The only person who could possibly feel themselves while wearing a sweater in the balmy heat of this confused Wisconsin weather is none other than empowering Midwest-raised rapper, Lizzo. Entering the stage wearing a fuzzy red heart on her chest, she went full-force from the beginning to end of her set, belting near-flawless anthems of feminism and body positivity.
The bold artist managed to electrify the audience in a venue seemingly mismatched with the vibes of rap music — the Wisconsin Union Theater in Memorial Union, a place that typically holds lectures given by distinguished academics and the like. Lizzo had a different type of crowd, wedging themselves against the stage and squeezing into aisles simply to stay standing and be able to bop freely to the jams. The audience made it work though, and people were up and flailing limbs all around, despite the limitations brought by chairs.
DJ Sophia Eris, who does production for Lizzo, opened the show with her nonstop flow of beats, sampling from a variety of music and immersing the audience in the energy to come for the next 90 minutes. She was obviously having a great time, playing around with pieces of music and encouraging the audience to yell profanities about President Trump along with her. The crowd may not have caught Eris’ bait right away — there was minimal grooving despite the musician’s prompts — but shortly after she left the stage, more people filled the room and the anticipation for Lizzo’s fun hip-hop excellence was palpable.
Lizzo and Eris — who backed up the wordsmith — strutted on stage with her two backup dancers, referred to as The Big GRRRLS — who rocked leotards and fishnets, embracing and shaking all their curves. Their apparent confidence in themselves was infectious and made me want to whip my hair around and sing about feeling “good as hell.”
The rapper treated the audience to almost every song from her latest EP, Coconut Oil, including the second track and go-to pump-up banger, “Phone.” After the tune, she chatted with the crowd a bit and said she had loved Madison the couple times she had previously played here. She then asked if, because Madison was so great, she could play a track off her 2015 hit album, Big Grrrl Small World, and soon, the soft opening notes of “Humanize” leaked from the speakers.
After making sure concert-goers were “turning up,” she chose three of them to join her and “twerk” on stage. The three took over the stage as Lizzo got other audience members chanting their names.
Lizzo played another tune, “Deep,” off of the fairly new EP, as well as a single she dropped just a couple weeks ago, “Love Hurts.” She also played the first song she ever released, “Batches & Cookies,” featuring Eris. This came along with another oldie off of Big Grrrl Small World, “En Love,” which got everyone in the seats standing and shouting, “I think I’m in love with myself” and dancing to every bass drop as if no one was watching.
The artist is known for releasing hits that preach feminism, black power and embracing one’s body, and this trend of self-love was consistent throughout her set. The audience of all shapes, colors, sizes, genders, etc. were happily in a cohesive space of releasing their worries about their identities with help from the inspiring artist. She tied up her set — a little too soon after she started, it seemed — with jams filled with these messages, such as the song “Worship,” which demands for the singer to be treated like royalty by someone lucky enough to have her attention, and her hit single “Good as Hell,” where she again talks about feeling good about herself, infecting the crowd with the same sentiment.
“I wanna say things that make people feel good,” Lizzo said, out of breath between energetic songs. “I write it to better my life, but moments like this is [when it] pays off.”