Minnesota's Soundset Festival has been around for about 8 years, and the lineups each year have increasingly become better and better. This year, the likes of Future, Anderson .Paak, The Roots, and Common graced the Soundset stages, making for a madly satisfying day.
However, it was some of the more independent acts that really impressed me. There are performances that you happen to walk by that you just have to stop and pause for, and Minneapolis-based alternative hip-hop artist Lizzo was one of these performers that completely blew me away when she came on stage.
For forty or so minutes, Lizzo and her diverse array of backup dancers entertained the crowd, breezing through vocally powerful tracks and stirring up the stage with fiery rapping and various dance sequences to songs such as Rihanna's "Work" and CL's "Hello Bitches".
What was most striking, however, were the strong messages of female empowerment that Lizzo was naturally projecting during her show. Belting out lyrics like "Woo girl, need to kick off your shoes/ Got to take a deep breath time to focus on You" from the song "Good As Hell" and between songs incorporating shoutouts to female artists of all types, Lizzo was one of the most refreshing acts I had seen all day, doing so without having to get the crowd hyped by talking about pussy or weed.
Not knowing much about Lizzo other than what I had just experienced during her act, I was so intrigued that I gladly seized the opportunity to speak with her.
Of course, my number one curiosity was as to how she came about forming this optimistic and confident female image that she and her dancers seemed to effortlessly project on stage.
On this, Lizzo remarked,
"I think the thing about us is that we're not really contrived. We all came together really naturally and I've always been in groups of women, that's just where I feel the most comfortable and confident. And I think that the cool thing about our message is that it's not overt. It's very subtle. And it's just what we are." And so people are just like, "Oh this message of female positivity" well yeah, because I have a vagina! So naturally I'm going to talk about that instead of being like, "dudes are better than girls" because.. I'm not a man."
More than a couple stories will pop up daily on stories relating to feminism, gender equality, racism, almost anything you can think of and, especially of the younger generations, this source is both a blessing in that it provides us a wide plethora of knowledge but a curse because the longevity of any story is hindered by our short attention spans.
Lizzo seeks to overlook this fact, and tells me that "what we're doing naturally just so happened to be a trend right now, a hot topic and we're gonna continue to be who we are even after the trend has passed and I just hope it never passes."
Missy Elliot and Beyoncé in particular is a huge inspiration for Lizzo and her crew.When you see Lizzo perform, you can easily tell that teamwork and strong articulation between her and backup dancers/singers are equally as important as what she does solo. During her live performance, the spotlight was handed to her dancers many times. It comes as no surprise that her inspirations also encompass "plenty of dudes too, when you see all these dudes on stage, thats pretty inspiring.
"I love seeing Rae Sremmurd running around with all that camaraderie on stage. It reminds me of me and Sophia Heris's compatability and our chemistry on stage. Tons of rock bands, we just don't hold instruments."
When I asked about what advice she would give to any aspiring artist, she simply responded:
"Just keep doing it. Don't stop."
And that's a message that's easy to understand but which can honestly get lost in the throes and chaos that is the music industry. So artists, take heed of Lizzo's advice.