The rap cabaret artist celebrates her birthday Saturday at Tipitina's with a new collaboration with Big Freedia.

boyfriend photo
Boyfriend, by Cassie Hunter

Last October, Boyfriend began a five-week tour opening for Big Freedia at the House of Blues, and the relationship clearly paid off. Yesterday, the two released a collaboration, “Marie Antoinette” just in time for Boyfriend’s fourth annual birthday bash, which this year will be a free show Saturday at Tipitina’s. The show celebrates the birth of Boyfriend the performance entity and not that of The Artist Currently Known as Boyfriend.

Boyfriend calls what she does “rap cabaret,” though the emphasis is on the latter. She raps, but she admits she’s not a battle rapper, doesn’t freestyle, and anything she does that comes from hip-hop culture is accidental or ironic. 

“Cabaret is more accurate, and Rap Cabaret is the genre I invented for myself,” she says, “even as such a notion as ‘genre’ splinters under the pressures of a playlist era.” 

In performance, Boyfriend looks like the potential star of the Research Librarians Gone Wild! series and plays games with identity, but her songs are more pop and immediate than that might suggest. Words and ideas may drive the songs, but they pay off at the simplest levels as well as the most academic. “Marie Antoinette” is funny every time Big Freedia instructs, “You gotta eat that cake!”

I last saw you on the opening date of your tour with Freedia. What did you learn about Boyfriend as a concept on the tour? 

Good question! I learned that "Boyfriend as a concept” is even more resilient than I had imagined. Bubble baths are hard to come by on tour, so I was nervous about it. I nixed the part where I strangled my adulterous lover on stage. It was hit or miss really, and the misses weren’t worth the hits. 

I will say this—I’m now an expert of what travel-size toiletries do and do not leak!

What was the oddest moment of the tour?

Oddest moment would be looking up into the balcony and seeing my father and stepmother standing next to Patti LaBelle watching me rap about masturbation without any backup dancers—I couldn’t find any in Philly, and I locally sourced performers in each city. 

What’s the story behind “Marie Antoinette”?

Well, you must have a royal theme when you’re working with the Queen Diva! In times such as these, not terribly unlike the climate leading up to Le Revolution (ahem), we mustn’t let the extravagance of the Haves suppress the indulgence of the Have-Nots. And perhaps the best way to critique something is to emulate it—taste the dried icing in the corner of a hungover mouth. 

At the end of the day, I know that money won’t solve my problems, but I still want it.