Our Class of 2019
Lolo Zouaï

Lolo Zouaï has a bracingly honest and distinctive manner of transforming her mundane day-in-and-out experience into powerful songs.

The freedom to decide who’s hot or not from the palms of our hands has revolutionised the way we discover new music. Hours spent crate digging are now easily accessible, and with the ease of a click, we can find how the new kids on the block that are driving the culture forward, in their own, unique, ways.

“I’m emotionally aware. When I’m in a room, there can be a bunch of people, but I’m always aware on how they feel at all the times” – Lolo Zoai, unsigned Franco-Algerian singer-songwriter comments on her creative process – “I thought it was important to make music that mimics my emotions. Whatever it is that I am feeling, I’m sure that there are a million of other people that feel the same way”.

Her debut single, ‘High Highs to Low Lows’ is a slow-drift futuristic R&B track where she plays with the dual meaning of certain words, in two dissimilar languages, into a fully formed banger. First impressions might be the hardest, but, you will find a hint or two to the fullness of who she is tucked in her lyrics. This vision was carefully complemented with track’s visual treatment, and, to this day, twelve month’s later, High Highs to Low Lows accounts more than ten million streams across different platforms.

The French songstress has discovered her love for music during her upbringing in the Bay Area. Many artists would consider a move south, to the industry’s Capital out West (LA), to pursue whatever format your American Dream might look like, but in conversation, Lolo shared that her move from the Bay Area to New York City had a completely different agenda.

“I never moved to LA or had an intention to move to LA, yet. – Lolo proceeds – My mum got a job offer in NYC. We’re very close, and that’s a hard move to make alone. So we just moved together. When you live in California, you see the east coast as this dream world that you see in movies. Snow? Seasons? They exist.”

Sitting in a dressing room, a couple of hours before her show in London, Lolo shared that 2018 was the year she finally quit her day job to dedicate her time to be one and only with her craft. During our time together, she also commented on a creative collaboration that has proven to be key to her development: her producer, Stelios. Stelios Phili is the young innovateur who’s refined sonic experimentalism managed to successfully blend Elton John’s voice with Young Thug on a record.

“Before I met Stelios, I spent three years without knowing Stelios. I was in my room producing by myself. I met other producers too. It was a great practice. It helped me to understand what I like and what I don’t like. Stelios just understands the world. He’s from Cyprus. He understands the importance of culture. We clicked immediately.”

With lyrics in Arabic, English, and French, Lolo carries her heritage proudly in her words, and in conversation, she shares her personal formula to merge Anglo-Saxon slang with romantic Latin-derived languages.

“It’s my own mix of French-English. I’m just speaking the English and French that I know. I think my French writing is more romantic, as I don’t speak slang in French. I have a very traditional knowledge of the language and the music. Sometimes I just can’t find a rhyme in English, and I will just find out, this rhymes in French and, Voila!”

Pressing on the momentum created by High Highs to Low Lows, Lolo has been slowly showing a new facet of her identity with every single release. With alternating tempos and textures, this year, her sugary vocals and bittersweet lyric-heavy songs explored different topics: the complexities of 21st century romance on ‘Brooklyn Love’, followed by ‘Desert Rose’ where she pays homage to her Algerian roots culminating in two separate singles where you can denote her growth in a short period of time: Challenge and For the Crowd.

Breaking the internet without the commensical industry-strategy, Lolo also joined Alina Baraz in her American tour, and she has performed on this side of the Atlantic on more than one occasion. Taking the time to get to know and appreciate her fans, she shared a story of summer past.

“When I was in France this summer, this girl flew in from Spain. She had tattoos HHLL and Desert Rose on her back. She told me that she had no money and just came to France to see me and that she cried to my music every night.” – Lolo pauses – “That was really special. That one was really special, really intense. But there are amazing things every time. People write letters, and I love to read them. “

Already back to NYC, and the studio, Lolo’s wrapping up 2018, as one of the very few women cast to perform at this year’s edition of West Coast’s music festival Rolling Loud.

New projects are coming in the New Year, but for now, she’s been keeping it on the Lolo.

Words by Catarina Ramalho / Photography by Jamie Waters

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