With her 2030 EP set to come out this Friday (February 1st), Lexie Liu (刘柏辛) prepares herself to break into the US market with her sultry smooth brand of R&B and hip-hop. At only 20 years old, she’s been dubbed ‘China’s next global female superstar‘ and ‘the voice of a Chinese generation‘. With shoes that big to fill, Lexie will have a lot to prove with her first ever EP aimed at an international audience.
Though seemingly unknown in the West, Lexie has already built a significantly large following in China. Accumulating millions and millions of plays back home, she’s definitely a singer/rapper that you should familiarise yourself with.
She came in 4th on K-Pop Star 5
In 2016 at age 17, Lexie got her first big break in the music industry when she traveled to Korea to take part in the 5th season of reality TV show — Survival Audition K-pop Star (서바이벌 오디션 K팝 스타), where judges from major Korean labels YG, JYP and SM hold auditions to find the next big K-Pop star.
Barely able to speak any form of Korean, Lexie (under the name Liu YuYu, 려위위) had unprecedented success on the show. In the first round of her auditions, the judges were in awe at the way she carried herself and at the strength of her stage presence. With comments of her being akin to a ‘professional’, ‘brimming with charisma’ and ‘already a superstar in earnest’, there was little doubt that she would go far in the competition.
Yet after bowing out in the semi-finals as part of the girl group Mazinga S (마진가S), she rejected deals with South Korean labels and instead chose to head back to China, attempting to carve out her career as an independent artist.
Had her first breakthrough hit with “Coco Made Me Do It” + Performed at SXSW
Shortly after returning to China, she dropped her first ever single “Coco Made Me Do It” with Korea-based rapper Nafla. The track existed within the vein of American trap-rap. From the production to her flows, it was clear that she wore her influences on her sleeve while attempting to smoothen out the rough edges in her music. Still, the song apparently gained over 5 million plays across numerous Chinese streaming platforms.
Not long after, Lexie went to New York to study Global Business at Fordham University. While there, she gained the opportunity to perform at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas. Her first foray at engaging with a US audience.
Made a collaboration and documentary with US rapper Robb Banks
Helmed by OTTNO出人頭地, <<feat. China>> is a documentary series aimed at bridging the gap between Chinese hip-hop and rap culture around the world.
In this particular segment, Lexie was paired with NYC born, Florida-based rapper Robb Banks. Purportedly gaining nearly 30 million views across Chinese streaming services, Lexie’s career had been steadily growing in her home country while she looked towards the horizon for greener pastures.
Have a listen at the collaboration they did below.
Finished 4th on The Rap of China
In 2018, Lexie returned to China and took part in the second season of the reality TV show — The Rap of China (中国新说唱), arguably one of the foremost reasons for hip-hop’s growing mainstream appeal within the country.
Lexie was one of the 6 women that made it onto the aired segments of the show with the others being — Vinida, Angel Mo, Double. J, Tifa and Zetah. Then from the show’s 5th episode onwards, she was the only female contestant left in the running, eventually peaking at the finals where she bowed out at 4th place.
However even before her departure, she had already garnered the attention of fans across the Pacific, more specifically the NYC-based label 88rising. Announced just a month after the show began to air, her career showed signs of going nowhere but up.
Dropped her debut album 2029
Released on 16/10/2018, 2029 sees Lexie Liu ditching much of her early aggressive rap style in favor of a smoother, more R&B tinged aesthetic. Shifting effortlessly between English and Chinese, she’s a product of the increasingly barrier-less state of music today. Though quite unbalanced in terms of the project’s flow and her indecisiveness to settle on a particular sound (there are elements of R&B, rap, pop, C-pop and lo-fi all mixed in here), it is a strong indicator of her potential at crafting out her own unique style.
Her first release under 88rising — 2030 EP
Now seemingly finding her lane within the growing genre of melodic rap, Lexie Liu sets herself down on the 88rising-sponsored launch pad towards a new stage of her career. Placing an emphasis on mellow beats and ambient atmosphere, her music now is slightly reminiscent of labelmate Joji‘s early work with slight rap elements attached to it. Still, here’s hoping that her career can grow even bigger and fulfill the potential to be China’s next global female superstar.