Lizzo, Overnight Sensation Ten Years in the Making

The artist of the year seemingly took everyone by surprise, with most not even realizing she has been one of the hardest working artists around for almost a decade.

You would be hard pressed since Adele’s 21 album dropped in 2011 to find an artist with as much across-the-board appeal this decade than Lizzo. Born in Detroit, MI, Melissa Vivianne Jefferson left the Motor City for Texas, and eventually settled in Minneapolis, becoming an integral part of their local music scene, far removed from either coast not just in terms of geography, but in style as well.

From the back cover of Lizzobangers, 2013. Photo by Garrett Born, courtesy of Virgin records.

Much like the Twin Cities legend Prince, Lizzo has taken chances. A lot of them. Her style of Hip Hop is slightly experimental, flirting with all sorts of electronic music styles, with lyrics at times that can go from the absolutely odd to the down and dirty truth. What has set this hard working young lady apart from the pack is her sense of pop savvy: she has seemingly done the impossible, and that is to create one sparkling little 3 minute gem after another.

Lizzo on stage, 2019. Photo by Sacha Lecca for Rolling Stone.

She has publicly stated that she is also a member of the LGBTQ community, and is larger than runway model size. Think about this for just a moment: this is what a Hip Hop artist can now be in 2019. Even if these weren’t major points for Lizzo in the media, and believe me, we still have a lot of work to do in regards to treating the Queer community with dignity and not fat shaming people, it is the artist herself who has helped along the paradigm shifts this year: she honestly ain’t got time for haters, and by the sheer force of her conviction has she dropped some light on a few people.

So why don’t you know more about Lizzo? Well, some of her early work is available for purchase on Bandcamp, in the form of mixtapes and more traditional releases in the two groups she was a part of, Grrrl Party and The Chalice. However, her first two solo albums, Lizzobangers and Big Grrrl, Small World, were taken out of print in the U.S., and streaming services are not carrying tracks from the albums. I have heard Lizzo quite often lately bemoan the fact that people don’t know how long she has been working at her craft.

“You know what I want, above all things? I want people who are aware of my music right now, to believe in change.”


Her big break came this summer, when online video service Tik Tok started to feature the song for “Truth Hurts”, a two year old single (how Aerosmith 1976 “Dream On”) that eventually reached the pole position on the Billboard Hot 100, and is her first entry in the Top 40. It spent six weeks at number one, making Lizzo the only female Hip Hop solo artist to achieve this feat.

Unfortunately, part of this huge gap is due to the artist herself: it was Lizzo who wished to focus on her last two releases, 2016’s Coconut Oil EP and the full length Cuz I love You from earlier this year. An unintended consequence of this has been file sharing sites illegally transferring the files, and physical copies of her second album were going for as much as $175 on E-Bay just last month. We are not going to feature all of the tracks from her first two solo albums here, but at least now you will have an opportunity to hear some what you have been missing.

Lizzo, 2016. Curtesy of NPR.

Along the way, Lizzo has also found time to work with a multitude of other artists, including one of her idols, Prince. She hasn’t done it alone, obviously, but I would be remiss without mentioning the crucial role her close friend and keyboardist, Sophia Eris, has played in developing the Lizzo sound. If that isn’t black girl magic then I just don’t know. Switching gears musically mid-decade, Lizzo has focused less on Rap and Hip/Hop and more on R&B and Dance music. Her lyrics are direct, body positive, empowering and often just plain funny.

Big Girl, Small World front cover, 2015. Courtesy of BGSW.

And it is this latter part that has hooked everyone: if no one has noticed, things have kinda gone to hell in a hand basket over the last 3 1/2 years. Lizzo isn’t a distraction from this. What she has done is be the reminder that we can’t fix all the world’s problems, but we can at least love ourselves. And, children of the revolution, that’s how any change starts.

NSFW: Some tracks contain language some may find objectionable.

All tracks by Lizzo unless noted

Lizzo: Artist of the Year Playlist

  • Boys, 2018, single (eventually on Cuz I Love You expanded edition)
  • Faded, 2013, Lizzobangers
  • Phone, 2016, Coconut Oil EP
  • Keep Digging, 2013, single, Mixed Blood Majority (featuring Lizzo)
  • Rapture, 2014, Made in Chelsea, Vol. 3
  • Double Dutch, 2012, We Are The Chalice (mixtape), The Chalice
  • Crybaby, 2019, Cuz I Love You
  • Ain’t I, 2015, Big GRRRL, Small World
  • Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!, 2015, single, N.A.S.A (feat. Sean Paul & Lizzo)
  • Truth Hurts, 2017, single (eventually on Cuz I Love You expanded edition)
  • Betcha (live), 2016, Daytrotter Session – 2/17/2016
  • Night Watch, 2013, single, GRRRL PRTY
  • Boy Trouble, 2014, PLECTRUMELECTRUM, Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL (featuring Lizzo and Sophia Eris)
  • Juice, 2019, Cuz I Love You
  • Bloodlines, 2013, Lizzobangers
  • Karaoke, 2018, 3rd Ward Bounce, Big Freedia featuring Lizzo
  • Good As Hell, 2016, Coconut Oil EP

For those of you who wish to support Lizzo’s work on Bandcamp, here are some quick links. Click the name to link to that page.

Love to you all.

Ben “Bear” Brown Jr. 
Host, Producer, Audio Engineer and Writer

#lizzo #hiphop #womeninmusic

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