As the reigning Queen Diva of New Orleans bounce, it’s hard to believe that Just Be Free is Big Freedia’s first proper full-length. But when you specialize in an aggressive combination of Southern rap, deep electro grooves and ass-shaking bass, a collection of 10 songs might seem reductive. Bounce music is best experienced in sweaty, frenetic 20-minute live swatches, when commands like “Rock to da beat!” and “Wiggle work!” and head-blasting beats get bodies moving instead of grating on nerves. Still, Just Be Free charts new ground for Big Freedia. “N.O. Bounce” drifts into R&B territory, while “Lift Dat Leg Up” incorporates swirling, jazzy atmospherics, and “Explode” and “Mo Azz” let Big Freedia flex his rapid-fire, full-throated rhyming muscles to cater to today’s EDM audience. Those songs also implore listeners to wipe away hang-ups through uninhibited dance, an ethos he has pushed for more than a decade. Hearing a gay rapper confidently own such exhortations (and shout out to those like him on “Where My Queens At”) is empowering, especially as America’s attitude toward sexuality advances.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.