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L'Rain in Columbus in 2022
L'Rain in Columbus in 2022
Background information
Birth nameTaja Cheek
OriginBrooklyn, New York; Yale University
GenresExperimental pop
OccupationsMulti-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer, curator
LabelsMexican Summer, Astro Nautico

Taja Cheek, known professionally as L'Rain, is an American experimentalist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and curator known primarily as the lead vocalist and songwriter of her eponymous band.[1][2] L'Rain has been recognized for experimental music that draws on a vast number of traditions and genres[3][4] in a practice and aesthetic Cheek calls "approaching songness".[1]

Her self-titled debut, L'Rain, was included in best-of-year lists by publications including Pitchfork[4] and Bandcamp Daily;[5] her second album, Fatigue (2021), was named the best album of the year by The Wire.[6] She has collaborated with artists including Vagabon, Helado Negro,[1] and Naama Tsabar,[7] and performed with Kevin Beasley at the Whitney Museum of American Art.[8]

Early life and education[edit]

Cheek was born and raised in Crown Heights, Brooklyn,[9] where she lived with her mother, father, and grandparents.[1] Her father, Wyatt Cheek, worked in music marketing and promotion for entities including Select Records and Kiss FM;[1] her grandmother ran a liquor store;[2] and in the 1950s her grandfather owned a neighborhood jazz club.[10] Cheek's mother, Lorraine C. Porter, taught physical education, health, math, and science in Brooklyn schools.[11] The stage name L'Rain is an homage to Porter, who died before the release of the self-titled debut.[12]

Cheek studied ballet and modern dance at The Ailey School[10] and learned piano, cello, and Baroque recorder before picking up bass in high school,[1] then forming and joining groups that included an Iron Maiden cover band.[10] She attended Yale to study music but dropped the major, citing factors including a lack of diversity among the program's course offerings.[13] She transferred to the American Studies program, where her major included a concentration in visual, audio, literary, and performance cultures;[14] in 2011, she completed her Bachelor of Arts degree with distinction.[15] While at Yale she worked as music director of radio station WYBC and booked shows.[1]


After graduation, Cheek returned to New York, where she resumed playing in Brooklyn bands including Throw Vision,[16] who released their debut in 2013 and an EP in 2015.[17]

In 2017, Cheek released the self-titled L'Rain on New York City-based[18] label Astro Nautico.[12] She composed and performs vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, guitar, bass, samples, and percussion on the album.[19] L'Rain also features Alex Goldberg, Jeremy Powell, Kyp Malone (of TV on the Radio), and Andrew Lappin, who co-produced the album with Cheek.[20] Pitchfork included L'Rain among their 20 Best Experimental Albums of 2017,[4] and Bandcamp Daily listed the release as #10 in their Best Albums of 2017.[5]

In 2018, L'Rain (represented by Cheek and Ben Chapoteau-Katz) collaborated with producer Morgan Wiley and vocalist Patrick Gordon to remake the 1980s Chicago house track "Your Love" for a benefit compilation which paired electronic artists with formerly-incarcerated singers.[21] The release, Bring Down The Walls, raised money for Critical Resistance, an organization dedicated to ending the prison–industrial complex.[22]

L'Rain's second album, Fatigue, was released on Mexican Summer in 2021.[23] Fatigue was named album of the year by The Wire,[24] included among the year's best by Pitchfork,[25][26] and met with wide acclaim from outlets including NPR.[9] Cheek provides vocals and plays guitar, bass, synth, keyboards, piano, percussion, tape effects, and airhorn on the album, which features an expanded roster of twenty performers;[10] these include executive producer Andrew Lappin, on guitar and programming, and co-producer Ben Chapoteau-Katz, who contributes synths, saxophone, vocals, percussion, and airhorn.[27]

In August 2023, L'Rain announced a third album, I Killed Your Dog, released in October 2023;[28] the album was co-produced by Cheek with Lappin and Chapoteau-Katz, who perform alongside L'Rain bandmates Zachary Levine-Caleb, Justin Felton, and Timothy Angulo.[29]

L'Rain has toured with bands including Black Midi (2021),[30] Animal Collective (2022),[31] Sharon Van Etten (2022),[32] Big Thief (2023),[33] and LCD Soundsystem (2023).

