BY SAMANTHA IRBY
PHOTOGRAPHS BY PAOLA KUDACKI FOR TIME
Surely, in the year of our lord 2019, you know who Lizzo is. I mean, even if you don’t think you know, girl—you know. Her song is in that Walmart commercial with the dancing cart people, and another one is in an ad for GrubHub, and I swear I was watching a football pregame show and heard strains of the piano riff from her song “Good as Hell” twinkling in the background. She’s on the soundtrack at your Zumba class, her voice is blaring from the headphones of the guy across from you on the train, and your daughter is locked in her bedroom scream-singing, “I just took a DNA test/ Turns out I’m 100% that bitch,” from Lizzo’s No. 1 hit, “Truth Hurts,” in her mirror right now.
But right now, Lizzo, 31, is with me—literally—tucked away in a studio on a dead-end street on a warm December afternoon in Dallas. I didn’t get dressed up, because what does a regular person wear to meet Lizzo? I don’t own any diamond-encrusted booty shorts or full-length feather coats. Is it even legal to introduce yourself to Lizzo while wearing yoga pants you bought two years ago at Kohl’s? She, meanwhile, is head to toe in Gucci, hair laid and lips glossed, flanked on either side by her gorgeous glam team. Lizzo is everything you want her to be: loud, fun, effervescent, all the synonyms you can use for the words loud, fun and effervescent.
And I want to know everything: Can she still run to the store in her pajamas to buy groceries? (No, but she’s always had them delivered, even pre-fame.) Can she walk through an airport without a dozen giddy wine moms throwing themselves in her path while shouting her lyrics at her? (She travels with security now. People can be weird.) Also: How do you ask someone, Why them, or Why now, without making them want to punch you?
But I have to ask: Why was this the year—after nearly a decade on the road, performing shows for next to nothing, living in your car, being your own hype man—that you racked up more Grammy nominations than any other artist? “I’ve been doing positive music for a long-ass time,” she says. “Then the culture changed. There were a lot of things that weren’t popular but existed, like body positivity, which at first was a form of protest for fat bodies and black women and has now become a trendy, commercialized thing. Now I’ve seen it reach the mainstream. Suddenly I’m mainstream!” She laughs. “How could we have guessed something like this would happen when we’ve never seen anything like this before?”
She’s right. Lizzo does represent something new. Her sound is relentlessly positive and impossibly catchy: bangers that synthesize pop, rap and R&B, with hooks so sharp it feels like they’ve been in your brain forever. Her lyrics are funny, bawdy and vulnerable: reminders to dump whatever idiot is holding you back and become your own biggest fan. (Even the viral four-second clip of her in a rainbow dress saying, “Bye, bitch!” and cackling as she rides away on the back of a cart is superior to many artists’ entire musical output this year.) Attending a Lizzo concert feels like worshipping at the church of self-love, if your preacher was a pop star living joyfully in a big black body, delivering a sermon of self-acceptance that’s as frank as it is accessible. At a time when Instagrammers are shilling flat-tummy tea or pretending to eat a giant cheeseburger, Lizzo sells something more radical: the idea that you are already enough.
That is particularly appealing this year, with the Internet a scary toilet, measles somehow making a comeback, and everyone just meme-ing themselves through it because no one can afford to go to therapy. In 2019, Lizzo was a beam of light shining through doom and gloom, telling us to love ourselves even if the world doesn’t always love us back. We needed her.
“Who is that glamorous fat bitch?” It was summer 2014, and my homegirl and I were squinting at the shattered screen of a busted iPhone in an empty grocery-store parking lot like two losers. She’d pulled up one of Lizzo’s music videos, knowing that keeping up with new music is hard when you’re not a Cool Teen. We tried to block the glare from the lunch-break o’clock sun as we watched this babe with bejeweled nails dancing with a shirtless dude in the desert while rapping. “Minuscule to me, I’m a big deal to you; I picketh thee off, like a bug betwixt my shoe.” I paused the video, my jaw against my chest. “Did she just say betwixt?” I’m in!
In 1989, when I was young and outcast and looking for even a shred of representation to make me feel less weird and alone, my options for fat-black-lady role models were Nell Carter, Marsha Warfield, and Shirley Hemphill from What’s Happening!! Imagine the kind of adults who are going to grow out of kids with access to Lizzo. Now that she’s a megastar, everything she does is news—especially her tendency to post nude photos, which she does frequently and with great enthusiasm. “I think it’s healthy to have a relationship with your naked body, even if no one ever sees it,” she says. “But I’ve always felt the need to share it.”
