How Big Freedia Helped Beyonce Return to Her Roots on 'Formation'


Big Freedia, a New Orleans-based bounce rapper, was just one of the many surprises heard on Beyonce’s hypnotic, new single, “Formation.”

The song, which was released on Saturday ahead of the Super Bowl, immediately grabbed fans and the media’s attention alike with its powerful messages -- from Beyonce celebrating her blackness to images of a post-Katrina New Orleans and police brutality in the accompanying music video -- and its suggestive and quotable lyrics. (Red Lobster, anyone?)

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If that wasn’t enough, at the 1:10 mark, Big Freedia comes roaring on the track. “I came to slay,” she declares in a spoken interlude, “I like cornbreads and collard greens.”

If listeners didn’t know who she was, they do now. Star of the Fuse reality series, Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, the rapper has helped popularize bounce music -- a signature sound of the rap scene in NOLA -- with the help of RuPaul and Diplo and even opened for The Postal Service on the band’s 2013 reunion tour.

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Even Beyonce herself is a fan.

Having seen Big Freedia in concert and spent time with her backstage, it comes as no surprise the 34-year-old singer handpicked her to appear on the record. “After she explained it to me, I was dying in my own skin,” Freedia tells ETonline, explaining the Beyonce’s song was all about the singer reclaiming her southern roots. “She said that she had come to play. And that was it.” 

Only provided with a snippet of the track, Freedia immediately went to work, recording a verse and some ad-libs. “I was ready,” Freedia says before coming back with some New Orleans slang for added flavor. Three days later, the track was released on Tidal.

Although she can’t officially say what will happen with her unused recording, Freedia promises something is in the works. “Something definitely has brewed from me being on the track,” she teases.

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While “Formation” was largely about Beyonce revisiting her roots, the song also touched on larger themes of race, gender and sexuality. For Freedia, speaking out on the issue of police brutality was especially impactful. 

“It’s very important that she has this platform to keep speaking on,” Freedia says. “Police brutality is still happening all over the world, and they try to brush it under the rug, but it's still a big issue. It still needs to be dealt with.”

“It hit home with a lot people,” Freedia adds, saying the entire NOLA community is behind the track. “The whole city is just gagging.”

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As for what’s next for Freedia, the rapper has five shows scheduled between now and April and a new single, “I Heard,” on the horizon. The fifth season of Queen of Bounce returns to Fuse in the summer.

And as new fans still get to know the rapper, she says her sound should be experienced live. “It's awesome, because I get to bring New Orleans with me,” Freedia says.