Amid all the familiar New Orleans imagery in Beyoncé’s latest video, “Formation,” which dropped unexpectedly sometime on Endymion Saturday, there’s a sound that many locals know: the telltale bellow of Big Freedia. “I did not come to play with you hoes!” the rapper proclaims over a menacing beat. “I came to slay, bitch.” A cameo on a Beyoncé track is just another addition to the Queen of Bounce’s impressive empire that already includes a highly rated TV show (the Fuse reality series “Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce,” which has been renewed for a fifth season), an emotional memoir (God Save the Queen Diva), and a critically acclaimed album (2014’s Just Be Free). She undoubtedly sparked national hysteria over twerking, and has given us catchphrases like “Girl, down!” and bounce hits like “Azz Everywhere” and “Gin in My System” that will remain in the New Orleans party canon for years to come. And Freedia, whom you can catch live at Jazz Fest on Sat., April 30, has many more projects in the works. As she warned, she came to slay.
Occupation: The Queen of Bounce
Born/raised: New Orleans, on Josephine Street
Education: Walter L. Cohen High School, University of Louisiana at Lafayette (nursing program)
Favorite movie: Straight Outta Compton
Favorite TV show: “Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce”
Favorite band: “There are so many, but right now the Soul Rebels”
Favorite food: Yaka mein
Favorite New Orleans restaurant: Neyow’s Creole Cafe
Favorite hobby: Decorating and working with flowers
Favorite vacation spot: Amsterdam
Q: You’ve been touring a lot. What’s it like being home? Good. Trust me. I love being home.
Q: What do you miss about New Orleans when you’re away? The food, most of all. My family, my friends. Just being at home knowing where everything is. You know how when you’re out of town you gotta GPS everything and you gotta find this, find that. But at home you know where everything is, you go straight to it.
Q: Did you know when the Beyoncé video was going to drop, or was that a surprise to you like it was for everyone else? I knew it was gonna come out, once I talked to her, in the next maybe three or four days. I didn’t know if that was going to happen right on time or not. The morning it did drop, I just started getting all these texts on my phone. I was just very excited, overwhelmed and very grateful.
Q: Had you seen the finished video before it came out or did you see it with everyone else? No. I probably saw it later than everyone because I was sleeping, and everyone was blowing up my phone.
Q: What was it like seeing it come together? It was amazing. Well, the day it was shot I was out of town, and then me getting a call maybe two weeks later and knowing I was going to be a part of it and kind of visualizing it in my own brain. It was just like, amazing to know I would even be a part of it.
Q: Have you been following the election much? Oh yeah, definitely. I’m all on it. I’m down for Hillary. I’m definitely a Democrat, so I’m pushing for that.
Q: You had a show in Mississippi that got cancelled because of potential “gyrating.” When I think of bounce and twerking, I think it’s not so much about being sexual but more about expressing yourself. Is that how you feel about it? Of course, hell yes! It’s about expressing yourself, having fun. It’s a culture of a music and a style of dancing. People around the world are free to express themselves through dance and music, through speech, whatever. And it’s just like how all of the sudden twerking becomes, you know violating some type of civil right or whatever type of bullshit in Mississippi. We fixed that now, so we [were in Mississippi at the end of March] and we’re excited about that, and excited to see the fans come and twerk that day.
Q: What was the whole process of writing a book like? It was a fun process. It was emotional; it brought a lot of emotions back up. It kindled a lot of memories that I hadn’t been through in a while. It was complicated at the same time, because we did it in two and half months, tops. But it was also something I needed to get off my chest, and so it was an amazing process of all the things I went through and we got the job done.
Q: Besides music, you’ve written a book and star in a reality show. What other things are you venturing into? I’m always steady making my music, and making my music grow into a new audience and making the culture of bounce music grow even further. So I stepped into a few movie roles I’m working on, a little bit more acting. I’m trying to venture off into some different things, steady branding myself. Still working on my cookbook as well, and some other stuff. I got a lot of projects.
Q: What’s going to be in your cookbook? New Orleans classic meals and some of my own creations – everything with a Freedia twist. All of the things I try out at home that come out to be amazing.
I’m an ice eater. I like to eat ice all day, every day. I stay cool, literally.
Editor’s note: At press time Big Freedia was the subject of an investigation involving inappropriate use of housing subsidy funds. She is accused of not having reported a substantial increase in her earning as a performer and continuing to receive the housing payments. Freedia has taken full responsibility as quoted in Pitchfork, a music culture website: “It was an oversight — but one that I take full responsibility for. From the moment I was contacted by Government agents, I have fully cooperated and have already begun making arrangements to pay full restitution (of approximately $34,000). This is an incredibly unfortunate situation.”