Lost Files is a column dedicated to celebrating older projects that might have flown under the radar when they were released. This week, Oluchukwu takes a look at Lous and the Yakuza's attempt to capture life's struggles and pitfalls on her debut album, Gore.
Like any work of art, an album is a product of the experiences, belief and hopes of an artiste. A debut album is even more message-driven as it is the first offering; an introduction of artiste to audience and vice versa.
Gore, the debut album by Congolese rapper and singer Lous and the Yakuza is a body of work that captures life in sounds, and experiences over instruments. Actively shunning labels and genre-boxes, Gore blurs the line between modern-day pop with its electric undertones and traditional R&B with its smooth lyrics and soft instrumentals. In addition, the artiste’s style switches depending on the track; smooth ballads here and bouncy rap on the next. Despite all of these differences, the key elements of Lous and the Yakuza’s music, her voice, and her unique worldview are still felt throughout the project.
Born Marie-Pierra Kakoma in Congo in 1996, she fled with her family at age six to Rwanda and then Belgium during the Congolese civil conflict. They say an artist is a product of their environment, and true to this, going through such hardship and strife shaped her mind and as she gravitated towards music and creative writing, her poems, songs and stories were full of doom and gloom. She attributes this to the feelings of abandonment she experienced while separated from her mother who the Congolese government first imprisoned for being Rwandan, then exiled.
Unfortunately, trouble did not end after the move to Belgium, as she soon went back to post-war Rwanda to live with her – an experience which left an impression on her as living in a country undergoing healing and reconstruction was somehow even less privileged than the Belgian ghetto she was coming from. This was compounded by her grandmother educating her on the Rwandan genocide, leaving her traumatized but also changed in her outlook and understanding of the dark side of human relations and interactions; tribalism, racism etc. She returned to Belgium, first for boarding school and then college, which she quit after four months. After this, she fell in with the wrong crowds, got fired from several jobs and spent months homeless before getting back on her feet with the help of her friends. She began releasing music on Soundcloud and getting gigs in Brussels till she signed with Columbia Records in 2018.
Gore is the culmination of all these struggles. The title, according to the artiste, represents the darkness she has faced in life. Sung in French, with a few splashes of English and Spanish, the subjects of the songs are varied: ranging from love and failed relationships, to life and its difficulties, to politics and the plight of her people.
The album’s key attraction is its relatability; the issues she addresses are familiar to her audience of young people. This is mainly because many of them have led similar lives and experienced identical emotions. On “Téléphone Sonne”, she talks about refusing to answer the telephone because it is a burden to act like everything is alright when she is actually going through personal struggles. This sentiment is one that so many people share; social media is replete with memes and posts of people “tired” of pretending to be okay.
Asides from being relatable, another important theme of the album is the struggles women face in a male-dominated world, especially black women who are at most times bottom of the social ladder. “Quatre Heures du Matin” or "4 AM," she tells the story of a woman who was raped. In a surprising twist, the song has two viewpoints: the rapist's and the victim’s. Similarly, “Courant d’air” addresses prostitution. The song’s premise shows Lous and the Yakuza telling a child about their mother’s job, prostitution, and explaining the circumstances that have pushed her to do something considered abhorrent in society. The inspiration is drawn directly from the artiste, as she considered becoming a prostitute when homeless on the streets of Brussels.
Building on this, the quality of songwriting and lyricism on the tracks are both refreshing and curious in the way they hit you. On “Solo”, she says, “Pourquoi le noir n'est-il pas une couleur de l'arc-en-ciel ?/Why isn't "black" a color of the rainbow?”, essentially asking why black people are excluded from humanity, the very essence of nature. On “Dans Le Hess” she sings about strife and struggle: “On revient de tout, même du succès/Everything gets old, even success.”
Although her soothing voice blended with the smooth production by El Guincho is enough on its own as a recipe for success, Gore is more than the music. It is a testament to the power of self-belief and the ability of humans to rise above the curveballs life throws. Through her songs, Lous paints a picture of strength despite difficulty and resilience in the face of barriers and obstacles placed in her way by society.