Watching the newest video for hip-hop/rap artist Lexie Liu's single "Love and Run," coated with a hazy shimmer and studded with retro-American glamour, it's hard to imagine that the singer grew up across the world in Changsha, China. But Liu is in fact a Chinese breakout star, and one of the only female Chinese rappers who's managed to turn the head of the homogenous US music industry.
"Love and Run" is sung entirely in English, though Liu tends to naturally swing back and forth between it and Mandarin Chinese on her other tracks. It's a standout from her new debut EP, 2030, and is a declaration of devotion in which Liu prepares to give herself completely over to the one she loves. "I'll be whatever you need me to be / I'll sing whatever you want me to sing / Take my love and run," she sings in a verse.
The visual, directed by Ashley Armitage, is set in an opulent, retro home where Liu prepares to go out, dancing and singing into a mic in sequined and feathery outfits. This is where we see the more playful side of Liu that comes out in her often cheeky bars, as she smiles coyly in the mirror and delights in her couture. She then goes to meet her friends, but she seems to be distracted by the thought of seeing the person who has been dominating her thoughts all this time. But in a romantic gesture, she gets whisked away by who we can assume is her love interest in a car full of festive balloons.
Originally from China's Hunan province, Liu made her mark at home after placing fourth on the popular reality show The Rap of China, and began working on expanding her influence overseas by promptly signing to the US-based label 88rising. At 18, she became the youngest Chinese artist to perform at SXSW, appealing to audiences with her mix of both Mandarin Chinese and English lyrics in her bold and genre-bending releases.
Her breakout single "Sleep Away" showcased her penchant for melodic rap, and the 20-year-old is now fresh off the release of 2030. Her newest work doubles down woozy dance and hip-hop tracks as well as her pride in her cultural identity, rather than trying to suppress it: on "Bygone," Liu boldly states, "one day, yellow skin can enter the White House.” And just as she sees the future, we can see the future in her.