London based rapper/producer; Louis VI released an impressive second project titled; Sugar Like Salt. The album cohesively brings together American influenced hip hop beats and artists with features from Mick Jenkins and Ashia Karana, with some of London’s most talented jazz musicians in Nubya Garcia and Moses Boyd.
We accidentally picked the best day on the weekend, as it had been pouring down with rain the original day we’d planned, but luckily, the sun was beating down on us, at a slightly hidden rooftop bar by the Southbank centre. Following on from our chat during the walk to the bar, the topic nicely swayed into one my first questions I was keen to ask…
What other creative outputs have you branched off into?
Louis: I directed all my music videos and I’ve got a huge portfolio now, and I’ve sent it to a friend who works for a company who look after directors and has them on their roster. So, I’m planning to send a portfolio of my work to her and see what happens… but I’ve been in that world through composing
Recalling back to the time when we met at Reprezent radio…
I remember you mentioning you were a producer before you started rapping?
Louis: Yeah, I faked an ID to get on a production course when I was 14 and it was for 18-year olds. That’s when I officially learnt how to produce, but I was rapping before then and before then poetry
Did you go in to spoken word at all?
I did spoken word before I did rap, and I didn’t think my rap was as good as my spoken word. So, I took a look at putting that lyricism back in to my music, but this was when I was 13, 14 years old, but I have only been doing music professionally for around 5 years now. The thing is, you end up doing these things for ages before people start to recognise you
Kofi: Yeah, I agree, its similar to one of my friends from school, who had been producing for around same time as you, and he’s never fussed about putting out and it’s not only till he’s got older that he wanted put music out there
Louis: Yeah, it’s so nice putting music out there, but you realise no one has a clue what you’ve done before. So, it’s not until you bring out a project or a piece of music for people to listen to, that from there they can see the progression and snapshot of your feelings at the time.
After noticing my camera, Louis went on to show me some of the shots he took on 35mm film at LA at Seqouia National Park. He went on to talk about his time there, how it compares to London, the people and his experiences
Louis: I feel like I have a love – hate relationship with it. it’s very difficult to go there as visitor, and not know anyone there because everyone’s driving. So, it’s really hard to meet people. But if you do know people its sick and you could have good quality of life, mainly because of the sun & the level of musicianship out there, but that’s why I prefer New York. You bump into people…
Kofi: Ahh, what’s New York like to London?
Louis: Its similar to London. It’s like London on crack! Bars don’t shut. Ok, you can come out the studio at like 1am and you fancy going out, in London most places will be shut at that time but in New York it’s always going. It’s very multicultural, generally people are friendlier in New York, and people are always looking to chat to you.
Kofi: I wouldn’t have thought people were friendlier in New York, than London…
Louis: Yeah, but people in America are loud as fuck, people talk at the top of their voices. Like on the Subway, people are speaking so loud in New York, even shouting sometimes, whereas in London everyone’s quiet. I think that’s one of more noticeable differences, but people are probably a bit more genuine in London.
Kofi: How has your experiences in LA and New York influenced your music and how you write and person?
Louis: Half the people which featured on it are from LA, Atlanta and New York
Kofi: I noticed the beat on ‘Thurgood’ sounded one of the more American influenced hip hop tracks on the album, which I really liked.
Louis: Thanks, the female rapper; Ashia Karana at beginning is from Atlanta. I wanted this album to be my production and as me as possible
Kofi: Did you make all the beats?
Louis: I made all of them apart from three. I think it really influenced me to go to the birth place of Hip Hop as an artist, and work with people I respect and look up to. I was out there being me and getting praise from people who I consider greats. The universe was doing crazy things all the time while I was out there.
Kofi: Yeah, I can only imagine! What was the concept behind Sugar like Salt
Louis: Sugar and salt are metaphors for the good and bad experiences in your life and it’s not until you get close enough to see or ‘taste’ those experiences, is where you can tell whether it’s good or bad. But then you see these good things don’t give you that drive to push yourself, they can make you sluggish & complacent but the bad things, even though they’re painful as fuck sometimes, you get through it and get stronger by getting through it, and, that gives you energy and drive to grow.
This phrase is a recurring thing for me because there are always good things happening and there’s always bad things happening so it’s about maintaining that balance and growing from them both. It’s a mantra when good or bad happen, nothing is forever, remain calm because it’s all Sugar Like Salt.
