‘Just Be Free’ charts new ground for NOLA’s Big Freedia

Album review: Big Freedia’s ‘Just Be Free’

Big Freedia
Just Be Free
Queen Diva Music/The Orchard
★★★★ (out of 5 stars)

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.

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