"I am myself, and that should be enough..."

It is impossible - completely impossible - not to get swept up in Lizzo’s energy. Even before she enters the room there’s this palpable awareness of her presence, a kind of glow that radiates around the building, permeating each corridor.

When she arrives, Lizzo enters with colour and noise, hugging everyone, laughing long and loud. Before we settle down she arranges lunch for her team, putting everyone around her first. Well, except for asking someone to go get the name of the attractive dude with dreads who keeps walking past the door, sending glances in her direction…

“I work really hard to bring my energy into a room,” she tells Clash. “If my energy can’t survive in the room then… I don’t know what’s wrong with that room, but that room needs Jesus!”

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What the world needs right now is Lizzo. New album ‘Cuz I Love You’ is exceptional, the work of an artist steeped in hip-hop but versed in soul, someone who can spit fire like Queen Latifah and rock an Aretha Franklin classic. It’s addictive, it’s loud, and it’s completely, unashamedly Lizzo.

Lead single ‘Juice’ has already got us addicted. The video has made it all the way round the world, even being beamed continuously in Times Square. “I wasn’t there!” she admits. “And I wish I was. But it’s okay, because thousands of other people were. I think that’s pretty cool to be up in Times Square. My momma was excited.”

There’s this odd nonchalance when we discuss topics like this - her flowering fame, her public persona. “I am very weird when it comes to being excited about certain things,” she admits. “Like, I’m grateful for everything. But I get excited about the weirdest shit. I get excited about edits for music videos or editing. Or getting a master or a mix back I’ll start screaming. And people say, ‘Why didn’t you get excited about that when we told you you were gonna be on this billboard?’ But I think that speaks to the kind of artist I am. I just love making shit so much.”

“Once I make it and it’s out in the world it’s like: okay, on to the next. The accolades and all of the shit that comes along with putting your art out is a plus for me; it’s like a bonus. I don’t expect it and I don’t feel entitled to it. I feel entitled to the need to make art, I feel entitled to the ability to make art. Like I deserve to do this, I need to be making art. Everything else is just icing on the cake.”

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Success has been a long time coming. Lizzo released two full albums - ‘Lizzobangers’ and ‘Big Grrrl Small World’ - before 2016’s major label EP release ‘Coconut Oil’ became her breakout moment. “I don’t know if that’s grounding but it’s definitely a different experience,” she muses. “I feel like I will see artists and their first single will just go off and be number one, or they’ll be popping off with the first project they put out. And I’m like, ‘Damn…’ I can’t imagine my whole life being like that. I can’t imagine putting out something when I’m 19 and it’s No. 1 and then I have to follow that up. I don’t think I’m cut from that same kinda cloth.”

“I think that the universe or God knew that more than I did because the times where that could have happened it didn’t,” she insists. “That just wasn’t in my cards. My cards was to have this slow burn, this gradual growth, because I believe that I’m a career musician. If pop stardom comes in in the middle of that, that’s going to be a pleasant change, but through and through I’m just going to be touring and making music forever. I don’t necessarily care about being popular in that way, as long as I’m popular to my fans, and as long as I can sell out Madison Square Garden then I’m good!”

But she’d best get used to it. ‘Juice’ was a global smash, and all the signs are that new album ‘Cuz I Love You’ will follow it into the stratosphere. “I think those things are amazing and I’m really grateful for it but it doesn’t define me and my definition of success,” she states. “I think that my definition of success is: was the music good? Did it move you? Does it move people? I feel like successful is when I’m playing my music and people know the words and they’re singing it and they believe it.”

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A few days ago Lizzo sat down with her choreographer to go over her live show with a fine-tooth comb. “I was watching footage of myself - a lot of it was fan footage, from the crowd - and they were screaming the lyrics! I was like, damn; when I’m onstage I’ve got in-ears and I don’t hear that. I don’t see how I look and I can’t see a Lizzo show. But watching that footage I was like, ‘Woah, they really know the words,’ and they were really screaming! They were really losing their voice and losing their minds.”

“In that moment I was like: I have never gotten to see a Lizzo show like this and I felt really, really successful. More so than if my song was number one. What’s higher than number one?” she exclaims, laughter rolling around the room. “Number in the fucking sky! Number Heaven!”

In some ways ‘Cuz I Love You’ is a composite of her past projects. A series of key collaborators have helped open up her creativity, from Ricky ‘Wallpaper’ Reed through to X-Ambassadors. It’s her hip-hop roots matched to a soulful touch, the complete bond of life to music.

