After years as an independent artist and a criminally underrated musician, Lizzo is finally reaching the audience she’s long deserved. 2019 is finally shaping up to be her year—and it’s about time.
The Minneapolis rapper-singer (and, lest you forget, classically trained flautist) has been forging a career as a solo artist since 2013. The 30-year-old has sharpened her irresistible funk-driven pop sound over the course of two LPs, an equal number of EPs and a handful of non-album singles.
From the sounds of Missy Elliott collab “Tempo” and the bombastic title track, Lizzo’s upcoming major-label full-length, Cuz I Love You, might just be the pop record of 2019. Before it drops next Friday, run through five of the best songs of her vibrant career.
“Batches and Cookies” featuring Sophia Eris
Lizzo first burst onto the scene as a soloist in 2013 with the catchy single, “Batches and Cookies,” featuring Sophia Eris, that would later feature on her full-length debut, Lizzobangers.
An intriguing whistle-like synth carries the song, not to mention bouncy percussion and witty verses. But what truly sets “Batches and Cookies” apart is the adamant yet playful anti-homophobia video the rapper dropped for the track, where she and Eris go head to head with Westboro Baptist Church protesters.
“[The song] came from a book idea I had called, Get it, Batch. One day Sophia Eris and I were walking down the street and I said, ‘I got my batches and cookies,’ and she told me to write that down. Here we are,” she told Groundsounds in 2013.
Lizzo might be known for her irrepressible personality, but on “My Skin” the rapper mellows it down with a powerful message about being a black woman comfortable in her own skin.
The song from 2015’s Big Grrrl Small World explores her struggles and journey to being comfortable with who she is—and it goes beyond just the surface. On the soulful ballad, Lizzo comes to terms with her identity and expresses her frustration with those who are ashamed of their own heritage due to societal pressures. “My skin is dark brown, but if you asked someone they would say it’s black. My blackness is my largest assumed ‘accessory,’ not my gender, religion or wealth,” she wrote in the video’s YouTube description.
“Because of it, I’ve experienced countless misconceptions from people—neck rolls and gratuitous gestures, overt Southern dialects superimposed onto my own voice, perceived ‘ghetto-ness,’” she added. “I laugh it off because it’s seemingly harmless, but when we think about where this originates it’s actually poisonous.”
“Good as Hell”
Self-love is a major theme in Lizzo’s music, one standout cut being “Good as Hell.” The song first dropped as part of the soundtrack for Barbershop: The Next Cut and also doubled as her major-label debut on Atlantic Records. Although the track had a slow commercial start, the tune’s infectious call-and-response chorus soon found its way everywhere.
“Good as Hell” made its way to Hollywood, soundtracking popular films like A Bad Moms Christmas, Blockers and I Feel Pretty. The track hit its peak when superstar drag queen RuPaul featured the track in a lip-sync battle on a 2018 episode of his Emmy-winning reality show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, in which Lizzo herself appeared as a guest judge, cementing the song’s status as a cult hit. Safe to say, we’ll be looking back on this number and wondering why it wasn’t bigger.
Everything Lizzo does, she does it for herself—the lyrics of “Fitness” tell us that much. “And think about how I’m gonna feel when I take it all off / But I don’t do this for you,” she declares over a skeletal keyboard beat and clapping percussion. And if the 2018 single’s “toot toot, ah, beep beep” refrain sounds familiar, that’s because it’s borrowed from Donna Summer’s dance pop classic, “Bad Girls.”
And Lizzo enlisted her own army of ‘bad girls’—many of whom were her close collaborators—for the track’s badass body-positive video. It features women of all shapes, sizes, colors and creed clad in slinky outfits, looking fierce as hell. “It’s a celebration of movement, highlighting the power in all body types,” Lizzo told Consequence of Sound.
“I hope to inspire women all over to put themselves first. And next time someone has a critique about you or your body, say ‘I don’t do this for you,’” she added.
While “Good as Hell” fell under the radar, this year’s bouncy “Juice” managed to be Lizzo’s breakout song, charting in over ten nations worldwide. The upbeat, disco-influenced funk tune features all of the singer’s signature sounds—sassy rap verses, powerhouse vocals and an empowering message—all wrapped up in a delightful ’80s throwback production.
The lead single from her upcoming first major-label album, Cuz I Love You, it’s helped Lizzo secure musical guest slots on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where she brought unsuspecting audiences to their feet.
Cuz I Love You is out April 19.