Every Labor Day, New Orleans celebrates gay pride the way only New Orleans can — with a weekend-long festival of dancing, drinking, parades with floats filled with barely clothed men and women, and all manner of beads earned in illicit fashion. Gay Mardi Gras — or Southern Decadence, as it is officially known — comes but once a year, but one New Orleans queer cultural export has been moving from the underground clubs of the 3rd Ward into the iTunes and Youtube queues of hipsters in New York and Los Angeles, not to mention the pages of The New York Times Magazine: sissy bounce.
It’s New Orleans’ indigenous rap form (bounce is to NOLA as go-go is to Washington, DC) but with an LGBT twist. And New Yorkers, watch out: sissy bouncers Big Freedia and DJ Rusty Lazer are coming to PS.1.‘s Warm Up party on August 28th. Gird your asses and brush up on your sissy bounce with our introduction to five of the movement’s essential acts below.
Bounce is like dance music distilled to its purest, repetitive, booty-shaking essence. It emerged in New Orleans some 20 years ago, and sissy bounce wasn’t too far behind. The artist recognized as the pioneering queen of the form is Katey Red, a transgender rap artist who began busting down the barriers of the machismo-obsessed genre in high school. In an interview Red did with journalist and bounce chronicler Alison Fensterstock for Fensterstock’s brilliant bounce documentary photo project, Red explains “I used to rap in the hall at school and out in the courts and stuff, so when I got up there everyone knew what to say back. I was the first homosexual rapper, so I opened a lot of doors for people so that they could do their own thing.”