In a world where a lot of artists increasingly sound the same, Lorine Chia is refreshingly unique.
The Cameroonian-born, US-based star mesmerises with her strained, raspy voice that delivers bone-chilling soulful ballads. Her music is distinct yet diverse, straddling the genres of futuristic R&B, jazz, and hip-hop. Lorine’s varied subject matter veers between personal stories, social issues, and matters of the heart.
Having started singing at a young age, the 24-year-old artist learnt the real power of music at the age of 15 when she taught herself how to play the guitar. This was when she discovered the magic that comes to being when her unique voice mingles sweetly with an instrumental.
“WHEN I WAS 15, I FINALLY TAUGHT MYSELF HOW TO PLAY THE GUITAR BECAUSE I WANTED TO GIVE INSTRUMENTALS TO MY WORDS. I NEVER KNEW MY VOICE WAS UNIQUE UNTIL I STARTED RECORDING MY FIRST ALBUM,” SHE REVEALS.
Emerging in 2012 with her debut EP, ‘Lorine’, the Cameroonian artist has since released a string of projects and worked with the likes of Chance the Rapper, The Game, Wiz Khalifa, among others.
At a time when African music is growingly captivating global listeners, Lorine is well poised to be the next big African export. She has both the continental and international audiences in the palm of her hand. We sat down with the fast-rising singer to chat about her burgeoning career, what it means to be African, and her experiences as a black woman in the United States.
You were born in Cameroon and moved to the US at a young age. Please tell us about yourself, and about the move.
I’m a proud Cameroonian. As a child, I was known for always singing and leading worship. My mum would describe me as bold, charming, and hard-headed. I was six years old when I came to the US. My parents came ahead of me, so I followed with my brother and aunt. On the plane, I ate some funny American cheese, the one with the red cow on it, and threw up. The flight was, like, 17 hours long. I hated it so much, but I finally got to see my parents, which was what I wanted the most.
How old were you when you wrote your first song, and what was it about?
If I remember correctly, I was about 12 years old. I was moving from Maryland to Ohio, and I was going to leave behind all my friends, so I wrote them a farewell song. I cried that day. I didn’t know what to expect in another new school.
You’ve lived longer in the US than in Cameroon. How much of your Cameroonian influence remains in your music, if any?
Well, I pretty much grew up in a traditional Cameroonian home. My parents would play a lot of African gospel music and Makossa. I also went to an African church, so there was plenty of Cameroonian influence in my life. It comes out a lot in my attitude and accent. My subject matter and maturity truly derive from my cultural influences. Where I come from is why I’m so aggressive with music and everything else that I do.
African music is increasingly going global, with the likes of Drake regularly borrowing from the Afrobeats genre. What does this mean to you as an artist with African roots?
It says the world is starting to understand and recognise how great we are, and have always been. It’s funny too because when I was younger, I was picked on for listening to African music, wearing African clothing, and simply being African. But now it’s trending. Africans have always been hip, and I’m just glad the world can now see it. Everything is always borrowed from us.
Which African artists are you currently jamming to?
Right now, my faves are K’naan, Yemi Alade, WizKid, Davido, Don Jazzy, Tiwa Savage, and Don Gorgon.
Your latest single “Black Girl Magic” is a beautiful ode to black women all over the world. What are your experiences being a black woman in the US?
I wrote that song for every black girl to feel proud in their own skin no matter what anyone anywhere had to say about it. It’s now to the point where even our own men don’t appreciate us, so we have to appreciate ourselves and each other.
Being a black woman in the US has been interesting, especially being African. Growing up, I was picked on the most by black Americans, which didn’t make any sense to me. Coming here, I expected white people to treat me a little different. I had a white teacher when I was in Cameroon, and she didn’t like me much. One day, she hit me with a stick because I was being a 4-year-old not paying attention in class.
What I didn’t expect was to be called an African booty scratcher by people who look like me. I didn’t understand why people were asking me if I grew up in a hut or if I ever rode Simba. At that point, I realised people are just ignorant everywhere. It’s amazing that the black people are now starting to understand and even add “African culture” into their lives. I’m glad the age of ignorance is leaving us.
I would also get the expected hipster racism from the white kids. I was the only black girl in most of my classes in middle and high school, and I hated it.