Sophia Eris might never have wound up in Minneapolis if Prince had been from Florida or her skull had been a little thicker.
An inextricable strand in the DNA of local music, Eris collects side hustles like they’re Pokémon. You might know her as Lizzo’s touring DJ or as a Go 95.3 radio personality. You should know her as a dynamic rapper in her own right, and she’s been reintroducing herself, one track at a time, with a string of engaging singles produced by Lazerbeak and Bionik.
Twenty years ago Eris was an Army kid who’d bounced through 13 schools before her family landed in Dayton, Ohio. A speedy and aggressive high school soccer player, she assumed athletics would be her path to a good education. Then music happened.
“I remember watching this movie Brown Sugar, you know Taye Diggs’ role [as a label A&R]?” the 31-year-old asks in the excitable, staticky rasp that’s endeared her to 95.3 morning show listeners. “I was like, I wanna be Taye Diggs! That’s a thing? I wanna discover artists and help ’em change the world.”
Stylish in a beret, tan ankle boots, and a dress-length black tee, Eris is perched on a sofa near the back of the b. Resale thrift store on Nicollet, which she touts as “the best in town” and where she’s warmly welcomed by the owner and a few shoppers. Hiply retail-friendly deep house sets the BPM of our conversation.
“I was looking for music business schools, and it was between a school in Orlando and IPR here,” she continues. “And I loved Prince. I loved Purple Rain. And so as soon as I saw Minneapolis I was like, ‘Oooh! Minneapolis. Prince.’”
Her father, however, had a predictably dad-like opinion of going to school to learn the music business: “That’s not a real degree.”
“So I took an offer at this D2 school in Ohio, like 45 minutes away from my house and played soccer my freshman year. But I had three concussions going in, so they made me wear headgear, this padded headgear, and they were like, if you get one more you’re done. And I was like, done with what? Done with my life?”
Eris hung up her cleats, convinced her folks that IPR was the better bet, and proved herself correct when, while doing promotion for Tinderbox Music, she met someone who’d have an even greater impact on her life than Taye Diggs had. “When I met Lizzo—we actually connected at a block party, got drunk, and karaoked Beyoncé at a restaurant. I was like, ‘Oh my god, let me be your backup singer.’”
Eris became much more than that. She, Claire de Lune, and Lizzo formed the Chalice and recorded their first single, which leapt immediately from SoundCloud to the Current. A casual on-air mention during an interview that they had an album coming out sent them racing to the studio. “We didn’t even have songs,” Eris says. “We had to force ourselves to write.”
Eris describes the following years in a supercut montage. “Then Grrrl Prty happened. Then Lizzo happened. I was just a baby, but I jumped in with people who were already masters of their craft and I learned to grow from them.”
It’s August when we meet, and Eris is in town for a 72-hour gap in her vacation. Earlier in the week she was lazing in Kauai at a music producer’s extravagant compound with Lizzo and her crew; tomorrow she’s darting up north for a cabin hang with friends. “I left Hawaii early because I wanted to have time to myself here, but since I got here it’s been nonstop, like, work,” she says. “Basically reconnecting with the community.”
One night she was at local producer MAKR’s studio till 7 in the morning (“it’s like a playground”). For Go she’s hosted an edition of the MC talent search Shut Up and Rap (“I still get excited for these kids, I get so geeked out about it”) and a live club broadcast (“It was constant talking—‘Two for ones till 11,’ that kind of thing, and girls are all yelling, ‘Play Migos!’”). She did an overdue photo shoot (“I’ve been using shots from, like, three years ago”) and, later that night she’s got two DJ gigs: one at Centro and another at the Uptown VFW.
A talk with Eris moves just as quickly. Over the course of an hour she reveals her ideal future living arrangements (“a houseboat in Amsterdam, a house here, and an Airstream in the desert, out in Joshua Tree”), recalls seeing Gil Scott-Heron at the Dakota just before his death (“he was soulful but so funny, almost like a comedian”), rhapsodizes a brand of sparkling water available only Berlin (“It hit me in the chest in the best way anything ever hit me in the chest”), shows a photo of some skates a company sent her as a promotion, selects a sheer blue polo shirt for me from the b. Resale racks to complement what she overgenerously calls my “classic style,” and reveals why she’s now in “a wig phase.”
The story behind that last bit is worth repeating. Earlier this year, Eris had grown her hair out in blue waves that she talks about in a tone most people reserve for discussing their first true love. “I was so scared to get it cut because I don’t trust barbers on tour. But I did my research.” She settled on an apparently reputable Philly barber. “I’m like, I just need the sides shaved, keep the top long. And so he combs it out and washes it and I sit back down and the first thing he does is go SHOOMP. Just, like, took it all off.”
She’s not over it. “What would even make you think that’s OK?” And now she’s over it. “No, it’s OK. It’s OK.”
Amid her touring and DJ gigs, Eris has dropped four new tracks since last December, each stylishly packaged with DayGlo graf-style art and each, she says, “representing a different part of me, and a different part of my ability.”
Recording these with established studio pros Lazerbeak (who’s also her manager) and Bionik was a disciplined process. “Every Monday for like four months I would go to Bionik’s house from 1 to 5 and we would do a song, and toward the end we would start another song so next week we’d have something to go off of,” she says. “It gave us that jumping-off point.”
Beatwise, the tracks are partly nods to the pop-rap styles of the Yo! MTV Raps era and partly club-friendly variations on contemporary trap beats. Eris’ personality shines through on each. On “Arrogant,” for instance, inspired by both Kanye West and the stylish hauteur of Parisians, she chuckles smugly and savors the title. Eris suspects the songs will be gathered on an EP, but characteristically she’s already thinking ahead to her next possible project. “I also like to get gritty and play and just freestyle, and that’s what I’ve been craving lately,” she says, hoping to do something “more collaborative, adding elements outside myself, other voices” in the future.
And she’s thinking even more long-term. “I still have that brain for business,” she says. “I wanna be a mogul.” Taye would be proud.