Introducing Lizzo: The flute-playing rapper who has a lot to say on Ferguson

Ahead of her Reading festival debut, meet rap's new rising star

There will be no arguing with the current batch of female rappers rising through the echelons of the music industry; Angel Haze, Iggy Azelea and Azealia Banks among them.

Lizzo – real name Melissa Jefferson – is the latest name to join the ranks, as she joins the Reading festival line-up this weekend.

Her personal story is more interesting than most. Born in Detroit (which, she says, wasn’t more difficult than anywhere else to grow up), she was raised within Church of God in Christ. Perhaps unexpectedly, her religious upbringing sparked her eventual love of rap and hip-hop. She completed a classical flute degree in the University of Houston and rejected a scholarship at the Paris Conservatory, so she could focus on her solo career.

She formed her first band when she was just nine and started playing the flute when she was 12 – around the same time as she discovered rap, freestyling in her school lunch room and beatboxing on the desks. Not long after, she formed all-girl R&B group The Cornrow Clique, inspired by Destiny’s Child. In fact, Lizzo has delved into more genres than most – she was a member of progressive rock band Elypseas, part of electro-pop duo Lizzo & The Larva Ink, and also hip-hop collective/crew GRRRL PRTY, who were in action up until 2012.

So before she hits the big-time, allow her to introduce herself…

She was always a “daddy’s girl”…

“Before he passed away, he was the main influence on my music. He was the reason why I continued to play flute and tried to sing and rap and use my voice to its best ability. I wanted to be successful musically, so I could take care of him when his health started to fail.”

The Church shaped her world…

“From a young age, I saw and placed importance on spirituality within religion. Seeing people catch a feeling in their spirit and sprint the aisles of the church while my cousins played driving, uplifting gospel stuck with me. I let that same feeling wash over me when I experience and perform music.”

She once went completely mute for three months…

“I can't remember what started it, but I remember the cocoon stage; a huge change was happening within me. I made the decision to pursue music in a completely different, raw way. I needed to find myself within. And when I was ready, I spoke.”

She grew up in a town entrenched in racism…

“My mother and father taught me about black excellence, and dynasty. They experienced racism personally, and when something like that happens to you and not around you, you develop a different perception than someone who has never experienced racism a day in their lives. I believed that the fight was 'white versus black' and that omitted any other person of colour. It left only white and black. That left no grey area. That left no room for change.”

She believes in “people versus the system”…

“The fight still isn't people of colour versus white. It's the people versus the system built to keep us down. That's the first line of the Constitution. And the system is manmade, but is made of no man. Everyone, regardless of class, creed, culture and ethnicity can fight the system and help to break it down. And a new system must be realised, so that we can all coexist.

She says the shooting of Michael Brown was “inhuman”…

“I feel the same way about him as I do about Emmett Till; the same way I feel about Trayvon Martin; same way I feel about Ervin Jefferson and every black man killed by police and/or security guard every 28th hour. It's unjust. It's inhuman. It must stop.”

She’s not big on the US police force…

“The fact we need laws to protect us from the police is ridiculous, but we need to implement laws that ensure our safety when we are confronted by a policeman. Cameras, cameras, cameras. We need mental health care, there are people out there with weapons that can't emotionally handle them.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence