Lizzo – ‘Big GRRRL Small World’

Minneapolis trap star exposes her plentiful talents on sober second album

Minneapolis rapper Lizzo appears to view albums the same way most people view dates. If the first one’s all about making a fun, breezy initial impression, the second gives you a chance to open up a bit and show some emotional depth.

Anyone familiar with Lizzo’s 2013 debut ‘Lizzobangers’ will know it was a Ronseal-esque statement of intent, all club-friendly sub-bass, fidgety hi-hats, and catchy, funny, clever lyrics. The first four minutes of ‘Big GRRRL Small World’ suggest we’re in for more of the same: opener ‘Ain’t I’ is pure, addictive drill brilliance, with a bassline like a dropped hornets’ nest, over which Lizzo performs vocal acrobatics that are part-Nicki Minaj, part-Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

If this sort of visceral trap aggression was all you signed up for, though, ‘Big GRRRL Small World’ may leave you feeling short-changed; the bulk of tracks on here are far more sober and introspective than her first record.

This is, of course, no bad thing. Lizzo is anything but a one-trick pony (as well as a blistering rapper, she’s also a show-stopping gospel singer and classically trained flautist), and the full range of her talent is on display here, from the twinkling soul of ‘Humanize’ to the jazzy groove of ‘The Fade’. Not content with switching styles between tracks, she even manages to perform entire genre U-turns within the same song: see ‘En Love’, which flits effortlessly between raucous rap and euphoric church choir.

As a lyricist, she’s stepped up a gear, too. The witty, perfectly executed wordplay is still in full effect (“I got that Will power like Jaden“), but more striking is her subversion of classic female R’n’B stereotypes. “I woke up in this“, she declares on ‘My Skin’, neatly tweaking Beyonce’s catchphrase to make it less about aggressive vanity and more about racial empowerment.

‘Big GRRRL Small World’ is a decidedly broader and more mature offering than ‘Lizzobangers’, and, in terms of Lizzo’s long-term appeal, that can only be a good thing. That said, when you know how well she can do straight-up club bangers, you can’t help wishing there were a couple more on here…