Over the past two decades, bounce music has become synonymous with Big Freedia. This distinct style of progressive dance music emerged out of the city’s housing projects and bars during the late 1980s and fully embodies the spirit of New Orleans culture and celebrates its most sacred traditions. Big Freedia has been an LGBT ambassador for bounce music since 1999 and with its contagious rise, her status has elevated to that of an icon as well. In 2011, Big Freedia was crowned as the Best Emerging Artist and Best Hip-Hop/Rap Artist at the Best of the Beat Awards and received a nomination for her 2011 album Big Freedia Hitz Vol. 1 at the 22nd GLAAD Media Awards. Two years later, Fuse would launch the reality show Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce. The following year, she would go on to publish her own novel Big Freedia: God Save the Queen Diva!.
The rest of the mainstream world didn’t really catch on to Big Freedia until 2016 when Queen Bey borrowed her voice (along with the late Messy Mya) for the epic “Formation” music video. From there, an additional audio clip was used to formally open the official Formation World Tour which racked up a whopping $250 million in profit. At long last, Big Freedia’s hip-hop legacy is expanding beyond the southern region thanks to major artists like Beyoncé, Drake, and RuPaul taking notice of her undisputed talent.
Despite all of these recent breakthrough moments, Big Freedia has been experiencing a high level of erasure amidst her efforts. This year, Drake featured Big Freedia in the intro for “Nice For What,” the most popular single off his record-breaking album Scorpion. Similarly, the Canadian rapper also neglected to include her in the accompanying visual for the women—even though “Nice For What” included a star-studded lineup of women from Hollywood. So, Big Freedia took matters into her own hands and requested to make an appearance in the music video for “In My Feelings” when she discovered that it was being was filmed in her hometown of New Orleans.
“I decided to hit him up myself and was like, ‘Why you didn’t let me know you were in New Orleans?’” she said. “And he was like, ‘I just got here. Why don’t you come through? We’re shooting a video tonight. I want you to get a few cameos.’ So I did that.”
This information was revealed during a recent run-in with TMZ where Freedia also disclosed that it sort of served as a mediocre apology from Drake. “It wasn’t really an apology, because I guess he felt like, ‘You didn’t make ‘Nice For What,” but that’s why I made sure that I responded soon as you hit me up so that you could be in ‘In My Feelings,’” she added. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction. I think that other artists out there should feel the same way, that no matter what your background is—no matter if you’re a gay artist—that we can be able to be there just as anyone else.”
Around the time that “Nice For What” started blowing up, Noisey published a piece titled “The Ghost of Big Freedia” to draw attention to the fact that artists seem comfortable using Big Freedia’s voice while simultaneously omitting her physical presence from the visual art. In a way, she has become the secret ingredient that turns these tracks into viral hits, and yet she is halted from crossing over alongside the artists that rub off her shine. It should be noted that Beyoncé did bring out Big Freedia on stage for the New Orleans stop of the Formation World Tour, but that’s honestly not enough in terms of exposure. No doubt that Big Freedia has been properly compensated for her contributions, but is it really worth it when your inclusion has a backhanded exclusion attached? Back in April, Big Freedia touched on the glaring omission of her presence with these collaborations in an interview with The FADER.
“You know, my voice be on a lot of different stuff and people want to use bounce music as a part of their music but when it comes to the proper recognition of me being in the video, that’s something that we’re steady working towards to make it happen.”
Not only is this blatant lack of recognition disrespectful, but it raises awareness for an ongoing issue that goes deeper than giving credit where credit is overdue. There has never been a more pressing time for queer voices to be given a major platform to speak their truth—the same goes for showing the faces of these individuals. Cultural appropriation takes on many forms and while the artists that continue to tap Big Freedia for her influence are expressing their appreciation for bounce music, some damage is being done in the process as well. Big Freedia deserves better and has done more than enough to earn all of our support.
Hopefully she’ll be treated better in the future. For now, all we can do is listen to her new 3rd Ward Bounce EP on all streaming platforms.
For more like this, see Shiggy break down the “In My Feelings” dance challenge right here.