Album Reviews

Lizzo – Lizzobangers

(Virgin EMI) UK release date: 16 June 2014


Lizzo - LizzobangersLizzobangers is, in a word, ferocious. Hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, the hometown of equally incendiary hip-hop artist P.O.S., Lizzo is a socially conscious and extremely provocative rapper and producer. In a contemporary musical climate saturated with hyperbolic claims of sex, drugs, and alcohol, Lizzo releases a strikingly earnest work that establishes nothing less than the power of the individual.

The album leads off with the fiery, bass-thumping Lizzie Borden, which transcends the typical character-establishing song of modern hip-hop albums by introducing the person rather than introducing the image. The bridge is punctuated by a “click click boom” that evokes the self-aware irony of Nas’ early output and challenges the modern rapper’s proclivity to fetishize the dangers of the streets. Follow-up track Werk Pt. II turns male-centred braggadocio in hip-hop back on its head, stating confidently: “Do I need to re-remind you that you sipping from the c-h-a-l-i-c-e / and I’m doing all this for the w-e?” It’s an incredible start that sets the stage for a stereotype-flipping, expectation-defying release by an incredible artist.

Wat U Mean synthesizes Lizzo’s childhood in Detroit churches with a distinct gospel flair, singing “What you mean to me?” in a way that’s earnest, but not yearning. Lizzo uses her memories and past as her pedestal rather than her trapping, confidently stating she “remember[s] about being sad about boys and stuff / but that was way back in middle school.” She also challenges body type norms with the phrases “Lizzo be eating though / Lizzo be hungry / Lizzo big girl small world until it ain’t funny” and “lapdogs eat scraps if you’re able / maybe throw a bone if I feel like it,” which sends a strong message to young women to own their body rather than let it be something others use to bring them down.

Lyrics are rapid-fire, spitting rhymes that bring up the best of Missy Elliott and Queen Latifah, subverting the sex game and self-aggrandizement by turning them into female self-celebration with a snide, entirely self-aware attitude. Her most angry is also her most lucid, attacking complacency on Faded and stifling workplace hierarchy on Be Still. She uses the sexual audacity of Missy Elliott’s Work It most handedly in Hot Dish, even using similar well-placed censorship.

In addition to being an accomplished rhymesayer, Lizzo is also a proficient musician and producer, having graduated with a classical flute degree from the University of Houston and being offered a scholarship at the Paris Conservatory for graduate studies. Each song is, without a doubt, pleasing to the ears as well as the mind. The pseudo-industrial underpinnings of Lizzie Borden and Luv It show some influence by hardcore hip-hop outfits such as Death Grips and P.O.S.’ release We Don’t Even Live Here, whereas the downtempo Go reflects the emotional eye-of-the-storm stillness that comes with the dissolution of a relationship.

The music is unusually abrasive for hip-hop, finding contemporaries in Death Grips’ album The Money Store and in US labelmates Marijuana Deathsquads. The first two tracks demonstrate this most, having little tonal quality other than heavily distorted bass rhythms. This is no fault for Lizzo; if anything, it only serves to highlight her power as an emcee and musical craftsman.

Lizzobangers is a triumphant album by an extraordinary artist and woman, whose girl-empowering lyricism and social consciousness puts her at the top of the underground and alternative hip-hop community. The production is exquisite, with few faults that occur outside of a need for some fine-tunedness on the quieter tracks. In short, Lizzobangers makes for a bangin’ good time.


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