Curatorial work and public programming[edit]

In 2011, Cheek began working with arts nonprofit Creative Time;[34] in 2014, as site manager for an exhibit co-presented with the Weeksville Heritage Center,[35] Cheek installed and ran a pop-up radio station from a pink Cadillac parked outside the Utica Avenue A/C subway station.[36][13] (The project was conceived by Otabenga Jones and Associates in homage to Jitu Weusi, black nationalist community arts center The East, and the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium.[36][37]) The same year, Cheek––along with Ariana Allensworth, Salome Asega, Sable Elyse Smith, and Nadia Williams––co-organized "The Kara Walker Experience: WE ARE HERE", a public gathering of people of color at the Domino Sugar Refinery for Kara Walker's installation A Subtlety.[38] In 2015, Cheek's work as Curatorial Assistant for High Line Art included helping to organize an installation and performance by Kevin Beasley.[39]

In 2016, Cheek joined the curatorial team at contemporary art institution MoMA PS1;[40] the same year, she also opened the basement of her Brooklyn apartment to experimental music events under the name 49 Shade[41] (initially co-organized with Max Alper, Dann Lawrence, and Matteo Liberatore[13]). At PS1, Cheek co-organized Sunday Sessions and the Warm Up series through 2021;[42] Warm Up lineups receiving extensive media coverage included a 2017 event with Cardi B, A$AP Ferg, and YATTA (of artist collective PTP);[43][44] a 2018 show pairing Lizzo with experimentalists Gang Gang Dance;[45][46] 2019's season opener, with Queens local duendita and Freddie Gibbs;[47] 2020's livestream edition, with Eartheater and KeiyaA;[48] and a limited-capacity 2021 event with Baby Tate and Patia's Fantasy World.[49] As of July 2022, Cheek was listed as "former Associate Curator" at PS1.[50] Her DIY space 49 Shade has presented artists including Kyp Malone, Miho Hatori,[51] and Otomo Yoshihide,[52] and Bartees Strange credits the space as introducing him to many of his collaborators.[53]

In 2023, Cheek was announced as the first artist curator for BRIC's Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival.[54]

Musical style[edit]

L'Rain often layers and loops her vocals, and her work frequently features samples from her collection of hundreds of field recordings, some pitch-shifted or otherwise manipulated beyond recognition.[1] She has spoken in interviews about her work's tendency to evade[1] or reject[2] categorization, saying that she is "more interested in a Barthes, Death of the Author, approach to genre",[55] values illegibility,[2] and seeks to complicate assumptions about the relationship between identity and aesthetics: "I’m hyper-aware of how marketing and packaging happens for Black people and women and Black women [...] I like feeling a sense of agency in how those stories are told".[10]

AllMusic described L'Rain as making "dreamy, genre-blurring music [...], reflecting on grief, change, joy, and resistance through a collage-like mixture of soul, psychedelia, gospel, musique concrète, and numerous other genres."[56] Pitchfork described her 2021 album Fatigue as "painterly and methodical, daubing vocal loops over clattering percussion, sweeping strings, and resonant synths to create a shapeshifting strain of experimental pop."[26] Reviewers have variously identified her style and influences as including free jazz, ambient, noise music, and disco;[12] dance;[26] "psychedelic orchestral pop" and "distorted shoegaze";[3] krautrock, outsider music, and hip hop;[20] R&B and avant-garde rock;[2] gospel, funk, and post-punk;[23] and soul, drone, avant-pop, and musique concrète.[10]

