[Interview] Getting To Know Lizzo
Lizzo has been an up-and-coming name in the hip-hop world for the past couple of years. Her entrance into Minneapolis’s Doomtree Collective has sparked a lot of attention and hype around this twenty-something female personality. Her powerful and intimidating presence on stage is smoothed over with her Beyoncé style dance moves and tendency to flirt with the crowd. She does what she likes and isn’t afraid to show her true colors. Sensible Reason caught up with this powerhouse at Summer Set Music and Camping Festival in Wisconsin last month to chat about where Lizzo came from, what she’s been up to, and what she’s got going on beyond the rhymes.
Sensible Reason: So tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and where are you based now?
Lizzo: I was born in Detroit and raised in Houston. I moved to Minneapolis around four years ago.
SR: Do you like it?
Lizzo: I like it a lot. I think it’s a home for weirdos like me. I think a lot of people who are transplants have a similar story. It’s different, super artsy. I think some of my closest friends I’ve found here. It’s cultivating.
SR: How did you get into music?
Lizzo: Hmm…I guess I just liked it. I’m a flutist, I started playing flute when I was in 5th grade, and I like I just liked it. I continued to do it.
SR: But hip-hop is much different than the flute, though, isn’t it?
Lizzo: It is. I lived in Houston, though. So, you can’t ignore the influence of DJ Screw and Mike Watts. It was everywhere. That was a time when screw music was getting recognition nationally, popularized around ’98 – ’99 and then you get Mike Jones starting to blow up. Destiny’s Child is from there, Beyoncé was taking off. Houston has a nice range of superstars. Some cities have just like a bunch of country artists, but Houston popped up a lot of different styles, so I think that the artists from there are a mash-up of a lot of different genres and can appreciate everything.
SR: I feel as though you have a strong and almost intimidating presence on stage and in your music videos. Where do you draw that confidence to create that persona?
Lizzo: I just want people to have a good time, I guess. I’m the one at the party that’s like “Everybody have a good time, everyone take some shots!” and I think it kind of transfers in my music and in my live performance. It’s like everyone is invited to my house and when you’re a guest in my home, you’re going to have a good time. I don’t try I guess, I’m always trying to dial it in, reel in the energy or what you would call power. I’ve always been refining myself as a performer. Hopefully I can be a little more welcoming in the future.
SR: Well, I wouldn’t go as far as saying you’re not welcoming. It’s just good to see a woman in music with such a powerful presence. How do you feel your role as a female hip hop artist plays in how people see you?
Lizzo: I don’t know, I’m just trying to be me, trying to be a ME artist. You can’t really plan it or care too much because it would be contrived. I don’t see it as my genre and my gender coming out. I didn’t start this as a kid thinking “What’s it going to be like being a female in the hip-hop industry?” I’m just doing it. It’s the outside that asks that question, I’m just being me.
SR: In your video for “Batches n’ Cookies” as well as a few other videos it seems you have a different hair style in every shot. How do you (or do you at all) use hairstyle to portray a personality?
Lizzo: I think I just get bored with my hair. “Batches n’ Cookies” is actually the only video that my hair is mostly natural, I had no extensions in. It was straight, and then I had a hat, and my girl did a little up do for the donut shop scene. But most of the other times it changes color, texture, length, style, and I think it’s a part of my personality, I wouldn’t say my identity because I can still be bald and be me. My personality is accentuated each day with what’s coming out of my head. If I want to feel flirty I’ll have my flirty style, if I’m feeling afro-centric I’ll be rocking my fro. I think I have the power to do whatever I want with my look and I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful no one has told me “you should look like this,” you should be comfortable with who you are no matter what.
SR: In a lot of your songs you often are rapping to a “You”, such as “you think you’ve got haters, but you’re the first to complain.” Are you ever speaking to or about a specific person?
Lizzo: I think it depends on the song and the lyric. A lot of times artists like to address themselves. You listen to a Kendrick [Lamar] song and he’s speaking of himself outside of himself. I think that’s a typical thing that artists do, I do that as well. When you’re trying to work on yourself, you do it in the best way that you feel comfortable, I do it in my music. I’m never really talking to anyone specifically. A lot of the songs I listen to way later I might think “Oh yeah that was about so-and-so” but I don’t really think about it. I’m not out here making diss records, and if I do I’ll put their name in it. For real. I put clues in there. I don’t really have beef with anybody but I’m always like “you know who you are.” If we had a personal situation and I’m using that to create this song then you should know it’s about you.
SR: So what do you have planned for the rest of the summer.
Lizzo: Check me out. I’m going on tour, working on music still, and I’m working on Big Grrrl Small World, my web series. I’m also doing some acting and voice-over work as well. It’s going to be an interesting summer. Announcements will come soon.
SR: Tell me more about Big Grrrl Small World.
Lizzo: I said it in my first solo song I ever made. It was the first line I ever wrote, and I don’t know why I chose to start the song off like that, maybe I thought it sounded cool. And I started using it more and it started to define a movement. I meant big girl physically, but then it started to evolve into so many different things. Other people started to gravitate towards it, people of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. They felt big in different ways and the world felt small in different ways. I feel like it defined a movement to the point where I named that next record Big Grrrl Small World and then the web series and on t-shirts. It started out literal and turned into something big.
SR: Who are you most excited to see this weekend at Summer Set?
Lizzo: I’m going to really try and catch The Weeknd, Rae Shremmurd, and Bone Thugs. I feel like a teenager going to see Elvis Presley or something, I’m really excited.
And we’re excited to see what Lizzo has in store for the future.