Music

Big Freedia Says No One Is Going To Take Her Twerking Crown [Interview]

Carlo Cruz/Red Bull Content Pool

Big Freedia spoke with Okayplayer about bounce music, being friends with Magnolia Shorty, twerking, and more.

If there’s anyone who has helped popularize New Orleans bounce music it’s Big Freedia. Since starting her professional career in 1999, the self-proclaimed “Big Freedia Queen Diva” has appeared alongside mainstream pop royalty. In 2016, she was featured on Beyoncé’s hit song “Formation;” two years later, she was featured on Drake’s “Nice For What.”

As her visibility has rose she has become a notable figure in other spaces. She appeared in Billboard’s pride issue alongside ILoveMakonnen, Adam Lambert, Tegan and Sara’s Tegan Quin, and Hayley Kiyoko, as well as spoke at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

Still, regardless of her rising profile, Freedia also remains dedicated to serving New Orleans. Following Hurricane Katrina, Freedia was one of the first artists to return to the city and begin performing again.

In a 2010 story for NOLA.com, Alison Fensterstock wrote that Freedia “played six to 10 shows a week at block parties, nightclubs, strip clubs and anyplace that wanted 30 minutes of high-energy club-shaking bounce MCing.”

That dedication is still there. When I met up with her at Generations Hall prior to her guest performance at the Red Bull Dance Your Style competition, she says that she’s trying to bring back the old school feel of bounce music in New Orleans prior to Katrina.

“…we have those classics in those certain moments where we’re like, ‘Damn, you remember this from before the storm?'” Freedia said. “It was crazy. It still is crazy. But it was much crazier before Katrina.”

Freedia spoke with Okayplayer about bounce music, being friends with Magnolia Shorty, twerking, and more.

There’s been this resurgence in terms of women rappers, but somebody that I feel never gets mentioned in the conversation when it comes to women pioneers in rap is Magnolia Shorty. Were you close with her and do you feel like she created or helped the foundation in which women rappers exist now?

Most definitely. Me and Shorty definitely were friends. We actually were on our come up together, going hand in hand, shows after shows after shows. I had ran into her the weekend before the accident happened and we had five shows that night ⁠—

What?

She was running into one, I was going out the other. It just kept happening all that night and we laughed about it. But she definitely was a trendsetter and she definitely set a milestone here for New Orleans for female rappers. There are female rappers all around the world but she’s also set a trend for other female rappers now to want to be like her and that sound. As you can see you see, you see the City Girls doing that same kind of Magnolia Shorty feel. So Magnolia Shorty definitely set the mile-high for bounce music and the culture for female rappers.

Is there something about old-school bounce that you miss? Or do you feel like there are certain things that aren’t as prevalent in bounce music now as they were back in the day?

Yeah, before Katrina it was just a lot more feeling of home and feeling the real culture of the bounce music, because once we got displaced a lot of people lost a lot of music and a lot of the mixes that we had before that. So right now, I’m trying to bring that feeling back. That feeling of the old-school bounce where it all got started, and then the transition of just all of the powerful mixes that we had that if you played it the whole New Orleans knew it. You know what I’m saying? So we have those classics in those certain moments where we’re like, “Damn, you remember this from before the storm?” And it’s a lot of that that we miss from before the storm. It was crazy. It still is crazy. But it was much crazier before Katrina. Just the feeling of the clubs, the feeling of the neighborhoods. Because we had the projects and we had the different neighborhoods. So all of that has changed and that plays a part on the culture.

Carlo Cruz/Red Bull Content Pool

Twerking is a sexually expressive and liberating type of dance. What does it mean to you?

We just feel liberated when we go on — wherever we at, on the dance floor, on the stage. We feel empowered by our dance moves. And this style of dance comes from the West Indians and Africa where it’s a cultural thing and it’s a ritual that they used to do in celebration. So for me, it’s a celebration of dance and of life, and I do what I do. I just love to shake my ass.

It’s special. It’s a chance to be able to be expressive and powerful on a dance floor. The thing, also, about twerking, it makes everybody mouth drop. Soon as you start, it’s a dance that wows the people and that’s what I love to do.

And when I’m in concert or wherever I’m at, and you start seeing us twerk, it’s going down. It’s party music. It’s a fun, happy dance. It gets the party going. It gets any party jumping. As you can see, it’s got the world jumping now.

Have you ever lost a twerking battle?

I’ve never lost a twerking battle because everybody has their special way of twerking. I feel like sometimes, of course, somebody may know how to do it better than me. But it’s not that I’m going to lose because losing is when you give up. I never give up. I’m steady, going home the whole way. I know what I can do and I know what I can bring, so we going to battle. Let the battle begin.

One person who has received attention for their twerking is Meg thee Stallion. I don’t know if you’ve seen the video of her, but her knees are bent while also twerking. Do you consider her at the top right now? Would you do a twerking battle with Megan?

They do what they do but New Orleans, we’ve been twerking. Everybody act like this shit so new to the world or whatever. I mean, Miley Cyrus been trying to steal it from me, but I’ve been doing this shit and ain’t nobody going to come steal the queen crown. I don’t give a fuck who it is. Period.

Elijah C. Watson

Elijah Watson serves as Okayplayer's News & Culture Editor. When he's not writing he's listening to Sade and crying or watching My Hero Academia with his partner.

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Elijah C. Watson

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