From Concept to Canvas: Lous and The Yakuza's 'Gore'

Isabel Flower / January 29, 2021
Congolese-Belgian sensation Lous and The Yakuza teamed up with Brussels design studio BOLD to create the Canvas visuals for the singles leading up to her debut album, ‘Gore,’ on Spotify.

For musicians of all genres, representing their work and personas visually is as important as expressing themselves musically. Today, an ever-expanding digital toolbox has carved out unprecedented space for interdisciplinary relationships, which is exactly what 24-year-old Spotify RADAR artist Lous and The Yakuza was able to take advantage of through Canvas — the three to eight-second looping visual experience that marries mesmerizing images to artists’ tracks in the Spotify app. Using SoundBetter’s Spotify Canvas Designers category, artists get the opportunity to choose a collaborator from a community of designers who specialize in visuals, graphics, and motion to create Canvases.

“I want people to care for music, not to see a product that you consume,” Lous says of the ephemeral nature of music today. “[Too often] you stream it and then you move away. I want people to take a moment, take a breath, try to understand, the same way that, back in the day, we used to have one CD and put it on replay because it was not that easy to have access to music, so we cherished it.” A songwriter since the age of seven, music has always played a big role in the life of the singer and rapper who was born Marie-Pierra Kokoma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and moved to Belgium when she was fifteen.

It was her penchant to produce immersive, multisensory experiences that drove her creative chemistry with the designers at BOLD Studio, who helped the artist develop Canvases for the singles leading up to the release of her debut album, Gore. Even her moniker, Yakuza — a reference to the Japanese crime syndicate — gestures to the importance of collectivity and collaboration in the way that she works.

In Lous’s career journey so far, certain symbols have played a purposeful role in the way she has manifested her visual identity; for example, the artist’s signature letter “Y,” adorned with a dot between its two outstretched arms, frequently appears painted on her forehead or her music’s artwork. Lous came up with this emblem five years ago, while she was living through a period of homelessness. “Raising both my hands up to the sky is something I do when I am very happy and very sad — it's a very expressive thing, and it's also a move where you accept everything; you accept what's coming.”

The development of a personal graphic is a strategy she says she borrowed from one of her favorite artists — Prince. “I adore Prince, and I adore the fact that he had a symbol that represented his whole crazy person. I think that's how this visual has impacted my career, and therefore my music, myself, and my audience.” With Gore, the theme of acceptance weighs heavily in the mantra she is attempting to express to her newfound following. “This album is kind of my past. It's a very autobiographical work … I want this symbol that is the genesis of my adulthood to be part of that.”

For “Bon Acteur,” a fast-paced yet melodic standout track within the varied and brooding approach to hip hop presented on Gore, Lous had a very particular vision — a visualization of the female clitoris — which required the insights of BOLD founders Olivier Gillard and Vincent Losson, as well as 3-D artist Adrien Bavant, who transformed her idea into a mesmerizing, undulating animation. Keeping in mind Lous’s already-established visual lexicon, the designers at BOLD masterfully rendered the iconography of her “Y” in textures and tones that resemble the female anatomy, the dot rotating like a glistening pearl.

As Lous processes her own formative experiences with sensuality, romance, and cultural constructions of femininity, the clitoris has emerged as a symbol of power and, perhaps more importantly, of pleasure and indulgence. “I realized that we live in a world where women are not really allowed to have pleasure. We're not allowed to talk about pleasure when men can just do whatever,” she says. “One thing that led me to pick the clitoris as a representation of this song is that it hasn't been represented in anything in pop culture — even in science, even in manuals. In France, it's just since 2017 that the clitoris is in manuals, and that is very disturbing,” she explains. “I want to have a representation of the clitoris that doesn’t demonize it, because that's what people have been doing with female pleasure.”

In an increasingly abstracted and oversaturated digital world, artists are constantly looking for ways to harness and hold onto their audience’s attention, as well as to connect in meaningful and memorable ways. Now that Canvas has been made accessible to more artists, Lous is excited that her peers will be producing richer and more holistic creative treatments, like her own. “It's very hard to find creative ways to engage. How do you make someone listen to your song? How do you make someone interact with your universe? How do you bring people to your music?” With Canvas, these are some of the riddles that musicians and artists will be able to unravel together.

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Isabel Flower / January 29, 2021
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