm music game Just Dance 2018,[32] as well as the song's inclusion on the Office Christmas Party soundtrack.[33]

In April 2018, Drake’s new song "Nice for What" features Big Freedia's introduction on the track.[34]

After signing her first major record deal with Asylum Records, Freedia released the first single off her June 1 EP, Third Ward Bounce. The song, entitled "Rent" was also available as a music video.[35]

Personal life

Freedia operates an interior design business whose clients included the administration of Ray Nagin when he was the mayor of New Orleans.[11]

Freedia has stated "I am not transgendered (sic); I am just a gay male... I wear women's hair and carry a purse, but I am a man. I answer to either 'he' or 'she'."[36] However, she said in a 2013 interview with Out that her preferred pronoun is "she".[3] In 2015, an interviewer asked Freedia about how "Everyone either knows (or quickly learns) to use the feminine pronoun when referring to you".[37]

In 2016, Freedia was indicted on charges of theft of government funds after she failed to report her income earnings between 2010 and 2014 while still claiming Section 8 housing benefits.[38] Later that year, she pled guilty to all charges. She was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay $35,000 in restitution and perform 100 hours of community service in lieu of a jail sentence.[39] In addition, she was ordered to live in a halfway house for prior to sentencing after testing positive for marijuana and methamphetamines and was ordered to undergo drug testing as a condition of her probation.[40] In 2018, Big Freedia revealed in an Instagram video that the judge in the case had granted her request to end her probation one year early for good behavior.[41]


Year Title Role Notes
2010 Last Call with Carson Daly Herself
2011 Treme Herself 2 episodes
2011 Prince Paul's Adventurous Musical Journey Herself
2012 Jimmy Kimmel Live! Herself
2013–present Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce Herself
2013 Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen Herself
2013 Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell Herself 2 episodes
2015 The Real Herself
2015 Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood Herself
2017 When Love Kills: The Falicia Blakely Story Tam
2018 The Untitled Action Bronson Show Herself
2018 Ridiculousness Herself


Studio albums

  • 2003: Queen Diva
  • 2010: Big Freedia Hitz Vol. 1
  • 2011: Scion A/V Presents Big Freedia
  • 2014: Just Be Free
  • 2018: Third Ward Bounce EP


  • 1999: An Ha, Oh Yeah
  • 2012: "Booty-Whop"
  • 2012: "Step into the Ring"
  • 2012: "Feelin' Myself"
  • 2014: "Explode"
  • 2015: "Ol' Lady (Lazerdisk Remix)"
  • 2015: "Crazy"
  • 2016: "I Heard"
  • 2018: "Rent"

Music videos

  • 2010: "Na Who Mad" – music video released 2011
  • 2010: "Y'all Get Back Now" – music video released 2011
  • 2010: "Excuse" – music video released 2011
  • 2014: "Explode" – music video released 2014
  • 2014: "Mo Azz" – music video released 2014
  • 2016: "Crazy" - music video released 2016


  • 2010: New Orleans Bounce Essentials, Vol. 1
  • 2010: Bounce Out – The Hitz from 2006 to 2010 by Sissy Nobby
  • 2010: Ya-Ka-May by GalacticU.S. Billboard Chart #161[15]
  • 2010: Shake Twerk and Wobble 2
  • 2011: New Orleans Bounce Essentials, Vol. 2
  • 2013: Son of Greg and Terry Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys - performing "Sally Racket" with Katey Red and Broken Social Scene
  • 2012: "Peanut Butter (ft. Big Freedia)" by RuPaul
  • 2014: "Freaky Money (ft. Big Freedia)" by RuPaul
  • 2015: "Drop (ft. Big Freedia)" by Diplo & DJ Snake
  • 2015: "Club Now Skunk (ft. Big Freedia)" by Elliphant
  • 2015: "Jingle Dem Bells (ft. Big Freedia & Ellis Miah)" by RuPaul
  • 2016: "Formation (ft. Big Freedia)" by Beyoncé
  • 2016: "Calvary" (w/ Wiwek)
  • 2016: "Marie Antoinette" (ft. Big Freedia)" by Boyfriend (rapper)
  • 2017: "Dive" (ft. Mannie Fresh)
  • 2018: "Nice for What" by Drake


