Lao Ra has earned her reputation for twisting an eclectic array of underground sounds – and an at-times extreme upbringing – into global-pop with as much bite as it boasts colour. Now digging deeper into her South American heritage than ever before – combined with elements of dancehall, reggaeton, afrobeat, and hip-hop – Lao Ra’s is a story of dislocation and defiance.
Growing up in Bogota, talk of bombs and extradition were commonplace in the playground, and so Lao Ra and her brothers were in large part introduced to music by the necessity to stay safe indoors and watch MTV. Rebellion, when it came, started small - in Lao Ra’s case, eating a worm on the first day in front her class to exert her fearlessness, or protesting that the school didn’t have a girls’ football team – but grew in significance (discovering punk, and following it overseas to England). Once relocated to London, Lao Ra began producing her own demos, but her ‘Colombianness’ wasn’t coming through in the way that she wanted. But beginning with ‘Jesus Made Me Bad’, which ruffled feathers and the local charts back home – plus a string of acclaimed tracks since then, including ‘Me Gusta’ (ft. Afro B), ‘Body Bounce’ (ft. Konshens) and ‘Drum Machine’ – Lao Ra has developed that clearly charismatic voice of her own. Here, frequently, are songs celebrating femininity, power, heartache and sex; uplifting international pop, but always with a sting in its tail. It’s a sound that is already evolving fast, and seems innately able to translate to crowds far beyond Lao Ra’s own (she has already toured with acts as diverse as MØ, Crystal Fighters and Anne Marie to Rejjie Snow and Bomba Estereo, picking up tens of millions of streams along the way).
Beginning with ‘No Pressure’, in 2018 Lao Ra appears to have found herself precisely where she needs to be - with the confidence that comes from travel, growing up and the keenly-felt absence of home to fully embrace her Latin roots. Those forces – musical, cultural, psychological – that made her who and what she is (warts and all). And this, unmistakeably, is the sound and story of Lao Ra.