Lachi: Inspiring Possibilities
Black, female, and born visually impaired to competitive Nigerian immigrant parents, pop-EDM singer-songwriter-producer Lachi (like Versace) has never been one to let anything get in her way. Raised as the sixth of seven children comprised of doctors, anesthesiologists and optometrists, she recognized quickly that hers would be a different path.
After the great response of a talent-show crowd in high school to the raw, real experiences described in her music, Lachi felt seen and heard, gaining confidence in her artistry.
While appeasing expectations, studying economics at Chapel Hill, Lachi drew a crowd playing weekly piano in her dorm. After graduation, she moved to New York to study music, taking a job in the U.S. Army Corps to keep afloat financially while releasing And This Is My Life and Ugly Beautiful, signing a record deal in 2010. After being portrayed by the label in a way she didn’t agree with, and struggling with ableism at the office, both were short-lived.
Realizing songwriting came fast and easy to her, Lachi spent a few years on the SoundBetter platform writing for independent producers, later signing to Gary Saltzman-led Big Management. Collaborations with Styles P and deejay Markus Schulz followed.
Lachi started experiencing vision challenges in the studio. She was tripping over things and often lied about what she saw on the screen (she couldn’t see it properly). Her competitiveness was getting in the way of speaking up, but it was compounded by being a woman. A disabled, black, woman—in music. “There is an aspect of machismo—specifically in the music industry—that you want to get in the room. You don't want to keep yourself from getting there.”
Saltzman’s passing (in 2020) changed things. “Gary wasn't there to protect me from the world anymore and I was ready to make a statement,” says Lachi. Firing up the comment section of a Women in Music online discussion on diversity, equity, and inclusion lead her to a panel feature, and she was invited to attend a She Is The Music writing camp. Lachi is now Co-Chair of the Grammy’s New York Advocacy Committee.
“The word vulnerable is interesting because me opening up my deepest parts actually made me stronger,” she says. “It's very visible in my music—I'm no longer so internal. When I lay my head on the pillow at night, it's all love.” Lachi also now wears cornrows openly, confessing that, “I decided—especially with this new album I'm putting together—to sit and talk about my story and put it out the way I've always wanted to.” Her advocacy evolved from ‘coming out’ as a blind person herself. “God, if I had somebody like that [me] when I was coming up, you know?! Especially these kids—they don't have to figure it out themselves.”
Encouraging authenticity, Lachi recommends taking time off and asking for help and support. “A lot of songwriters are so hard in the grind that they don't take time to meditate,” she says. “They don't just have a fun fucking day with a friend. You need a healthy brain to write healthy music, you know?” Listen to the radio and your peers to keep things fresh. “The evolution of your music is much like yourself,” she advises. “You've got to keep growing and moving, and let outside influences influence you.”
With seven albums, collaborations including apl.de.ap, Yonetro and Jaurren, Treasure Gnomes, hosting PBS’s Renegades, and chronicling her journey on YouTube’s “The Off Beast” series, Lachi launched Recording Artists and Music Professionals with Disabilities (RAMPD.org) in January 2022. RAMPD’s work includes a partnership with New York City’s Mayor’s office to amplify the work of disabled creators, and accessibility consultation for the 2022 Grammy and AAIM Libera Awards.
Lachi’s new video, “Bad Choices”—the first featuring a deafblind ASL interpreter and deaf and blind talent—streams this month as part of the Soul(Signs) ASL project.
Contact Cassie Connors - [email protected], See lachimusic.com