LOUS AND THE YAKUZA – An interview

The songwriter, singer and rapper has fled one war and lived through the aftermath of another. Now, bridging continents, she tells an autobiographical story with her outstanding debut album. The genre-fluid artist blends sultry hip-hop with harsh trap beats to create tracks that are both a declaration of her resilience and an exploration of Generation Z concerns, including race, loneliness and despair. The interview is part of our new digital issue: IN CONVERSATION WITH – Part 6!

All I want is for people to be free and be whoever you are, whatever your skin colour is. I just want you to be free and do what you wanna do, mind your business and be happy

KB: What is behind your mysterious stage name – and who are the Yakuza?

Lous is an anagram for soul, I’ve inverted the L and the S to make it Lous. This is a direct reference to my strong attachment to spirituality. The Yakuza are the beautiful people that are part of my team because I’m not alone in this project, we’re all Yakuza, all part of the team. Yakuza actually means ‘loser’ in Japanese, but in a positive way, like ‘being out of the box’. I believe the people surrounding me are all very special in their own way.

KB: What elements from your culture can we hear on your debut album? And how important is your origin for your current sound?

I think it’s the percussion, some ad-libs, the way I sing actually because I’m African so whatever I do is always gonna sound African. It could be neo-African, like very new wave, new vibe. Because of the fact that I’m African makes everything Africanized. In songs like “Amigo” or “Solo”, I think the percussion is very Africanized.

KB: Your debut album is entitled “Gore”. What do you want to tell your listeners with the title?
I named my album “Gore” because ”Gore” is a genre of horror movies. It is one of the subgenres. It says that that kind of way to film is so violent, brutal and bloody that it becomes absurd and funny. I think at some point my personal life was so hardcore and very difficult that it became absurd. Absurdity can have a funny aspect. When I see my life I’m like it’s better to laugh than cry about it. Because there is always hope. My whole experience has been very hard for a couple of years but at the same time, I had a laugh about myself. In a nice way, not to mock me or to be negative. I had a laugh at seeing the better side of it. To be joyful instead of crying and being desperate. That’s why I chose the word “Gore”. Life can be very dark sometimes and this album is very much a testimony of my strength. That’s why I said there is always hope.

KB: In your songs, you sing about topics like everyday racism, homophobia, misogyny and the fight for an open, tolerant society. How important is it to attach political messages in your work?

Even though it is not the only goal of my album, my music is political and carries a political message. I really want to fight for a lot of different causes, and music allows me to do that. In this album, there are songs about rape, prostitution, poverty, differences … It allows me to highlight some themes that aren’t displayed otherwise to all kinds of audiences.

KB: KB: As a natural multilinguist, is there a reason why you picked French as the exclusive language used on “Gore”?

“Gore” is an autobiographical album, it’s been my life for the past few years. French being my mother tongue, it seemed to me to be the only language I could tell my story in all honesty and authenticity.

KB: What does the creative process look like when you produce new songs?

I write my own songs. Everything in the album comes from my personal experience, which is how I create. As for the more technical part, the album was produced by El Guincho who helped me with putting an order in my thoughts. With discipline and regularity, we managed to go where we wanted and create the sound that corresponds to my vision.

KB: What was it like for you to suddenly be a kind of figurehead in the BLM-movement? And why is it important for you to use your platform as a voice for Black womanhood?

I want to use my platform as a voice for Black womanhood because I’m one myself. I think I have a responsibility for my little sisters, for strangers, for everyone really. I think we are all responsible for something, You can be responsible for anything.  I feel responsible for others and not only Black people and Black females, but most people. I wanna be a good example of everything. I’m a human, I make tons of mistakes and I hope people would forgive me as I would forgive them. But in the meantime, I have this responsibility to give a good representation because we are lacking in representation. We don’t have any Black female singers in Europe. We have maybe 3 or 5 that we can name but the rest have no visibility. There are tons of super talented Back women but we don’t see them because they never get a chance or anything.

It’s very hard to get to the place I am today. And I think that’s why I wanna talk about it. People suffer and I’m either not sensitive to it, and I don’t say anything or I’m sensitive and I talk about it. Because talking about Black people it’s really about talking about myself, my sister’s experience, my brother’s experiences. In a nutshell, I am giving a voice to a problem that is not well received yet in Europe. I think the conversation is very open in the US because they have been talking about it, they have been vocal about it. I think in Europe we are very much at the beginning and I think as an artist it’s important to talk about things that happen outside. And as I always say, the reason why I talk about it in my music is that it happens in real life.

If we wanna have a change we need to change what’s happening in actual real-life so we don’t have to sing about racism anymore. We all wish we didn’t have to talk about it because as I always say being Black is only to have more melanin. So it’s very stupid to just talk about melanin. But the problem is that the same beautiful melanin has gotten us into a lot of issues that we have no control on and created this system that I wish never existed. Because it does not allow people to be free.

All I want is for people to be free and be whoever you are, whatever your skin colour is. I just want you to be free and do what you wanna do, mind your business and be happy.

KB: In addition to music, you also use fashion as a form of expression and have just been seen in campaigns for Louis Vuitton and Chloé. How important is the fashion to you in your videos?

In my everyday life, I dress according to my state of mind of the day. Sometimes I feel like a warrior, and I’ll dress in a “hip-hop” and a “masculine” way, other days I’ll feel very confident, and I’ll dress like a diva! I like to play with my look, it expresses different facets of my personality.

As for the videos, the artistic director and I really think a lot about it for all the looks to be coherent and mean something  Whether it is a reference to a painting or a metaphor for a concept.

KB: Which artists in 2020 inspire you the most?

On the international scene, James Blake is definitely one of the most influential artists to me. Towards the French-speaking rap scene, Damso, who is also a friend, is someone I can relate to on a professional, personal and musical level.

KB: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on your journey so far?

The biggest lesson is… I can never be perfect, I will make mistakes, and I will have to forgive myself to move forward. I always wanted to be perfect and beat my imperfections, which was a big problem because you can never be perfect. I will never be perfect and I had to learn that along the way and understand that I had to forgive myself to move forward. ‘Cos if I hate myself I can’t do shit.  So I think forgiving myself has been one of the greatest gifts I gave myself.


Interview by Marcel Schlutt @marcel_schlutt
Photography by Laura Marie Cieplik @lauramariecieplik