Release Date: Jun 17, 2014
Record label: Queen Diva Music
Genre(s): Electronic, R&B, House, Left-Field House, Left-Field Hip-Hop
Review Summary: “like living in a post modern nightmare” - DownerJust Be Free is inescapably a divisive album. There’s no two ways around it. There’s very little by way of melody, grandiose artistic concept, lyrical profundity, or anything else that’s been the bread and butter of the Western music tradition for the past few eons. It literally consists of “the queen deeeee-va” Big Freedia telling you, the listener, to shake your ass for just over thirty minutes.
Take some of the world's more regressive territories out of the picture, and in the same way a rockabilly or reggae group will please the party crowd, a screaming drag queen vogueing over dance music comes with that universal appeal. That's at least when the diva house genre is firing on full-cylinders, like when everyone from the metal heads to the R&B kids were shouting "work!" whenever RuPaul hit the runway with "Supermodel. " New Orleans' singer/screamer/rapper Big Freedia comes with that same kind of zest appeal, but this queen has an extra shot of edge and indie.
When Big Freedia began getting booked on the rock club circuit outside of New Orleans a few years ago, her then largely white, hip-focused audience lacked a specific context for the aggressively glitchy lo-fi electronic music she rapped over—never mind the fact that it was a six-foot-tall, regally poised black person of indeterminate gender who was doing the rapping. To those in the know, there was legitimate concern that her new fan base might have been motivated by the novelty of the latter aspects, but Freedia's powerful, indelible charisma nonetheless transformed rooms full of normally staid indie rockers into a mob of sweaty, ass-shaking maniacs. With a seemingly never-ending series of tour dates and a reality show now entering its second season, it’s clear that Freedia's natural star power, rather than any identity-based quirks, drive her popularity.
Rump. Tootsay. Azz. Tail. Back. Big Freedia has no shortage of names for the derriere, and she shouts all of them with equal voraciousness and aplomb over the course of Just Be Free. This is bounce music, after all, and twerking is half the point. Sexually explicit and loaded with cultural and ….
Big Freedia's been the undisputed queen of NOLA's hip-hop sub-genre bounce for over a decade, and while twerking has been grotesquely appropriated by the mainstream and Freedia herself has become a reality TV star (thanks to the GLAAD-award winning Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce), the artist born Freddie Ross is just releasing her first proper studio album. First, the good news: despite production work from producer Thomas McElroy (En Vogue, Raphael Saadiq), Freedia's made no commercial concessions; Just Be Free is a frantic, busy and uncompromisingly relentless album that doesn't let up over its 10 tracks and 34 minutes, and as a summer party album, it's all but faultless. "Turn Da Beat Up" and "Explode" are prime booty rocking bounce anthems sporting deep bass and repetitively cathartic chants, but the unfortunate snag with an album as charged as this is that there's no breathing room.
Over 23 years, the hyperkinetic, unapologetically horny sound of New Orleans bounce has changed the world – perhaps you've heard of the word "twerk"? – and now the genre's loudest ambassador has finally made a proper debut. Though Just Be Free is a lot more polished than sample-happy Freedia singles like "Azz Everywhere!," it hits just as hard. She embraces the textures of contemporary EDM – wet snares, buzz-saw synths, the occasional triumphant trance melody – but the feel is unmistakably bounce throughout.
Big Freedia – Just Be Free (Queen Diva Music)Freddie Ross aka Big Freedia aka Big Freedia Queen Diva is kind of the indie RuPaul. She runs with the likes of Matt & Kim, toured with The Postal Service, guests with Spank Rock, hosts a reality show on the Fuse TV, rallied at the grass roots level to rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Katrina (among other events, hosting FEMA Fridays at local club Caesar’s). She’s tall, outspoken, spits hot fire on the mic, is openly gay amidst a homophobic hip-hop market; but the thing you really need to talk about when discussing Freedia is bounce music.