While Cheek is the sole fixed figure in L'Rain recordings and performances, she says the project follows a "more nuanced and collective [model]" than that of the "lone genius or creator": "I'm trying to find a way to nurture my own voice and singular vision, especially as a Black woman musician, while also acknowledging that I work collaboratively with a team that is essential to the project."[57] Andrew Lappin and Ben Chapoteau-Katz are credited as Cheek's closest collaborators and co-producers of L'Rain's second and third albums; as of 2023, the band's members are Cheek, Lappin, and Chapoteau-Katz with Zachary Levine-Caleb, Justin Felton, and Timothy Angulo.[29]


Studio albums[edit]

List of studio albums
Title Year Label Format
L'Rain[12] 2017 Astro Nautico LP, digital download
Fatigue[58] 2021 Mexican Summer LP, digital download
I Killed Your Dog[28] 2023 Mexican Summer


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Pareles, Jon (24 June 2021). "L'Rain's Songs Hold Ghosts, Demons and Healing". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e Fraden, Angel E. (26 February 2018). "Meet L'Rain, the Mystic Multi-Instrumentalist and Vocalist Whose Intimate Music Will Mesmerize You". Teen Vogue. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  3. ^ a b Berlatsky, Noah (1 July 2021). "L'Rain creates glittering, warped pop collages on Fatigue". The Chicago Reader. Retrieved 15 July 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Geffen, Sasha (15 December 2017). "The 20 Best Experimental Albums of 2017". Pitchfork. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  5. ^ a b "The Best Albums of 2017: #20 – 1". Bandcamp Daily. 15 December 2017. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  6. ^ "The Wire's Releases of the Year 2021". The Wire. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  7. ^ "Rosana Cabán joins Naama Tsabar at Kasmin Gallery". The Computer Music Center at Columbia University. 2019. Retrieved 15 July 2021.
  8. ^ "Performance from Kevin Beasley: A view of a landscape". Whitney Museum of American Art. 2019. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  9. ^ a b Garcia-Navarro, Lulu (28 June 2021). "L'Rain's Latest Album 'Fatigue' Explores The Power Of Change". NPR. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Pelly, Jenn (28 June 2021). "L'Rain Wants to Confuse You". Pitchfork. Retrieved 15 July 2021.
  11. ^ "Lorraine C. Porter, Age 59". United Federation of Teachers. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  12. ^ a b c d Balfour, Jay (28 September 2017). "L'Rain: L'Rain". Pitchfork. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  13. ^ a b c "JOB Interview: Taja Cheek". BenSisto.com. October 2020. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  14. ^ "In medias res". Yale Daily News. 27 January 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  15. ^ "Wadada Leo Smith in Conversation with Taja Cheek". Walker Art Center. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  16. ^ Berumen, Gwen. "DIY Band 'Throw Vision' Talks Genre And Identity". BUST. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  17. ^ "Stream Throw Vision's Were It Will 7-Inch". Impose Magazine. Retrieved 15 July 2021.
  18. ^ Kuhn, Bennett. "Labeled: Astro Nautico". Impose Magazine. Retrieved 16 July 2021.
  19. ^ Berlatsky, Noah (4 September 2017). "Music on the Horizon". Splice Today. Retrieved 16 July 2021.
  20. ^ a b Schube, Will (8 September 2017). "L'Rain's Debut Album Is A Rollercoaster Ride of Soul, Shoegaze, and Dance". Bandcamp. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  21. ^ "Creative Time and the Fortune Society present Bring Down the Walls". Creative Time. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  22. ^ Ryce, Andrew (4 May 2018). "Larry Heard, Honey Dijon and Robert Owens feature on prison benefit compilation". Resident Advisor. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  23. ^ a b Moore, Marcus J. (24 June 2021). "L'Rain's "Fatigue" Captures the Everyday Nuances of Black Life". Bandcamp Daily. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  24. ^ "The Wire's Releases Of The Year 2021". The Wire. December 2021. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  25. ^ "The 50 Best Albums of 2021". Pitchfork. 7 December 2021. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  26. ^ a b c Torres, Eric (29 June 2021). "L'Rain: Fatigue". Pitchfork. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  27. ^ "Fatigue". Bandcamp. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  28. ^ a b Hope, Clover (23 August 2023). "L'Rain Talks Shattering Expectations With Her "Basic Bitch" Album, I Killed Your Dog". Pitchfork. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  29. ^ a b "L'Rain". Pioneer Works. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  30. ^ "black midi expand tour, add 2nd NYC date". Brooklynvegan. 22 September 2021. Retrieved 20 October 2021.