Seeing her body as I’m casually scrolling through Instagram is like a shot of emotional adrenaline. Open my largest vein and pump that photo of her naked in a bathtub filled with Skittles directly into it. It feels revolutionary, even now, to watch a fat woman love herself so openly. We’ve been conditioned to expect the “good fatty”—the “Excuse me, I’m so sorry, look at me eating a salad!” kind of fat girl who feels like she has to perform some sort of disordered eating to get love, let alone fame. Lizzo loves her back rolls and doesn’t care whether you do too. (Though you should!)
While it may feel like Lizzo is suddenly everywhere, she’s actually been grinding for over a decade. Born Melissa Jefferson in Detroit, she’s a classically trained flutist (instead of becoming a quiet first chair of the Minneapolis orchestra, she plays the flute onstage in a bodysuit while hitting the shoot) and rapper (plus singer!). Growing up, she says, she was always called “different.” “And different was not a compliment back then.” (Lizzo is a combination of an early nickname, Lissa, and Jay-Z’s song “Izzo.”) As a young artist in Houston, where she moved when she was 10, she recorded and performed constantly—Lizzo was in an electro-soul duo called Lizzo & the Larva Ink and then an all-female rap group, the Chalice, which appeared on a 2014 Prince song. Her road here has been long. Lizzo has toured as a solo artist since 2013 and been signed with Atlantic since 2016.
Then, this spring, her self-empowerment anthem “Truth Hurts,” originally released in 2017, appeared in the popular Netflix movie Someone Great and went on to top the Billboard Hot 100. She performed in front of a giant inflatable butt at the Video Music Awards and carried a tiny Valentino purse down the red carpet at the American Music Awards, spawning a million memes. Her third album, Cuz I Love You, earned her eight Grammy nominations. Each moment helped cement her as the defining entertainer of this year. It also made her a bigger target. “I have to bite my tongue on certain things,” she says. “When people challenge my talent, they challenge whether I deserve to be here. They challenge my blackness. I’m like, ‘Oh! I can easily just let your ass know right now in 132 characters why you’re f-cking wrong.’”
In general, I reject positivity. I’m a lifelong pessimist whose Spotify playlists are all called, like, “Songs to Cry To” and “Life Is the Pits.” And yet even I, a hard-hearted monster, have found it hard to resist Lizzo’s aural sunshine.
Part of what makes Lizzo so relatable—and so important—is that even as she preaches self-empowerment, she’s candid about the struggle. This year wasn’t easy for her. “From March to … now!” She laughs. “I was experiencing a little bit of unhappiness. I was not happy with the way I felt to my body. I didn’t feel sexy, and I didn’t know when it was going to end. There were times when I would go onstage and be like, ‘Y’all, I’m not going to lie. I’m not feeling myself.’ Sometimes I’d break down and cry. Sometimes the audience would just cheer to make me feel better. I was getting sick a lot. I was like, What the f-ck is going on? I need to fall back in love with my body.” She’s working on this, along with the newfound pressures of celebrity, in therapy. “I didn’t want to be famous,” she says. “I wanted to be like Brandon Boyd from Incubus! I just want to go to the farmers’ market.”
It’s a good reminder: omnipresent as she may be, Lizzo is just a person who feels like garbage sometimes and lives on the same actively dying rock hurtling through space as the rest of us. She’s not a walking inspirational infographic. She knows that part of being enough means acknowledging your imperfections. Which is why it’s such a relief to know that she gets down sometimes—because I know when she gets back up she’s going to bring us with her. Bye, bitch!
Drake Withdraws From The Grammys
Well well, it looks like Drake has chosen to not have his music nominated for Grammys. According to PopCrave, there isn’t any word on why he has made this decision to have his 2 nominations removed.
From my perspective, being that the news broke today, the last day of voting, he may have got the feeling that he wasn’t going to win. Drake dragged this album out over the whole year, only for the album to produce mid level songs. Did it make Billboard history? Sure. But was the quality of music up to par with today’s hottest rap music? Not even close.
Nice beats, and catchy rhymes can only get you so far in the Rap industry. Even the GOATs had to change up their formula after a while, and I think it’s about time for Drake to do the same.
Jazmine Sullivan is back with “Heaux Tales”
It’s been a while since I’ve updated, moreso because there hasn’t really been much that has moved me…..but you can now consider me “moved”! So lets get into it.
