Lous and The Yakuza serves up much more than 'je ne se quoi' with 'GORE'.
"Quoi que l’on dise, on restera solo
(Whatever we do, we'll stay solo)"
It has been over a year since Lous and The Yakuza first began reeling us in with her debut single, Dilemme, back in September of 2019. After a long 13 months of teasing us with singles and features, the 24-year-old artist and activist has left us completely breathless with her 10 track debut album, delivered entirely in French like a siren song that you absolutely cannot help but listen to.
Marie-Pierra Kakoma, known professionally as Lous and the Yakuza, was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo to two prominent doctors. In the wake of the Second Congo War of 1998, Kakoma moved to Belgium with her mother while her father remained in the Congo. The family relocated briefly to Rwanda in 2005, before moving permanently to Brussels later in 2011.
Kakoma would find herself falling in love with music in childhood, entranced by the classical works of Chopin, Mozart, and Beethoven until she began to write her own music at the age of seven. Disinherited by her family for her pursuit of music at age eighteen, Kakoma endured periods of homelessness for several months, continuing to write and record whenever she could. After years of search for her perfect fit in a producer, she found just that in Spanish producer El Guincho. She would release her debut single Dilemme on September 19, 2019, produced by El Guincho who would also go on to produce her album, GORE.
And never has there been a more perfect pairing, with El Guincho’s Latin heritage blending perfectly with Kakoma’s innovative use of Congolese rumba rhythms throughout this trailblazing masterclass in enchantment. With arrangement tracks reminiscent of the early years of David Guetta and other artists of the 2000s electropop, Kakoma fuses this wave of nostalgia with modern trap influences into an album where each track is more mesmerizing than the one before.
Opening with Dilemme, Kakoma sets the stage early on for an album filled to the brim with storytelling as she walks us through her experience of life and her desire for equality, acceptance, and self-adoration. Dilemma paints a heart-wrenching image of desire to break free from the chains holding her back, even if it means losing the people she loves. From start to finish, Kakoma walks the listener through pain and hardship, all hidden delicately behind upbeat, invigorating rhythms and stunning vocals like those in Dans le hess and Solo.
Easing into the middle of the album, Dans le hess brings you right into the center of her pain, opening with the simple phrase “En ces temps, rien n’est parfait - In these times, nothing is perfect.” With a deceptively upbeat and dynamic sound, this song delves deep into the experience of crying out for help with no sign of anyone there to listen, creating almost a confusion of emotion that Kakoma uses to reflect the conundrum of human existence. Despite the dim note of entry, she comes right out to say that she’s “searched but there is no cure for life - J’ai cherché mais il n’y a pas de remède,” but since Gore, she’s discovered it. With that simple line, Kakoma gives the listener a glimpse into exactly what this album means to her; she’s baring her soul to us, and it shows.
Solo closes the album with a nostalgic callback to the opening track’s paradox of freedom at the cost of loneliness. Paired with the softest musical composition in the record, Solo seems to communicate a sense of peaceful surrender, an acknowledgment that, while the world may not have been very kind to her, she is content to ride out the rest of this journey on her own. From lyrical flow to musical production, this closing track asks questions that aren’t meant to be answered, calling both the listener and Kakoma herself to grow comfortable in the discomfort of uncertainty.
This record in entirety has been a labor of pain for Kakoma, as she told W Magazine on October 12th of 2020. The title, GORE, is a call to horror movies, “who’s bloodiest and most vile scenes somehow turn to campy comedy.” According to Kakoma, that is her story: a story marked by pain and trauma, but that has become something she can find humor and light in now.
Kakoma has signaled this point in her life as a period of empowerment, a moment for her to simply go through the waves of life. And that is exactly what this record does. All 29 minutes and 12 seconds of this album cascade the listener along the waves of each visceral emotion, ebbing and flowing with her effortless tone and impeccable timing. Every line is delivered to perfection, and there isn’t a language barrier in the world high enough to keep you from feeling every last letter of her story.
And that is exactly how Kakoma intended. Given her international upbringing, she described frequently feeling at home “everywhere and nowhere,” with music existing almost as a universal language that she could rely on for safety and solace. She points to her fondness for the classical composers she grew up with, noting that even with no lyrics at all, she could feel every ounce of emotion in the rise and fall of a piece - a sensation she replicates beautifully even in the moments of silence within this record. Every breath feels perfectly timed, every word articulated with unprecedented care, weaving together her masterful lyricism and the artful production into a mosaic of emotions that unfolds before you slowly. All at once it seems to click, and you won’t need to have a syllable of French fluency under your belt to know exactly what she’s telling you.
From intoxicating vocals to enthralling lyrics, this record leaves you longing for nothing but more. Despite a lifetime of seemingly feeling out of place, it seems Kakoma has found the perfect balance of ebb and flow in her life, and in her music. After years of being judged by everyone from her family to the music industry itself, Kakoma is done forcing herself into boxes she doesn’t fit in.
After a lifetime of breaking out of boxes, she didn’t feel she fit into, this album represents a moment of clarity, where Kakoma finally leans into the happiness that comes with the twists and turns of life. This embrace of self-acceptance and self-love that she longs for - almost at any cost - over the course of the record, falls perfectly into the lap of the listener. In the words of her closing track, Solo, “Quoi que l’on dise, on restera solo - Whatever we do, we'll stay solo.”
And staying solo is definitely the way to go.
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