“I think there was a certain amount of life and experiences that I had to go through - and people - to get me to this point where I could emote and communicate that where it was relevant to me right now,” she says. “Where I wanted to sing it over and over and over. Because I lived it, and I want to share it. Right now. I think that any song that I lived three years ago is not the song that I want to express every night on stage, but that’s the type of transparency I have. When you listen to ‘Cuz I Love You’ you’ll know exactly what I’m going through. There’s no veil, no facade, no fake story. Every story is real.”

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Sessions ran from February to August, a breakneck run that finally saw Lizzo get the sounds she heard in her head down on tape. It followed two aborted projects: a straight-up pop record, and an Atlanta rap record. Somewhere in the middle, she suggests, is where ‘Cuz I Love You’ sits.

“It’s Lizzo,” she reasons. “It’s me not afraid of my voice, and me not afraid of my shit. Because the pop records were me really exploring my voice. And then when I was in Atlanta I was just talking shit! I was like, ‘Let me finally talk about having money because I’ve been talking about being broke forever! Let me manifest some money in my life! Let me manifest some pussy eaters! Let me manifest the fact that I’m a bad bitch!’ Then you listen to ‘Juice’ and ‘Juice’ is both of those things.”

“I think life-wise I needed to go through some shit but also stylistically I didn’t know what my genre was. When I say ‘genre’ I’m not saying, ‘Am I R&B or am I hip-hop?’ I’m saying, ‘This is my genre.’ I learned a long time ago that when you listen to a Lizzo song, I am the genre. I used to be deterred by that, thinking I was so hard to categorise. But it’s like, no, I am myself, and that should be enough.”

There’s a certain bite to Lizzo’s voice that retains her rap roots. “It’s funny, people who find out I was a rapper - especially black dudes who like rap, or hip-hop producers - they be like, ‘I can tell! I can tell you can rap because you have a certain pocket with your songs.’ I didn’t realise how much sing-rapping I do, or how much when somebody gives me a song to sing it has a rap pocket to it. It sounds like I’m swag-rapping!”

“But the music needs to be as soulful on the record as I can do live,” she adds. “I think that’s important because I’m such a live artist, people love to see the show. I feel like this honours that.”

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Lizzo doesn’t analyse when she creates - that comes after. Each release so far has acted as this form of communion with herself, a way of getting emotions down on tape. Flying over to London for this shoot, she spent time with the masters for ‘Cuz I Love You’, offering advice and last minute edits.

“Right now I hear a woman that feels very self-actualised, but I also hear a woman that went through some hard fucking times with love,” she reveals. “A woman who has dealt with so much self-love, but has never dealt with exterior love, or any type of selfish or romantic love. I hear a woman who’s like, ‘Oh my God, I can love myself, so why is it so hard to be loved by someone else? I love myself, how come you can’t love me?’ I think that she’s trying to grapple with that harsh reality. It’s like, no matter how much you love yourself you can’t make someone love you. And I think all over ‘Cuz I Love You’ is all of her frustrations with realising that.”

“At the same time it’s a celebration of realising that - like, I can actually cry. I can actually admit that I love you. And I can actually admit that I can do that in the same sentence. That’s leaps and bounds of progress than what you are able to do in the past. But it’s great because I’m not at the mountaintop yet; there’s a place to go after that. There’s always room for growth, as a human being and as an artist. When you’re listening to these albums you’re like, ‘Damn, well I hope she finds love soon!’ And maybe that’s what the next album will be about… but who knows?”

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One of the things that comes across most when meeting Lizzo is her undiluted passion, and her undimmed ambition. She doesn’t want one great album: she wants a catalogue. At one point we chat about Kanye West’s career, his ability to move from stylistic identity to stylistic identity. Curiously, Lizzo’s two main co-signs also come from true music chameleons: Missy Elliott, and the late, great Prince.

“I challenge myself to get better and better,” she says. “It’s not about being better, it’s about the intention behind it. I feel like, damn, it’s not innate. I feel like when I’m creating now it comes from a higher place instead of a mental place and I can just pull from my life and experience. I have so much more control over my voice, and I am so much more aware of what I want from my voice. And I think that ‘Cuz I Love You’ is definitely me finding my voice. It’s the beginning of that. All the albums before I was all over the place when it comes to my voice, and now I’m finding it actually.”

“I think that’s probably really poetic and a metaphor of why so many people are discovering me now: it’s who I am,” she says. “This is my voice. We’ll see what happens after this.”

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Lizzo's new album 'Cuz I Love You' is out now.

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