School, Studio, and Back for DC Rapper Lightshow by Leah Cohen

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This article was a finalist in the 2023 DC College Student Arts Journalism Competition. This article was first published in the Georgetown Hoya.

Lightshow, a rapper native to Washington, D.C., would do anything if it meant getting out of trouble with his mother. His tactic of choice: sweet-talking her with handwritten poems before she even walks through the front door.

“I was at school and got a call home for talking around in class,” Lightshow said. “I knew I was going to be in trouble when I got home. I always got home before my mom. While I was there, I tried to whip her up something nice.”

Lightshow, born Larinzo Lambright-Williams, always prayed that he’d have the words to talk his way out of trouble. Did it ever work? Maybe that day. But little did he know at the time that these poems, which he wrote in hope of saving himself from a “whooping,” would help launch his career as one of D.C.’s biggest rappers — one who has now worked alongside big-name acts like 21 Savage and 2 Chainz.

Born and raised in D.C. — 10th Place SE in Congress Heights, to be exact — Lightshow’s hometown still inspires his writing and his music.

“The world around me affects it, D.C. affects it. Everything around me, what I want to be, what I don’t want to be — it can’t not be influenced by the things around me,” Lightshow told The Hoya.

Lightshow said the District has attributes both good and bad, describing D.C. as a place where you can walk by beautiful cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin while a robbery is happening just two blocks away.

“It’s a paper-thin balance and I understand both sides,” he said. “I am inspired by that, and overall ways you feel, and emotions. What goes on in my city greatly affects my music and what I speak on.”

True to his city, Lightshow is represented by 86 America, his own D.C.-based record label. But the rapper also emphasized the importance of exploring other places. 

“The music scene in D.C. gets you prepared for whatever you want to do,” Lightshow said. “But you can benefit from stepping outside of where you’re from. People appreciate the struggle and stories of the people here, but the more you get out of your area, the more there is for you.”

When he works in his D.C. studio, it’s more of an individual process than a collective effort. In order to grow his career, Lightshow has traveled to New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Florida to get his music heard and work with different influential people in the industry. 

Lightshow has worked with some of the biggest names in rap — his song “Need a Lighter” features 21 Savage, and he’s opened on tour for 2 Chainz and the late Nipsey Hussle. He says these collaborations have defined his career. 

Lightshow is currently in Atlanta working on a new album, entitled “Brighter Than Light.” Since 2012, Lightshow has released 11 albums and describes his work on the upcoming one as the “most fun” he’s ever had. Although there is no official release date yet, the album is finished, and he expects to roll it out sometime this year.

“Being able to really lock in the studio and not have as many distractions around me helped me to lock in what I had to say,” Lightshow said. “Having time to work on it made me have patience and allowed it to be that much better. Working with the best producers and engineers makes you want to bring your best.”

Lightshow said he always pushes himself in production, noting that the end result is never where he originally thought he would end up.

While working on his record, Lightshow is also pursuing a new dream. He graduated high school over a decade ago, but the 31-year-old recently decided to return to school and pursue a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Lightshow is currently balancing a full first-year course load at Georgia State University.

“When I do my school as soon as I get it, I always have time,” he said. “School during the day, music all night and morning.” 

Even as a full-time student, Lightshow still manages to spend anywhere between 12 to 17 hours in the studio, allowing him to pursue both music and a new career. The two are not mutually exclusive, though — his coursework has provided inspiration for some of his lyrics. After a class reading of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” Lightshow incorporated the concept into one of his lyrics.

“That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had that fresh on my mind from school and the studio,” he said. “School helped open up my mind. I’m learning so much it applies to the music I’m making and lifestyle.”

After graduation, Lightshow plans to get a J.D. degree and practice law, as he credits teams of lawyers for getting him where he is today.

“If it wasn’t for legal people around me that cared what I was doing, and me as a person that was able to see through decisions I made, I would probably be in jail somewhere,” he said.

A childhood dream that’s always been in the back of his mind, Lightshow woke up one day and decided going back to school wouldn’t be such a big distraction from his music. To an outsider, music and law may seem like wildly different career paths. But to Lightshow — and those in the industry — the overlap is evident.

“When you think of government and obscenities, music is one of the things that pushes the limit on freedom of speech and what you can and can’t say — it toes the line,” Lightshow said. “Music burns in my soul, it’s something I have to do. Maybe that will change in terms of the way I talk about things, I don’t know yet. I’m chasing two dreams at once right now, as long as time permits.”

Realizing he’s been given second and third and fourth chances to succeed in life because of the help of others, Lightshow is going to do what he loves — challenge himself now, and help others later. 

With a new album on the way, fans will have plenty of opportunities to catch Lightshow live — maybe even on campus at Georgetown. While we anxiously await “Brighter Than Light,” Lightshow’s music is available to stream on Spotify, SoundCloud and Apple Music. And, if you want to do D.C. the Lightshow way, here are some of his favorite spots in the city:

Favorite Monument: The Capitol

Favorite Restaurant: Nobu

Favorite Neighborhood: 10th Place SE and Georgetown

Favorite D.C. Meal: Chicken with mumbo sauce and french fries at The Hamilton or anything at Ben’s Chili Bowl

Favorite D.C.-area artists: Wale and Marvin Gaye

Leah Cohen is a current junior at Georgetown University studying English with a minor in journalism. She enjoys the opportunity journalism gives her to talk with people and share their stories with others.

Editor
Editorhttp://www.dayeight.org
Bourgeon’s mission, through our online publication and community initiatives, is twofold: to increase participation in the arts and to improve access to the arts. Bourgeon is a project of the not-for-profit Day Eight.
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