It’s About Time Hip-Hop Respects Big Freedia

Opinion

The music world was understandably rocked by the release of Drake’s “Nice For What,” after it dropped late-Friday (Apr. 6). The Murda Beatz-produced track was teased on Instagram Live not long ago, and featured a wonderfully-utilized sample of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor.”

Elsewhere, fans can hear a familiar bravado in the beginning and middle of the song. New Orleans music icon Big Freedia lends her passionate party-starting panache to the bounce-influenced beat. “I wanna know who mothaf**kin’ representin’ in here tonight,” she queries listeners, who are sure to rush to any dance floor to get it poppin’, thanks to the sheer energy Freedia emits from the speakers.

If you’re not familiar with The Queen Diva, you may have also heard her on Beyonce’s hit “FORMATION,” in which she assures members of the Hive that she “didn’t come to play with you h*es” and that you best’a believe she likes “cornbread and collard greens.” Freedia has been breaking necks and cashing checks since the early-2000s, with a string of solo and collaboration albums, singles and features. Albeit tardy to the party, it’s about damn time the industry calls her by her name and starts paying attention to the magnificent world of New Orleans bounce music. Having a co-sign from some of the biggest musicians on the planet is certainly a start.

While I’m far from a Drake fan (and my DM’s are open if you “just wanna talk” about that), I have to applaud him for the fact that he is helping to increase the sonic visibility of bounce music with one of the current superstars of the genre. Bounce music originated in Louisiana in the 1980s, and some of the genre’s earliest influencers include MC T. Tucker, DJ Irv, DJ Jimi and Cash Money and No Limit artists Master P, Mannie Fresh and Juvenile, whose song “Back That Azz Up” was used as a sample for Drake’s “Practice” (as you can see, this is not his first time at the bounce rodeo). You may have heard bounce influence on popular songs such as Diplo’s “Express Yourself,” Drake’s “Child’s Play,” and Beyoncé’s “Get Me Bodied.” The sound is categorized by the beat, clapping rhythm and a call-and-response style in the lyrics.

While the style didn’t necessarily take off on its own, the artists rooted in the hip-hop subgenre catapulted to superstardom. “Not only were Cash Money and No Limit becoming increasingly detached and isolated from the grassroots rap scene that nourished them in the mid-1990s, but other New Orleans–based companies were also having more difficulty connecting to the national mainstream,” writes Matt Miller in Bounce: Rap Music and Local Identity in New Orleans. Miller also implies that due to forcible migration from the area following Hurricane Katrina, bounce was able to spread to more cities throughout the country.

While there are a ton of famous rappers who started out making bounce music, there are a myriad of bounce artists helmed as “sissy rappers,’ who have found a huge following in the genre and have ties to the LGBTQ community. These musicians include Sissy Nobby, Vockah Redu, the late- Nicky Da B and of course, Big Freedia herself. While they were able to find solo acceptance on the NOLA scene, it was a bit more difficult to bring them to a national consciousness.

Not only is being on a Drake track a great way to get more ears to bounce, but the fact that Mr. Graham gave credit to a member of the LGBTQ community for helping with his song (someone who uses she/her as her preferred pronouns at that), in a genre that is so riddled with homophobia really sends a powerful message. He may hop on waves…a lot…but instead of jumping on what’s mainstream, he’s bringing something less well-known to the mainstream, and crediting one of the genre’s top-billed artists. You win this round, Aubrey.

While many were quick to point out Freedia’s absence in the star-studded music video for “Nice For What,” she’s definitely not too bothered. Instead, she’s thrilled that she’s getting those coins and the genre that she loves is becoming recognizable to the masses. There are far worse things to be bothered about, no?

“The credits are important but, for me, it’s still putting New Orleans on the map and I’m happy with the check,” she told The FADER in a recent interview regarding the song. “I’ve worked tremendously hard to make things happen for New Orleans culture. I just want us to get the proper recognition and the proper credit that we deserve.”

In the words of New Orleans native Birdman, “put some respek on my name.” We’re thankful that’s finally happening for Freedia and the genre itself.