From China to the U.S., singer/songwriter Lexie Liu fashions lush R&B with a hip-hop edge that was inspired by childhood favorite Rihanna. In both English and her native Mandarin, the cross-cultural vocalist looped from Korea to China and then to the U.S., where she built an audience with late-2010s singles such as "Coco Made Me Do It" and "Nada," her first offering for the 88Rising label.
Born Liu Boxin in Changsha, Hunan province in 1998, she grew up playing piano and dancing before enrolling in an international school to broaden her horizons and improve her English. Toward the end of her high school years, she headed to South Korea to compete on K-Pop Star 5, placing fourth but ultimately passing on a pop idol contract. She attended university in New York for a semester, studying global business at Fordham University before deciding to pursue music full-time, focusing on both the Chinese and American markets. Her first single, the hard-hitting, trap-influenced "Coco Made Me Do It" featured Korean-American rapper Nafla and gained enough traction to help secure a performing slot at that year's SXSW. A viral cover of Charlie Puth and Selena Gomez's "We Don't Talk Anymore" helped further grow her audience. In 2018, she joined another reality TV competition, this time on The Rap of China. Again placing fourth, she capitalized on her exposure in her homeland, releasing her debut full-length 2029 in October. Album singles such as the smooth "Like a Mercedes" and the romantic "Sleep Away" gained traction in the U.S., where the latter track caught the attention of label 88Rising. Liu signed with them and began her U.S. promotion with a return to trap-kissed beats on the single "Nada." The viral hit landed on her 2019 effort 2030. The short collection included "Hat Trick" and "Outta Time" with KILLY. ~ Neil Z. Yeung