Pop Quiz: Big Freedia on her mission to make the whole world bounce

Big Freedia dances with a fan at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco. Photo: Mason Trinca, Special to The Chronicle

Big Freedia has become something of a festival fixture in recent years, popping up at places like Outside Lands and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass to shake her ass and introduce new audiences to the electric New Orleans style of hip-hop called bounce music.

Now the 40-year-old musician and television star born Freddie Ross Jr. is headed for Comedy Central’s Clusterfest, which takes place Friday-Sunday, June 21-23, at the Civic Center Plaza and Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. Freedia joins a lineup that includes comics John Mulaney, Amy Poehler and Patton Oswalt as well as musical acts like the Roots and Girl Talk.

Freedia released her latest studio recording, the EP “3rd Ward Bounce,” last year, and continues to attract mainstream attention. In addition to her long-running Fuse network reality series, “Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce,” and critically acclaimed autobiography, “God Save the Queen Diva,” the former choirboy turned twerker-in-chief has made high-profile cameos on ubiquitous singles by Beyoncé (2016’s “Formation”) and Drake (2018’s “Nice for What”).

The Chronicle caught up with Freedia at her home in New Orleans, where she answered questions while putting away groceries.

Big Freedia Photo: Asylum Records

Q: What do you like about performing at festivals?
A: What I like about festivals is they’re so diverse. There’s so many different people. I love the music and food and whatever the theme may be. I saw some very creative festivals around the world. It’s interesting to come back and tell those stories to my family and friends.

Q: Are your festival sets different from your nightclub sets?
A: I change it a little bit. I feel like with festivals, you have to work a little bit harder. You have to draw that audience into you. You have to put out a little bit more, versus a club show where they can touch your legs and see your ass.

Q: I have seen you literally stop people in their tracks at festivals.
A: I try to. I try to be the wow factor.

Q: You played such a big role taking bounce music and twerking mainstream. I don’t know if missionary is the right word?
A: I am a missionary. I bring people together through the power of ass. For me, it’s just a great feeling to be known and not be so well known where I can still wow people who may not know about bounce culture. I want to keep educating the public.

Q: Do you foresee a bounce category at the Grammys someday?
A: I’m working my ass off to get there.

Q: I know you are. You have also changed the way people think about the music of New Orleans. You made it contemporary again.
A: I take pride in representing the culture and New Orleans as a whole. I have been working diligently to put bounce music at the map. I’m at the forefront of it. It’s wonderful.

Q: When you collaborate with mainstream artists like Drake and Beyoncé, some people feel like they are appropriating your energy and attitude without giving you proper recognition, especially when they don’t put you in their videos. Is that how you feel?
A: No. First and foremost I was grateful for them to come to me. They could have picked any other artist. Sometimes our schedules don’t line up. I didn’t get the phone call from Drake in time. With Beyoncé, I was on tour so I couldn’t be there. A lot of times these things don’t line up all the way. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be part of their projects and to continue to help bounce music grow.

Q: And you worked with Lizzo, who has performed at Clusterfest, on your single “Karaoke.” What a perfect pair.
A: That’s my girl.

Q: You got your start singing in church choirs. What part of that do you still carry with you?
A: A lot of it. Being onstage, it’s like I’m the choir director. I’m the ass director.

Q: Do you feel like there has been significant progress in LGBTQ acceptance in the time since you started making music some 20 years ago — more visibility, more freedom — despite the current political climate?
A: It definitely has changed. We have grown in a lot of directions. We will continue to grow over time. It just takes patience.

Big Freedia at Clusterfest: 5:45 p.m. Friday, June 21. $119-$1,250. Colossal Stage, Civic Center Plaza, S.F. www.clusterfest.com

Big Freedia Photo: Asylum Records

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