Born in Malawi, raised in Nottingham and now based in south London, Lavida Loca is carving out her own lane in UK rap on her own terms. Below the surface of her razor-sharp lyrics is a brutal tale of surviving inner city poverty, crime and a drive to spotlight the pitfalls that many women fall into–whose stories are so rarely heard.
The young rapper has built a solid foundation, like many before her, with hard-hitting freestyles like King Is Back through organic social media promo and swiftly went viral. She further made her mark with tracks like No ID and her well received 2-Sides EP saw her showcase her assertive flows on hardcore drill to light upbeat afro-swing. While Lavida can boast working with long-time Giggs producer Bayoz Muzik and renowned hit-making legend Fraser T. Smith, it was her feature in YouTube Originals’ Terms & Conditions: A Drill Story that really captured their full magnetic personality. Lavida is certainly next in line for rap royalty’s crown.
Laura Brosnan caught up with Lavida Loca to discuss her love for writing, how women being pitted against each other can create issues and the importance of telling your own story.
'It’s important to me to empower women and I want to send out the message in my work, that ‘regardless of where you come from, you can definitely boss up!’'
Laura Bronsan: When did you first fall in love with music?
Lavida Loca: From when I was a child, growing up in quite an unstable house, I found peace in music. I used to use music to block things out and turned into a real love for music in general. The first CD I used to do that with was my mum's Whitney Houston CD. Every time I was upset or just being that child, I would blast music out. Then I discovered Nicki Minaj when I was about nine or ten and I absolutely loved her, but I didn't really know there was a whole world of women in rap.
From then I just continued to dig into this new world. Then I came across the UK women who were rapping at the time, which was like Lady Leshurr, Lioness, Baby Blue, Mz Bratt and more. There was quite a few of them doing their thing at that point. In my head, at that time, it was like ‘these are UK Nickis, they’re trying to do what Nicki’s doing’ because I didn't know. As ignorant as it sounds, I didn't know there was other women rapping. I was too young to know Ms Dynamite and people before. So, those were the first females I'd heard of in the UK and then they influenced me to start writing. That’s the moment I first picked up a pen and I wrote to the Game Over instrumental and I haven’t looked back since.
Laura: How would you compare the music you’re making now to the lyrics you wrote then?
Lavida: Now I can write about anything that’s close to me. I let it all out through the pen. I think back then I didn't know how to do that. I was just rhyming. Now, I’m so indulged in the whole creative process.
Laura: UK rap is really breaking new boundaries in the landscape of British music and beyond. How are you carving out your own lane, especially in a male dominated arena?
Lavida: My music is real, gritty but at the same time quite girly. It’s a pure ‘bossy’ type of vibe. I’m a rapper, I feel like I'm very lyrical. It’s important to me to empower women and I want to send out the message in my work, that ‘regardless of where you come from, you can definitely boss up!’ I feel like my story shows that in a sense. I want to make them feel uplifted and bounce back from any setbacks.
Laura: Do you feel there’s certain expectations, topics and stereotypes projected on to women in the music industry to sing or rap?
Lavida: I think initially when I first started rapping, I was told a lot that I should become sexier and rap more like what's hot right now in the U.S, with women in rap. I was like ‘So, you want me to be the same as everybody else?’ I feel like that was because people weren’t used to hearing a woman talk about the life that I've lived. As time has gone on and I’ve continued to be myself, people are just taking me in and just made me very happy that I haven't had to change myself or fit into some sort of box for people to actually start listening to my music and for me to generally gain support. I feel like that's happened organically and it's going to continue to grow over time.
Laura: I do see though, time after time, parts of the music industry, media and fans pitting women against each other. Rarely are women celebrated for what their work without putting other women down.
Lavida: Yes, It's the female rivalry thing. I definitely feel like that is what people are entertained by and I'm not sure why, every time maybe you have two females on a song, they'll be compared rather than, you know, ‘they both went hard’. We get a lot of that projected on to us. I feel like that does kind of add tension to what’s going on. I feel like that's why it can be a lot harder for women to support each other behind the scenes. Maybe it does get into, maybe a few people's heads. The comments and the audience have made it a thing of who's better than who, I feel like, then that obviously plants seeds in people's heads of wanting to be better than the other rather than supporting each other. It goes hands in hand, but I would say it’s both.
'I’ve experienced different parts of life. I've experienced struggle. I hope now I'm experiencing growth and then I’ll get to experience success.'
Laura: I can imagine that being frustrating, but I suppose if you're working in a corporate job in a male-dominated industry and there's only one or two women, similar things would eventually happen too.
Lavida: I am feeling a lot of love right now. So, hopefully we’re changing that. The group of us that are coming up. I’m not feeling any tension right now, everyone’s supporting each other and just loving the fact that it is the time of the female rapper.
Laura: In your music you speak quite candidly about the struggles you were going through growing up. How has music helped through that journey?
Lavida: Music has really helped me since I came out of jail because without it, I would have nothing else to focus on. I'm noticing now, more than before, that a lot of people are now trapped in the cycle. A lot of people that came out of prison at a similar time as me, have been recalled back. It’s easy to be trapped in the swinging door so, I’m thankful that I had something else to put my time into. Music has definitely kept me grounded; it’s giving me something to live for in a weird, cliché sense. But yeah, it's giving me something to do, something that's mine. I didn't have anything. I wasn't really into school. It was, it was just the roads, plus having my criminal record as well. I just kind of felt like I didn't have many options.
In prison it was basically therapy for me. I used to write a lot in my cell. I wish I kept my notebooks from prison. I really used to lay out my emotions then. Before then I was too focused on the roads and all of that stuff.
Laura: I really appreciate you sharing that. I think that's a really, important story to tell. What advice would give to your younger self?
Lavida: I’ve experienced different parts of life. I've experienced struggle. I hope now I'm experiencing growth and then I’ll get to experience success. And I think that will just be a lovely story to be able to tell. Just don't give up, keep going, stay strong. I would just remind her there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Laura: What are you working on the moment that we should look out for?
Lavida: I've got an EP coming very soon, which will be my second project. I'm very excited for that. I feel like I learnt a lot from my first project. I've been working on this project for maybe a little while, for about seven months now. So, I've had time to really digest music, make songs, listen to them over and over again. I think I've been a lot more specific in what I'm trying to get across and what I'm trying to do, what I'm trying to show of myself.This piece was guest edited by Maxie Gedge. Maxie is best known for her work as a PRS Foundation and Keychange Project Manager, a drummer and the founder of Gravy Records.