Artist to Watch: Nod Your Head to the Beat Wizardry of Lisa Vazquez

Vortex Music Magazine

Armed with an MPC, a mic and an ever-changing array of doodads, the star of this globetrotting, humble rap technician is on the rise. From PDX to L.A. to Guatemala, look for new music out this summer.

Lisa Vasquez live at the Doug Fir in January: Photos by Todd GeeLisa Vasquez live at the Doug Fir in January: Photos by Todd GeeGENRE: Hip-hop
ESSENTIAL TRACK: “Each Other”
FOR FANS OF: RZA, Bahamadia, Slum Village

If you’re looking for a thrilling, authentic live hip-hop experience, look no further than the multi-talented Argentinian Lisa Vazquez. Armed with an MPC, a mic and an ever-changing array of doodads, this globetrotting, humble rap technician knows how to command a stage and appeal to a wide range of music fans. And so, like many Portland standouts, Vazquez recently made the decision to relocate to Los Angeles in hopes of making it big. With her outstanding resume and skyrocketing productivity and popularity, I’m not sure there could be a better time for the change.

A finalist in A-Trak’s Goldie Awards in 2018, Vazquez was flown to New York City to battle with international talent and face judgement from legends such as Just Blaze, Mark Ronson and El-P—watch below. In 2019, she managed to play at Soundset in Minneapolis, A3C in Atlanta, SXSW in Austin, and Summer Meltdown just north of Seattle. On top of that, she embarked on the aptly named Run The Map, a 50-show national tour, with Orlando-based artist E-Turn, certainly solidifying her place as a travelling artist.

Throughout all of this, Vazquez has still made time to perform locally, popping up at venues like Kelly’s Olympian, Bossanova Ballroom and the Doug Fir to wow longtime and new fans alike. She’s also cultivated a following for her beatmaking video series, Flip It Friday, in which she masterfully flips samples to construct beats for her ever-growing audience.

I’ve had the chance to catch the self-described “beat nerd” on multiple occasions, most recently this January at the Doug Fir alongside Galaxe and Brown Calculus. As always, Vazquez took the stage with her jazzy yet unassuming aura, thanked the small crowd for coming out and then proceeded to blow everyone’s mind. By the end of her set, the room was packed and buzzing with energy with equal numbers of people dancing and nodding to her melodic creations.

But what makes Vazquez’s live sets so excellent is the delicate and honest connections she makes with the audience; this is so rare in the aggressively cocky world of hip-hop. While prepping the MPC between songs, Vazquez makes herself vulnerable on the otherwise silent stage. She apologizes for technical mistakes nobody picked up on. She admits that she forgot the rest of an English verse, which led to her freestyling in Spanish. She pokes fun at her sore throat, saying she has a “smoker’s voice” as folks in the crowd yell back that she sounds great. She gets impatient when the machine takes too long to load and tries to find friendly faces in the crowd without her glasses on. The set is perfectly imperfect, lighthearted, improvised, stunning.

The versatile Vazquez gives off all of the feels of an unknown jazz musician, then punches you in the face with blistering beats and confident, introspective raps before smoothing it out with looped, sultry vocals. It comes as no surprise that she looks up to RZA from a production standpoint, routinely blending familiar sounds with unexpected rhythms and dense layers that force the body to move. And perhaps that’s what makes her so compelling: While the rap industry runs off in other directions, Vazquez succinctly captures the timeless aesthetic of the boom bap sound and gives it a makeover that appeals to listeners from all spectrums.

Looking to make the most of her L.A. experience, Vazquez has a busy 2020 planned—some video singles, more festivals, a full-length album this summer, the return of Flip It Friday and, get this, travelling to Guatemala with Today’s Future Sound to teach kids to make beats. What an amazing woman. We’ll be watching from afar and cheering her success.

UPCOMING RELEASE: Nocturnal Sun out this summer

Till then, dig into Lisa Vasquez's last release, 'Gravity,' below.

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