  1. ^ MacCash, Doug (May 2, 2015). "Big Freedia, the 'Dangerous' diva of New Orleans Jazz Fest 2015". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  2. ^ Hinson, Mark (March 22, 2018). "Big Freedia bounces back into town, so be prepared". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b Hutt, John (September 10, 2013). "Big Freedia on Miley Cyrus and 'Transforming One Twerker at a Time'". Out. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  4. ^ "Must List: Big Freedia, Indie Chefs Week and 'An Iliad'". Houston Chronicle. January 3, 2018. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Zeichner, Naomi (March 23, 2011). Video: Big Freedia, "Y'all Get Back Now. The FADER
  6. ^ "Best Of The Beat 2010 Music Award Winners". Offbeat Magazine. January 29, 2011. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Sullivan, Michael (January 20, 2011). GLAAD names media noms. Variety
  8. ^ Anna Sale (Aug 19, 2015). "in New Orleans: Big Freedia Bounces Back". (Podcast). wnyc. Retrieved Aug 21, 2015.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Biig Freedia Interview – The Queen Diva of NOLA Bounce". Play Jones. January 17, 2012. Retrieved 2012-01-12.
  10. ^ a b c d e Dee, Jonathan (July 22, 2010). New Orleans’s Gender-Bending Rap. New York Times
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Fensterstock, Allison (October 7, 2010). Rapper Big Freedia an 'overnight' sensation. New Orleans Times-Picayune
  12. ^ a b Dodero, Camille (May 25, 2010). Hoodstock Takes Bed-Stuy with Big Freedia and Ninjasonik, Leaves People Bruised Like Crack Whores. Village Voice
  13. ^ Cadogan, Garnet (August 2007). Bounce Back. Vibe, p. 94.
  14. ^ Flaherty, Jordan; Goodman, Amy (2010). Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six, p. 25. Haymarket Books, ISBN 978-1-60846-065-6
  15. ^ a b Galactica Position on Billboard
  16. ^ Benjamin, Jeff (June 29, 2012). "MTV O Music Awards: Recapping 23 Awards In 24 Hours As The Flaming Lips Break A World Record". Billboard 2. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  17. ^ Eddy, Chuck (March 20, 2011). "The Bands You Didn't, But Maybe Should Have, at SXSW 2011". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-01-12.
  18. ^ E&E. "Tour". Big Freedia. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  19. ^ "FIRST LOOK: 'BIG FREEDIA: QUEEN OF BOUNCE' SEASON 2, EPISODE 6". Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  20. ^ Spera, Keith (September 13, 2017). "New Orleans bounce star Big Freedia kicks off new season of reality TV drama with Ace Hotel premiere party". The Advocate. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  21. ^ "BOUNCE 5 YEAR ANNIVERSARY ft Big Freedia & DJ Jubilee".
  22. ^ "BOUNCE 4 YR ANNIVERSARY with Big Freedia, Sissy Nobby, DJ Jubilee". 2. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  23. ^ "Big Freedia God Save the Queen Diva!". Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  24. ^ Sackllah, David (September 25, 2015). "New Books: Big Freedia: God Save the Queen Diva! and Let There Be Gwar". Pitchfork. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  25. ^
  26. ^ Chief, The Master (2016-05-06). "Not Even a Lightning Storm Could Stop Beyoncé's Formation Tour Slayage in Raleigh, North Carolina". Gossip On This. Retrieved 2016-05-10.
  27. ^ "The Ghost of Big Freedia". Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  28. ^ Sundermann, Eric; Johnson, Myles E.; Burney, Lawrence (April 19, 2018). "The Ghost of Big Freedia".
  29. ^ Posner, Nina (August 16, 2016). "Boyfriend And Big Freedia Reimagine The Big-Room Banger With "Marie Antoinette"". The Fader. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  30. ^ Rawls, Alex (December 16, 2016). "7 New Orleans musicians rattle off their favorite Christmas tunes". Times-Picayune. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  31. ^ Blistein, Jon (September 5, 2017). "Hear Big Freedia, Mannie Fresh's Bone-Rattling 'Dive'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  32. ^ "Over 40 Songs Make up the Full Just Dance 2018 Tracklist". Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  33. ^ Spanos, Brittany (December 22, 2016). "Watch Big Freedia Host Office Twerk Party in 'Make It Jingle' Video". Rolling Stone 3. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  34. ^ Daw, Stephen (April 10, 2018). "Big Freedia Talks Being Included in Drake's New Bounce Track: 'The Credits Are Important'". Billboard 3. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  35. ^ Street, Mikelle (March 30, 2018). "Big Freedia Drops 'Rent' Music Video & Talks Upcoming 'Third Ward Bounce' EP". Billboard. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  36. ^ Welch, Michael Patrick (July 1, 2011). "Big Freedia: Do Azz I Say". Offbeat. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  37. ^ Hoff, Victor (July 9, 2015). "BIG FREEDIA: The 'undisputed ambassador' of the energetic, New Orleans-based Bounce movement comes to Pride". LGBT Weekly. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  38. ^ [email protected], matt sledge. "Feds charge Big Freedia with felony theft, reportedly say she lied about income for Section 8 housing". The Advocate. Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  39. ^ "Big Freedia gets probation, $35,000 fine for Section 8 theft". Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  40. ^ "Big Freedia must live in halfway house, judge rules". Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  41. ^ "Bounce star Big Freedia is off probation, one year early". Retrieved 2018-08-29.

External links