Let me start by saying, I’ve been a long time Jazmine fan. Seriously, since like the beginning, I’ve loved everything she’s provided…. that was until I heard the lead singles from this project. “Lost One” and “Pick Up Your Feelings” really did not move me. The vocals were there but the content had lost my attention, which I understand is ok, not everything is for me. But in comes “Girl Like Me” with H.E.R. and I was back in the fold. The two of them together just sound so beautiful together, it was hard not to keep that song on repeat.
Today, Jazmine released the entire project, Heaux Tales, which she has emphasized that it is an EP/Project and the album will be coming soon. And all I can say is YES! This is a conceptual album, and it works well together. 20 years ago we had what I like to refer to as the women’s empowerment movement (No Scrubs, Independent Women etc, and it feels like we are getting another round of that…just a little more grown.
After the smash hit WAP last year, Jazmine took the baton and ran with it. This project talks about how women can do crazy things for some good dick, how it feels to know when you’ve fucked up, how a woman knows her worth and should be earned, and so many more topics from a woman’s perspective. It really feels like she picked up where she left off on Mascara.
For me… the stand out tracks are Girl Like Me, Put It Down, and The Other Side. Although not my favorite, the internet is buzzing over her collab with Ari Lennox on the song “On It“. Listen below!
Carl Crawford Speaks Out About The Megan Thee Stallion Situation
Things are heating up as Carl Crawford speaks out about his deal with Megan Thee Stallion, and how she may not be as much as a victim as she claims.
CATCH UP: Megan Thee Stallion has went public about the unfair deal that she signed when she was 20 and just getting started. She states that when entering the deal she didn’t comprehend everything in the contract, BUT she signed it anyways. After signing with Roc Nation back in September, they pointed out some things in her contract that she didn’t understand and she simply requested that the label renegotiates her contract. Megan also stated that she wasn’t allowed to drop music because of the label. First, she alleges that she’s only been paid $15,000 from the label after earning more than a billion streams and selling over 300,000 individual track downloads, which equates to an estimated $7 million.
Megan has sine went to court and had a temporary restraining order placed on the label. The judge ordered 1501 Entertainment “to do nothing to prevent the release, distribution, and sale of Pete’s new records,” along with forbidding any interference with her or her career over social media or through her collaborators or associates
The Facts: Both side have said that in Megan’s contract, she is in a 60/40 deal. They’ve both also said that she did receive 15k from the label.
Carl’s Claims: Carl claims that Megan is flat out lying, and he has the receipts to prove it. Carl states that Megan signed with ROC Nation behind his back, and he found out about it in the media like the rest of the world did.
When it comes to Megan’s Contract:
“Let’s talk about your contract. It’s a great contract for a first-timer,” he offers. “What contract gives parts of their masters and 40% royalties and all that kind of stuff? Ask Jay-Z to pull one of his artists’ first contracts, and let’s compare it to what Megan got… I guarantee they won’t ever show you that.” via Billboard
Carl states that he had nothing to do with Megan’s contract. He says Megan’s mother (who passed last year) and T. Farris actually negotiated her contract with his lawyers and they came up with the numbers. Megan is in a 360 deal where there was a 70/30 split, with the label getting the 70%. The only reason that makes sense is because they also gave her a 60/40 split on her masters.
Now to put that in perspective, that is quite a solid deal, being that most artists don’t own any of their masters, especially not on their first album/works. It took Rihanna like 7-8 albums before she owned all of her masters. Chris Brown as well.
Carl also addresses the fact that she states she’s only been paid 15k.
How she been paid $15,000? As soon as we signed to 300, I wrote her a check for $50,000, and it’s signed with her name on the check. We can show you the proof. That’s another thing — I got all my receipts. They know it. I got all the receipts. We gave her a $10,000 advance when we first signed her and gave it to her mother. I don’t know what happened [with that]. 300 gave us a $200,000 check when we first signed. I gave her $50,000 of it. I didn’t have to give her that. That was mine at the time.
Now let’s be honest, when you look at Megan Thee Stallion, in comparison to other female rappers on the come up, she did have some kind of money behind her. Everything from the features with Wale, the EP buzz around Tina Snow, and the “payola” deal that had Hot Girl Summer being played on iHeartRadio every hour on the hour the day of it’s release…. and securing the biggest debut and chart position of her career. Lets just say she didn’t get all that because of her talent. Not saying she isn’t talented, BUT talent only gets you so far.
Lets just sit back and see where this goes…
03.25 – Latto – 777 (album)
03.25 – Kanye West – Donda 2 (All Platforms)
TBA – Cardi B – TBA
TBA – Monica – Trenches
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