The concert flute is an instrument that requires sprightliness and pep in your motherfucking step. Typically held away and to the right of the body, it demands good posture, coordination, dexterity—and, above all, lung capacity. The flute requires more air than any other instrument, even the tuba. In order to sustain a note, the flautist must have complete control over the amount of air held in their lungs, the speed at which it bursts through their lips, its flow. Diaphragmatic and circular breathing are musts. It might appear dainty, but the flute demands the physicality of an endurance runner.
Lizzo—born Melissa Jefferson—plays flute while twerking, singing, and rapping for an audience. She dips, twiddles, snatches, screams, yells, dances, smiles, and shimmies, all without losing her breath. It's incredible. And it's incredibly athletic. Watching her perform is like being a spectator at a rambunctious sporting event that involves sequins and ass jiggling.
The 30-year-old grew up in Houston but came up in the Minneapolis hiphop and R&B scene. She picked up the flute when she was 10—it was a gift from her late father—and even got into college on a music scholarship before she dropped out. That flute has a name, too: Sasha Flute. She's a Muramatsu, and she has an Instagram following that, as of this writing, is more than 60,000 people strong.
Sasha came to national prominence after an Instagram video of Lizzo performing a remix of "Big Shot" (off Kendrick Lamar's Black Panther soundtrack) went viral. Captioned "HAVE U EVER SEEN A BITCH PLAY FLUTE THEN HIT THE SHOOT?!" it finds her delivering a furious flute solo before hitting "the shoot" with her backup dancers, finishing up the number with a "Bitch, you emotional!" and defiantly walking offstage.
The clip simultaneously brought Lizzo's flute-playing talent to the forefront, cemented her status as one of the most entertaining and disciplined performers in the game, and introduced another facet of her abilities to newfound fans—this writer included. It also revealed the athleticism Lizzo brings to the table, both mentally and physically.
And Lizzo talks about her career and everything she's done from the perspective of an athlete.
In a February interview on British radio channel Capital FM, the singer said of her recent fame spurt: "Everything has just been building up to this. I'm a slow burn; I'm a gradual build. I'm not like an overnight sensation type of girl, 'cause I want to have a long career." It's true—Lizzo has been training for years, focused, building muscle. Having the stamina and thirst to make an impact in the music industry needs marathon-level training, which she's earned by constant touring. She makes even the smallest venues feel like arena shows.
Her major-label debut and third album, Cuz I Love You, dropped April 19 and has been making waves across the nation. She even got the revered Missy Elliott to hop on a song, the thick bitch anthem "Tempo." Seems like 2019 is the year of Lizzo taking over the mainstream. And God, am I ready for it.