Already a music and TV star, Big Freedia, New Orleans’ queen of bounce music, is now a published author. “Big Freedia: God Save the Queen Diva!” is out this week.
Freedia co-wrote the lively memoir with her Beverly Hills publicist, former music journalist Nicole Balin. She sees more books in her future, including a cookbook. She’s also working on a follow-up to her 2014 album, “Just Be Free.”
“Dreams definitely can come true,” Freedia said a few weeks ago in New Orleans. “My story will inspire somebody to know that, no matter who you are, the conditions that you grew up under, you can still be successful and still be who you want to be.”
Freedia’s reality TV series, “Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce,” is the most popular show in Fuse network history. But TV can’t tell the whole story, she said, so she’s telling much more in the book.
Freedia is doing a book signing at 6 p.m., Friday, at Octavia Books.
For the record, the bounce music Freedia performs is a sub-genre of hip-hop that emerged in New Orleans in the late 1980s. Early bounce music included chants and call-and-response. Later bounce is faster, harder, simpler.
Of course, the twerk, the rump-popping dance that pop star Miley Cyrus infamously appropriated during her appearance on the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, is a bounce dance. In her book, Freedia thanks Cyrus for taking twerking mainstream.
“It was an amazing boost for me at the perfect time, right before Season One of my show,” Freedia writes. “And so I can’t thank Miley enough. And the offer still stands for twerking lessons, baby.”
Big Freedia (pronounced Freeda) isn’t the creator of bounce, but her TV series, concerts and recordings have made her the most famous bounce artist.
Freedia, aka Freddie Ross, grew up in Uptown New Orleans. As a youngster, she loved her mother’s Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle records, hip-hop and gospel music. Then came bounce.
“It was a new music for New Orleans,” she recalled. “I was excited. I was young, fresh off the porch. I was trying to shake my ass and flip all over the middle school and high school gyms. I was having fun, like everybody else in New Orleans. Bounce was a new sound, and people were getting down into it.”
Bounce, Freedia said of the music’s appeal, “turns people’s day around. It brings a sense of joy to people’s life. It’s like a happy spirit.” Bounce and gospel music accomplish a similar mission, former church choir director Freedia added.
“People always compare my bounce performance to what I did back in church,” she said. “It’s that feeling of the Holy Spirit coming into the place, catching that spirit and feeling good. Now it’s like the audience is my choir and I direct them. My fans just lose it — the spirit of the bounce.”
At first, Freedia was a bounce fan, in the audience and not on stage.
“Really, I never thought I would be a part of it like that,” she said.
But in the late 1990s, Freedia became a supporting vocalist for her bounce artist friend, Katey Red.
“I was the most reliable support for her,” she said. “That’s how I fell in the game. My voice became very known, and people loved my sound. I got one of my own solo songs, and it started from there.”
Initially, Freedia’s mother, Vera Ross, wasn’t enthusiastic about Freedia’s bounce music career.
“She was not really down for it,” Freedia said. “And she would be like, ‘If that’s what you wanna do, son … ’ She still backed me, but she wouldn’t back me fully, come out to the clubs and see it and hang out with me.”
During the few years before her death in April 2014, Freedia’s mother became much more supportive.
“She started loving the music, passing out my CDs, talking about me to everybody,” Freedia said. “She was very proud, very happy to see my journey keep getting further. I was becoming a star, and she supported me 1,000 percent. She’s always connected to me and to everything that I do.”
Even after some years in the national spotlight, Freedia finds her success difficult to believe.
“I am very grateful, and I’m very humble,” she said. “I take things as they come, but I’m still just like, ooh, pinching myself, trying to wake myself, saying, ‘Is it really real?’
“It’s like people are more excited for me than I am excited for myself. But it’s still so much work ahead of me to do, to keep on being this iconic person for bounce music and for the game.”