Giving Hip-Hop a Little ‘Sissy Bounce’
At an inner-city Houston dance hall in an area of town where warehouses and empty lots dominate, a swift, revolving bassline drops. On cue, bodies bend nearly perpendicular, convulsing. “Toot, toot, toot it in the air,” roars through the speakers. Posteriors spiral, following the command to get lower, shake faster, show off. “Sissy bounce,” hip-hop’s most outwardly gay cousin, commands any and all to do its bidding. It’s hard to escape the carnality of its mercilessly electric beat.
It’s a scene that’s playing out around the country. Sissy bounce, the audaciously queer brethren to New Orleans bounce, is a phenomenon whose unique call-and-response, raw dance moves and unadulterated bravado create an untiring energy that is hypnotic. It’s made its way from the clubs of the 9th Ward and the unruly French Quarter to the typically heterosexual scene at Vancouver’s Post Modern Dance Bar and Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club. This leap outside of the Crescent City is curated by sissy-bounce deities Big Freedia, Katey Red, Sissy Nobby, Vockah Redu and others, who embrace the term “sissy” with gusto and whose candid, gender-bending ways have gained notoriety across the U.S. and across the Atlantic in the U.K.
“I see bounce music itself going mainstream real soon,” said sissy-bounce artist Sissy Nobby. “I’m fighting for it.”
Sissy bounce, which was born about 10 years ago, has attracted a considerable amount of mainstream attention in the past year, from the likes of the New York Times, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and even the Guardian in London.
Big Freedia and Katey Red made headlines in 2010, when they made their inaugural appearance during the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival in Austin, Texas. Big Freedia, whose album Big Freedia Hitz Vol. 1 was released at the beginning of last year, returned to SXSW in 2011, performing hits like “Y’all Get Back Now” and “Azz Everywhere.”While sissy bounce has yet to populate the Billboard charts, it’s garnered some heavy recognition, including Big Freedia’s 2011 GLAAD Media Awards nomination in April.
Today’s mainstream entertainment and media landscapes are arguably tied to male, white and heterosexual privilege, including hip-hop. But as the acceptance of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community grows in general, will the hip-hop community come to accept it as well?