Lizzo has opened up about the use of an ableist slur in one of her songs, explaining that she’d never heard it used in an offensive context before.
The singer was criticised after her song ‘Grrrls’ – featured on her latest album ‘Special’ – included a slang abbreviation of ‘spastic’, a word use primarily to describe cerebral palsy, with derogatory connotations going at least as far back as the 1980s in the UK.
The original line reads: “Hold my bag, bitch, hold my bag / Do you see this shit? I’ma sp*z.” Lizzo later changed the line in question to “Do you see this shit? / Hold me back,” following online criticism, and apologised to fans.
Speaking to Vanity Fair in a new interview, the singer said: “I’d never heard it used as a slur against disabled people, never ever. The music I make is in the business of feeling good and being authentic to me. Using a slur is unauthentic [sic] to me, but I did not know it was a slur.”
She continued: “It’s a word I’ve heard a lot, especially in rap songs, and with my Black friends and in my Black circles: It means to go off, turn up. I used [it as a] verb, not as a noun or adjective. I used it in the way that it’s used in the Black community.”
Lizzo CREDIT: Courtesy of Atlantic Records
Acknowledging the evolution of language, Lizzo added: “Language changes generationally; Nina Simone said you cannot be an artist and not reflect the times.
“So am I not being an artist and reflecting the times and learning, listening to people, and making a conscious change in the way we treat language, and help people in the way we treat people in the future?”
Lizzo is not the first artist to have experienced backlash over the use of the term in a song. In 2019, for instance, rapper Bhad Bhabie released a song titled ‘Spaz’ and faced similar criticisms from disability advocates. Beyoncé also faced similar criticism for a reference to the word on her new album, released this year.
The ‘Good As Hell’ star will play 15 dates across Europe and the UK next year. Joy Crooks will support on all UK dates.