This Lizzo article was written by Lucas Oakeley, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Adam Skirving.
Based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, rapper Lizzo sounds a great deal like the lyrical love-child of Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliot; providing a lethal combination of hip-hop, soul and feel-good pop to produce something truly individual. Lizzo’s body-positive feminist agenda is something seldom seen in the rap industry, and it is incredibly refreshing to hear such a clear and resounding voice amongst what is an admittedly misogynistic crowd of voices.
Lizzo’s intent is made evident from the very first track of the album as ‘Ain’t I’ manages to directly quote Kanye West, dish out substantial ‘cases of that heavy bass’ and still serve a healthy heaping of soul on the side. Although in danger of over-complicating her musical broth, Lizzo manages to balance her sounds skilfully and never allows the track, or album for that matter, to reach a point of incoherent complexity.
‘Betcha’ takes note from ‘Ain’t I’ and continues to pulse powerfully with a catchy chorus and infectious tempo. Although this song is one of the most generic on the album, it highlights how Lizzo has got even the fundamentals down to a T and contains a massive amount of cross-over appeal as a club anthem. Some of the album’s less impressive efforts like ‘Ride’ and ‘The Fade’ do admittedly get little lost in the shuffle of Lizzo’s 12-track marathon as filler tracks strewn with corny lyrics like “got that will power like Jaden”.
Regardless, there is enough variety in the album to keep the listener constantly on their toes, with slower tracks like ‘Humanize’ and ‘Bother Me’ varying the album’s tone by contributing a tender and softer contrast to Lizzo’s spikier and more rebarbative labours. The latter song is interesting in terms of the collaboration it provides between Lizzo and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver-fame; producing a heartfelt centrepiece to the album that climbs up the rungs of complexity to bring the album to an overall much higher ground.
This elevated position allows Lizzo to experiment with a faster flow and clever lyrics in ‘BGSW’, cementing her status as the “baddest chick who ain’t naked”. She flirts with cliché in ‘En Love’, opening with a Whitney Houston-esque “I’m in love…” though she brings the album crashing back to reality with the following statement of “with myself”, subverting ballad tradition and promoting a strong sense of self-love that permeates throughout the album.
Self-love is most prominent in ‘My Skin’ – the emotional crux of the album and the song which is likely to garner the most interest from the outside media. Discussing issues of race and self-acceptance, ‘My Skin’ sees Lizzo singing; “break through and seal the last chapter of learning to love”, painting a portrait of raw emotion that accentuates our concept of Lizzo’s sheer range of talent. Lizzo proclaims herself to be a “beautiful black masterpiece,” and you would say that ‘Big GRRRL Small World’ comes dangerously close to being the same.
‘Big GRRRL Small World’ is out now via BGSW Records.