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Lous and the Yakuza on Style, Spirituality, and Her Showstopping Afropunk Performance

The Belgian-Congolese singer and rapper is making her mark across both music and fashion.

10/27/2020 12:07:00 PM

.lousandtheyakz, Belgian-Congolese singer and rapper, is making her mark across both music and fashion.

The Belgian-Congolese singer and rapper is making her mark across both music and fashion.

. But it wasn’t always this way. Forced to leave her birth country of the Congo for Belgium as a young child, Lous had an unusual upbringing between Brussels and her mother’s native Rwanda. But the euphoric feeling of pride passed on to Lous via her Congolese heritage underpins her music—and emerges even more visibly through her striking and distinctive style.

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“In our culture, it’s so important to be fly, but that doesn’t mean showing off,” Lous adds. “People can be like, ‘You guys are pretentious or narcissistic,’ but it’s about having pride in our culture, and happiness and joy. I feel there’s something so singular about Congolese people’s joy, and the way they express their happiness. I’m a very happy person.”

This sense of happiness is palpable, even as we talk over the phone ahead of her set as part of this weekend’sAfropunk Festival. (This year, the legendary celebration of Black music and culture from both Africa and the diaspora has gone truly international, with sets livestreamed from across the globe.) It marks the culmination of Lous’s year spent following a new and untrodden path as an up-and-coming musician, with no live performances due to the limitations imposed by the pandemic. “It’s very strange to be performing entirely in front of cameras,” Lous notes. “But I keep remembering that my time will come, and I’ll be able to perform in front of my fans eventually.”

Lous’s innate sense of joy has also been fiercely earned—in particular given the extraordinary resilience with which she’s navigated the abrupt twists and turns of her life growing up across two continents. When Lous was just two years old, her mother was imprisoned for two months during the Second Congo War and then moved to Belgium, with Lous herself unable to follow her for another two years. Returning to Rwanda in her early teens, she spent six years living in a country still reeling from the genocide that had taken place a decade before. Finally, after years pursuing record labels and writing prodigiously to hone her sound, she was kicked out of her family home at 19 for admitting that she was determined to pursue music over medicine.

AdvertisementHomeless and sleeping in music studios around Brussels, she relied upon a strong sense of spirituality to survive, which crystallized into her unusual stage name:Lousbeing an anagram of “soul,” andYakuzabeing a reference to both the infamous Japanese crime syndicate and the word itself, which translates as “loser.” (Lous is a keen Japanophile, drawing on manga and traditional Japanese folk music as key inspirations for her aesthetic and sound.) “I’ve always been attracted to what society has considered as losers, or people who are not worthy,” Lous explains. “I think it’s very much a situation with Black people, gay people, transgender people—anyone who feels like they’ve been cast aside or treated as weirdos. I feel like they are the real individuals, and that’s always what I’ve been most interested in.”

If there’s one word that describes Lous’s sonic palette, it’sindividual.She flits between rapping and her low, silky vocals, between French and her native Kinyarwanda and Kiswahili tongues, and between soulful R&B and skittering trap beats. After a few years performing in underground clubs in Brussels and Paris, she came across the Spanish producer El Guincho’s work with Rosalía in 2018. Their first collaboration, “

,” and its dark, dazzling music video was released last September, drawing instant attention; he went on to collaborate with Lous on her debut record,Gore,which dropped to near-universal critical acclaim earlier this month.Lous performing at Afropunk Festival 2020

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Courtesy of Afropunk FestivalCourtesy of Afropunk FestivalShe’s also become a newly minted fashion world darling in the process. But while she’s now found herself starring in campaigns and walking runways for some of the biggest French brands, the secret ingredient to Lous’s striking aesthetic has always been her eclectic personal take on style, as opposed to the high fashion alliances she’s now rapidly accruing.

“For me, it’s never been about money,” says Lous. “I started by going into vintage stores and thrift shopping. It’s more about, ‘What’s your taste? What do you want people to know about you?’ Because that’s the first thing they see. And for me, I have multiple personalities almost, that all make up this one big Lous person that I am, and I like every side of myself of my personality to be well represented. It can be a mood or an energy, or a means of empowerment, or a weapon sometimes.”

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lousandtheyakz So beautiful!! Love lousandtheyakz music and fashion! Afropunk🔥 lousandtheyakz Nice

Lous and the Yakuza on Style, Spirituality, and Her Show-Stopping Afropunk Performance.lousandtheyakz, Belgian-Congolese singer and rapper, is making her mark across both music and fashion. lousandtheyakz She’s beautiful

Lous and the Yakuza on Style, Spirituality, and Her Show-Stopping Afropunk Performance.lousandtheyakz, Belgian-Congolese singer and rapper, is making her mark across both music and fashion. lousandtheyakz She’s beautiful

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