  31. ^ "Animal Collective Announce New Album Time Skiffs, Share New Video: Watch". Pitchfork. 20 October 2021. Retrieved 20 October 2021.
  32. ^ "Sharon Van Etten shares new single "Porta," adds tour dates w/ L'Rain". Brooklyn Vegan. 8 February 2022. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  33. ^ "L'Rain playing free Union Pool show ahead of UK tour with Big Thief". Brooklyn Vegan. 21 March 2023. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  34. ^ "Living As Form: Thanks". Creative Time. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  35. ^ "Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn". Creative Time. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  36. ^ a b "Jazz, 'The East' and a Pink Cadillac: Outdoor Exhibit Reflects on Black Radical Brooklyn". BKReader. 29 September 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  37. ^ "How a Pop-Up Radio Station Is Radicalizing Bed-Stuy". VICE. 22 September 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  38. ^ "We Are Here:Black Women Claim Their Space at Kara Walker's Controversial Sugar Sphinx Show". EBONY Magazine. 2 July 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  39. ^ "Kevin Beasley: Untitled Stanzas: Staff/Un/Site". High Line. 2015. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  40. ^ Murnighan, Annie (13 March 2018). "MoMA PS1 curator Taja Cheek dives into New York's experimental music scene". Interview Magazine. Retrieved 15 July 2021.
  41. ^ "What's going on Thursday?". Brooklyn Vegan. 14 April 2016. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  42. ^ "Warm Up 2021". MoMA PS1. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  43. ^ Madden, Sidney (5 April 2018). "The Business Of Being Cardi B". NPR. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  44. ^ "Warm Up: Total Freedom (with Ryan Trecartin) / Cardi B / ASAP Ferg / Hitmakerchinx / Lotic / inc. no world + Ian Isiah / YATTA". MoMA. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  45. ^ Garcia, Sandra E. (18 September 2018). "Lizzo Wants to Build You Up". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  46. ^ "Warm Up: Discwoman / Yaeji / Gang Gang Dance / Lizzo / AceMo / Logan Takahashi". MoMA. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  47. ^ Fulton, Nick (7 February 2019). "how 'warm up' at moma ps1 became nyc's best summer festival". i-D. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  48. ^ Moen, Matt (27 August 2020). "Livestream This: MoMA PS1 Warm Up". PAPER Magazine. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  49. ^ "Photos: MoMA PS1 Throws Exuberant, Fully Vaccinated Warm Up Party". Gothamist. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  50. ^ "Poncili Creación". MoMA PS1. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  51. ^ "December 2022". NYC Noise. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  52. ^ "Otomo Yoshihide Solo, 49 Shade, December 10, 2017". DowntownMusic.net. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  53. ^ "Musician Bartees Strange on indie music's overlooked audiences". WNYC. 6 December 2022. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  54. ^ Helfand, Raphael (28 July 2023). "How L'Rain helped build Celebrate Brooklyn! 2023's phenomenal lineup". The FADER. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  55. ^ Bourgeois, Jasmine (November 2018). "In Conversation with L'Rain". Tom Tom Magazine. Retrieved 16 July 2021.
  56. ^ Simpson, Paul. "L'Rain - Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 March 2022.
  57. ^ Berzon, Stephanie (23 June 2021). "A Healing Vortex: Taja Cheek Interviewed by Stephanie Berzon". BOMB. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  58. ^ Bloom, Madison (31 March 2021). "L'Rain Announces New Album Fatigue, Shares New Song: Listen". Pitchfork. Retrieved 24 June 2021.