For years, Amaury “Freedia” Bourgeon was made fun of on television and radio shows for his elaborate dance moves, resulting in lyrics like, “When I seen the hair rubber, I was about to get burned.”
But he wasn’t going to allow that attention-grabbing style to define him. Instead, he would become known as the godfather of New Orleans bounce music, a blend of dancehall and rock that draws influence from hip-hop, old funk, and pop music of the past 30 years.
In the new documentary “Freedia Got a Gun,” that identity is on full display in a story told by Bourgeon and directed by Tony Medina, along with a few of the hundreds of performers he has made music with over the years.
Bourgeois, his wife, his daughter and even his father are among those who appear in the film, and it examines many of the pitfalls of his professional life.
Today, on the stage of New Orleans’ Hogs and Heifers music venue, Bourgeois is performing the classic bounce hits he has known so well for more than 30 years.
It is his 15th birthday, and the crowd is as lively as the biggest party you might find in New Orleans.
Later in the film, when Bourgeois answers calls from the recording studio to do a mix of bounce and hip-hop for a new, highly infectious remix, he is still pulling for his protégé, local rapper Frank Da Kid, so much so that he rushes to his aid when he slips on stage at a party in 2016.
While other hometown artists have done hip-hop and rave remixes of their bounce tracks, this is a comprehensive look at what it takes to make the style truly worldwide, and Bourgeois is clearly the torchbearer for the movement.
“Freedia Got a Gun” is not without its flaws.
It can sometimes be preachy and repetitious, and if you know Freedia’s story, you will certainly cringe a bit when he recounts the story of Bobby B. Jones Sr., who loved the music but just never liked its colorful nature.
There is also a jarring, eight-minute long trailer with Bourgeois rapping about allegations of rampant racism in New Orleans schools and law enforcement, which seemed counterproductive given the limited time allotted for the film.
But the movie is an undeniable winner and an extraordinary work of cinematic history that represents a welcome footnote to New Orleans’ Voodoo Festival, one of its premier musical events.
The film got a late start (it was first slated for release in 2015) but now is a poignant tribute to the one-of-a-kind in a city of a similar nature.