Where are you right now?
We're in California driving to Pioneertown near Joshua Tree. We're going to be in the desert tonight, which will be really cool. We took a CMJ break, so yesterday was our first night back in it. My throat is still in the pain of playing two shows in one night, but it's all good.
Did you have a good time at CMJ? Was it your first time in New York?
I was in New York about a year ago for the first time, and now I've been going back frequently. I love New York. Well, mostly, I love the pizza. No, but I love the fast-paced vibe of the city, which forces you to catch. I think it's really pretty -- a huge concrete jungle. Very cool.
Where did you grow up?
I am one-part Detroit, one-part Houston. I feel very much a part of both worlds. In Detroit I grew up surrounded by gospel, my mom sang in gospel choirs with Bebe and Cece Winans and the Clark sisters. And she was always singing around the house, but Houston was definitely my more formative years when I started rapping and making music. My parents were awesome and encouraged me to pursue music from a young age. I was a flautist. I started when I was 12.
You play the flute?
Yeah, I'm classically trained. When I started rapping they were okay with that too as long as I got a scholarship in flute.
And did you get the scholarship?
I did. I got a scholarship to the University of Houston for music performance in flute and studied under Sydney Carlson. She was awesome. I had planned to go to Paris and study at the Paris Conservatory and all that, but I didn't do it! I decided to be in a rock band, and now here I am.
How many different groups have you been in?
I have been in a lot of bands -- punk, rock, hip-hop -- either as front woman or back up singer or flautist. I was in a rock band called Ellipsis. I played in Dream Crusher and in this group called the 'For My Mother' crew with Big Cats. He put an album out called For My Mother and everyone was doing him props. I play in Marijuana Death Squad whenever Ryan [Olson] wants me to. I sing back up for Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps. I am in a group with Sofia Eris called Absynthe, and we were in The Chalice with Claire de Lune and GRRRL PRTY with Manchita.
Whoa. How do you balance all those styles and projects at once?
I don't think about myself when I'm creating because it's just coming out of me. It's like making a baby; you're not like, 'Wow, look what I did!' It's more like, 'Wow, this baby is so pretty.' You lose yourself. I'm not thinking about all the styles I'm flipping, but about learning technique. When you are learning an instrument, you have to learn techniques to make it sound cool or different, and I think with the voice you are able to do that too. I don't realize when I am screaming or singing or rapping. It's just what's happening.
You're just being Lizzo.
Yeah, yeah, and at this point I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing. I don't know if I am the best I can be. I don't know if I am killin' it or not. I am just doing it. Sometimes I just black out. I should watch videos of myself because God only knows what's really going on up there.
I love the record; it brings me back to the great female rappers of the 90s. It seems like that woman doesn't really exist anymore.
I love that you say 'that woman' because they -- Missy Elliot, Lauryn Hill -- they are still here, but their music is a time capsule of this awesome blend of rappin', singing, great production and great choice of musicality. And, they had a great message. Even though Missy Elliot was talking about sex, which I loved. She is the freakiest one! It is unfortunate that we don't have a voice or force like them. With GRRRL PRTY all we hope is that we can be like them, that we can pave our own way and show off our talents. We can rap, we can dance and we can talk about important issues.
How do you think hip-hop's changed since then?
I think the true art form is coming back. Rappers' are just spittin' now where as before it was like, 'Oh how are we going to throw this song together? Oh this word rhymes with this word,' but now they are like, 'Nope, I'm spittin'. Everyone is trying to showcase their technique and their lyricism. It's a golden age, man.
When did you first start rapping?
I was 13, in middle school, with my home-girls. We had a little clique over the summer, and we all had little cornrows in our heads and wrote a couple hits. We, my friend Alexia and I, recorded them. She would come up with a beat, and I'd be like, 'Yeah, that's tight!' so we'd go over to this dude Cyrus' house, my brother's friend, and he would put them out on fruity loops for us, and we would rap on top of it. It was real, uh, hood. It was really undefined, but it was really fun. It was my first attempt at rapping, actually spitting. We all heard that Diamond verse on 'Knuck If You Buck' -- everyone around the world heard that -- and it really inspired me because she goes into that triple time.
Who else has inspired you?
Well, definitely Beyonce. She and Destiny's Child were superheros in Texas when I was growing up. Then they blew up, and she's taken it even further. She inspires me to always be the best I can be at all times. It's almost insatiable for me. I always say this about GRRRL PRTY because we are three very strong emcees, and we're all spittin' so hard and we're all killin' so hard because we're all trying to be the best we can be and be the best verse every song. That is something I hold, you can't ever sit back and say you're done and be like, 'Oh yeah, I killed it.' No, because on the next song you have to kill it even harder. I have been in groups where people have that attitude, and I am always like, 'No dude, not at all.' You have to always be working on yourself, always making yourself better.
How was your classical training come through in your rapping and current work?
The flute definitely helped me with composing. When I was younger, I wanted to be a composer, so I would listen to all the different parts of symphonies, and try to figure out how to write my own. Doing that with instrumentation and having a background in music theory made it easy for me when I started stacking harmonies. When I think about the music I am attracted to, it has a really classic vibe to it. Like Lazerbeak, I chose his beats because of his use of chord progression, which is -- I don't want to call it traditional -- but there is something really classic and beautiful about the way he chooses to put notes together, which I don't even think he realizes, versus other producers who use sounds or horns or major chords.
You're currently based in Minneapolis - why there?
That was a random thing. I moved with this dude Johnny Lewis who was my producer at the time. He told me he was moving back to Minnesota, and he asked if I wanted to come, and I was like, 'Let's go.' I did it on a whim. I had asked a friend at SXSW that year 'What do you know about Minneapolis?' and he was like, 'Good hip-hop scene!'
Minneapolis has a pretty strong music scene in general, right? How would you describe it?
The scene is very collaborative and very artistic. If you are an artist, you are respected versus other cities where you're kind of a charlatan -- you know? 'Charlatan,' what is this 1935? Anyway, in Minneapolis, art is praise, and everyone wants to work with each other. There is no major label and no one is fighting for attention. Everyone is just trying to make the best art the can make. It's bubbling over in Minneapolis.
New York isn't the raw creative mecca it once was. Now you have to have money.
New York started hip-hop, so you can't take that, but everyone use to go to New York to pop off and become famous. That's where everyone went to make their dreams come true, but it became such big business and created this high ladder of entry to climb up. Now you can't go there to make your dreams come true. You have to make your dreams come true wherever you are then go there to get into the business of it.
And with social media, now you really can be anywhere, but be everywhere.
Right, exactly. I mean because of Twitter I am everywhere. I am in London right now! How'd I get there (laughs)? It is a different world.
You're heading to Europe soon right?
Yeah, LIZZOBANGERS comes out November 4th in the UK, so I am flying out with Sophia Eres and we are going to tour. We're going to go to Paris and Scotland too.
Will this be your first time to Paris since you choose rock 'n' roll over the flute?
Yes! Oh my god. It'll be like, 'Wow, I could have been here five years ago.'
You'll have to go play in front of the Eiffel Tour and film it for You Tube. I would love to watch that.
Yes! I'm going to bring my flute now. We're actually going to shoot a video in Paris, so I think I am going to do that.
Oh it's a different song, it's not on LIZZOBANGERS. We're already in the future, girl.