The Austin Chronicle

Big Freedia & Katey Red

10:40pm & 11:15pm, Submerged

By Thomas Fawcett, March 19, 2010, Music

"You was supposed to call me at 7:30, boy," chides Katey Red, New Orleans' original transvestite gay rapper. Calling 15 minutes late was mistake No. 1. The second mistake was branding her music sissy bounce. "It's not sissy bounce; it's sissies doing bounce," clarifies Red. "Ain't no such thing as sissy bounce."

Bounce is project music, the frenetic and repetitive call-and-response clamor that's been booming out of New Orleans wards since the early 1990s. As the first out-and-proud rapper on the scene, Katey Red flipped the script when she dropped Melpomene Block Party in 1999.

"When we first started, it was a little bit rough," recalls Big Freedia, an emerging bounce star who began as a background performer for Red. "As the years passed, people started getting used to it because we wasn't going nowhere. Once Katey broke the ice as the first drag queen doing bounce music, it changed New Orleans for real. We started coming in so many numbers that there was nothing they could do with us. We had people hating on us, but it's the music that got through. They couldn't stop the music."

To understand how a posse of gay rappers could rock clubs and block parties alongside their macho counterparts is to know New Orleans, a city defined by Mardi Gras, where masking and gender-bending is the norm. Yet when sissy rappers hit the stage, straight men tend to push up the wall, leaving females to animate tracks like "Azz Everywhere" and "Punk Under Pressure."

"They love us to death," Freedia brags of the ladies. "It's like we step into their shoes, and they can relate to what we're saying and what we're going through. We're like girls. We're going through the same things they are with the boys, so they really understand and can relate to us."

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