Kofi: I feel like you’re in a better space, from making this album (Sugar Like Salt) than your last album (Lonely Road of a Dreamer)?
Louis: Yeah, much better space. psychologically better. I think there were three main points in lonely road of dreamer and much of it was about being in a dark depressed state and that lent itself to the music and was introspective. This album feels more outward and elevating out of that dark time but it’s self-aware, and there’s always that shadow.
Kofi: Yeah, it’s interesting you say that, because I think people use music or any other creative output like art and design as a sort of expression of that, or self-therapy. I think it’s something which needs to be discussed more often, and artists are. Kojey came out at beginning of the year talking about his depression, James Blake as well discussed the stigma surrounding his ‘sad boy’ image (click here to read full article). So, I think it’s important to discuss, so thank you for sharing that.
Louis: No of course, I feel that you never come out of it, but that isolationism is the worse part of it and its why it continues. Even talking about it is such an antidote!
Kofi: So, who are the top three artists you’d like to work with in the UK you haven’t worked with before?
Louis: I would love to do something with Kojey one day, we’ve known each other for a minute so would be good to do something. I would love to do something with Mahalia, on a soulful level…
Kofi: I could see that you, you sing a bit in the album?
Louis: Yeah, but I would never describe myself as a singer, but I would love to do a soul/funk album one day. Do a Childish Gambino. I would also love to work with James Blake, I think we’d do something crazy
Kofi: Nice, which artists do you look up most, who have influenced your music as well as yourself personally?
Louis: If we are scaling it back a while but someone who’ll always be present; Outkast and Andre 3000. His approach to music, he’s such a perfectionist and so diligent with how he comes on a track, for me, he’s the best. He’s smart, he’s never been a featured artist on the track and not killed it. In a similar way, Erykah Badu, for the way she holds herself and interprets the world, but also gives herself a really open attitude and isn’t afraid to be herself and be crazy. Seeing her live, is like a healing experience
Nas, Kanye west influenced me massively. College dropout was a big one for me, as there wasn’t another producer/rapper who was killing it, and I was an aspiring one so looked up to him. Kendrick too. On a UK level, Roots Manuva, Klashnekoff, Dizzie, Nao, all the new jazz heads & all the old. Gil Scott-Heron most majorly.
Kofi: Yeah for sure, away from music Kanye has been… interesting. What are thoughts on his outbursts a few months ago?
Louis: When you’re that powerful and the whole thing with his family I imagine it’s hard to not fine yourself in difficult situations. He’s involved in a family that make all of their money from the talents of other people. So, they’re a bit of a leech. It’s not an attack on anyone but he said himself he has no one around who he trusts, so you do lose grasp
He has a point in saying that ‘why should he limit himself’ but the whole thing he said about slavery is fucked. The conversation with the track; ‘Kanye vs the people’, which was a tune! TI representing the people, it’s an incredible tune. He’s playing devil’s advocate in a sense.
it’s a conversation which wasn’t happening which needed to happen in the black communities and other communities around different perspectives of racism in America from a slightly different angle. It was a conversation which needed to happen, even if it’s totally wrong, and the problem isn’t going to be solved as long it isn’t been talked about
Kofi: I can imagine some black people felt hurt that he wasn’t really representing or speaking for black people.
Louis: Yeah, they said in the interview you don’t experience what a black man feels anymore, and the truth be told he so far removed that now, he doesn’t fully understand what it means to be a black man in normal western society now.
Kofi: And you can hear his progression and change. Where in his earlier albums he spoke about how he was picked on for wearing tight jeans and being geek…
Louis: Yeah that’s what I liked about him because I’m a bit of geek as well and geeks rule the world. Its mad how many people of us are secretly into anime or zoology or something crazy.
Kofi: Couple last things before we go, if you couldn’t do music, what would you be totally outside music?
Louis: If music didn’t exist, I would be doing wildlife documentaries.
Kofi: You must be a fan of blue planet then?
Louis: Yeah, I love David Attenborough. He is my god, I have shrine of him in as you walk in my flat (nah, I’m joking) but I would love to meet that guy.
Kofi: Last thing I wanted to mention was you headline show coming up September. How you feeling for it?
Louis: Amazing, it sold out a couple weeks ago, and the following show I have will be at Ghostnotes in February!
You can listen to Sugar like Salt below via bandcamp: