At 20-years-old, Lexie Liu is certainly one of a number of younger faces of the burgeoning mainstreaming of hip-hop in China. With a hypnotic mix of ambient tunes and woozy beats, she’s risen to prominence via her dedication to melodic rap, relayed via songs like "Sleep Away" and "Nada." Last yr, she rose to prominence via her look on the favored competitors present The Rap of China, the place she landed in fourth place, ending the yr by signing with 88rising. She’s again this week with a brand new single, “Hat Trick,” and the announcement of her upcoming 2030 album, kicking off 2019 in an enormous approach.
“Last yr, I used to be extra targeted on the home stuff that was happening,” Liu tells Billboard. “This yr, will probably be a place to begin for my music and my work with 88 right here, in a extra worldwide market.”
Born and raised in Hunan, China, Liu is bilingual and incorporates each Mandarin and English into her songs simply as she blends completely different sonic types, closely emphasizing the R&B leanings in her songs. She sees herself as a bridge of kinds. “I really feel there’s a necessity to mix these two languages, and I hope that may make folks really feel that Mandarin is a phenomenal language. And make them wish to know extra about this tradition," she says.
She additionally expresses a need to point out Chinese audiences how hip-hop is extra complicated than perceptions of it could sometimes be. “In the Chinese market, persons are getting increasingly open minded to completely different genres of music, like hip-hop simply began final yr," she says. "People are beginning to find it irresistible, to be exact." By introducing smoother rap types and incorporating quite a lot of genres, Liu’s model of hip-hop is constructed to be extra accessible, however she remembers dealing with criticism for it whereas she was on The Rap of China. “‘Oh, she’s simply singing pop songs.’ That’s not how that works," she declares. "But after [that Rap of China] season, there have been extra rappers that began to do extra melodic and sounds friendlier to the ears stuff. People are increasingly open to it and there have been a pair hit songs that have been melodic rap, and I’m completely satisfied to see that too.”
The relationship between China, and Asia basically, with hip-hop is complicated primarily based on the style originating amongst black artists within the States, grown out of socio-economic and racial tensions. Liu doesn’t shrink back from this, and believes that Chinese hip-hop received’t change into really genuine till folks “perceive the entire hip-hop factor varies occasionally too. We can not discuss promoting dope and stuff in China, trigger we’ve by no means finished that. Nobody’s really doing it [who is] rapping there. So typically we have to keep away from to speak about sure matters that aren’t true. Maybe swap it to a special perspective, and extra nearer to life that persons are dwelling in.”
Personally, Liu attracts from her life and her favourite fiction for inspiration. The soulful “Hat Trick” is impressed by the prologue of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and options quotes from the long-lasting cautionary story in regards to the American dream, together with the rephrased “The woman actually price having received't look ahead to anyone.” Time and science-fiction are explicit artistic inspirators for Liu, who rapidly responds with the insider wink-wink phrase “42” as the reply to the common query after declaring Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as one other main affect. Her music movies usually incorporate futuristic components in them as properly. “I’m obsessive about the conception of time,” she admits. “Cause it makes every thing change and take it to someplace that individuals wouldn’t know till they’re there. So it provides me a whole lot of area to play with creativeness.”
But although her music and movies are area for her to discover her creativity and creativeness, Liu’s additionally intensely grounded, and makes use of her profession as a technique to attempt to rectify gender disparity that she sees within the music world round her. “It is a really male dominated business, and folks all the time have extra strict and more durable requirements on girls, particularly celebrities and rappers,” she says. One of a handful of feminine rappers to rise to prominence via The Rap of China, Liu says all of them are conscious of their function as pioneers. “We’re attempting to point out that not solely guys can try this, we are able to in all probability try this too, united collectively.”
Liu says she thinks her much less aggressive model of hip-hop is seen dismissively partially as a result of she’s a lady, as neither her sound nor her seems match the thought of what a feminine rapper needs to be. “Because I’m a lady and since I take advantage of a whole lot of melodic stuff, a whole lot of audiences they are going to really feel like I’m not rapping,” she says about suggestions she’s heard. “And just a little little bit of bizarre feedback on my boobs. ‘Oh, they’re so flat.’ Cause feminine rappers are,” she pauses to wave her hand in a curve, “You know?”
Though Liu’s mother and father need her to return to school — she left New York University after her first semester to pursue her ardour — she’s not remotely able to be finished together with her musical profession at a time when each Chinese and Western audiences have gotten extra open to extra numerous music that blends languages, cultures, and her musical leanings. “I’m nonetheless attempting to combine these components collectively so folks can see one thing that they’ve by no means seen earlier than. That’s the place I’m going,” she says.
Liu’s 2030 can be launched on Feb. 1.