Louis Culture is the South London rapper rooted in reality

Louis Culture is the South London rapper rooted in reality

by Ollie Cox
8 min

We catch Louis Culture in between torrential downpours on a grey London afternoon. Despite the logistical challenges of shooting outdoors, he remains in good spirits. Our interview falls at a rare moment of calm for the musician, who has been working on his upcoming EP, I Can’t Wait To See U Again, and preparing for his impending tour. 

Louis Culture merges musings of the Big Smoke’s supersonic speed in “City” with sobering political reflections in “Southside Phenomenon,” an ability he boils down to his “real” approach to making music. Brought up on Kanye, Nas, Kano, and King Krule, the breadth of his influences and skill as a writer is reflected in each release, where garage meets with trap and R&B rhythms. A tour commencing on April 10 made picking a set list hard but not impossible, as we found out. 

When he’s not in the studio or on tour, you might see Louis Culture on a Lime bike (as is featured in his music videos and across his Instagram) or at your favourite designers’ fashion shows. When we caught up, he was sporting a soft green pullover jacket courtesy of London by way of Dublin designer Robyn Lynch, pristine all-black Nike Air Max 95s, and open-hem joggers reflective of his technical menswear and streetwear-tinged personal style.

We sat down with the South Londoner between bursts of rain and momentary sunshine to discuss songwriting, family co-signs, and his latest EP. See what went down below. 

Let’s start with your upcoming EP titled I Can’t Wait To See U Again. Why did you choose this title?

It just made sense, really.

Who’s the “U” you’re talking about?

Her, myself, and the audience. 

This EP features 6 tracks. What was the selection process like? How did you know which track should or shouldn’t make the cut?

I guess [it’s] just like cohesiveness. Over the years, I have done so many different genres, and I just wanted to hone in on one sound. There were a lot of songs that didn’t make it, and also a lot of revisiting, so there was more gel between everything.

Aura Arif for Culted ©

Do you have a favourite one? Or one you’re most excited to see others’ reactions to when it drops?

Maybe, “Don’t Give Up On Love.” I think that’s going to be interesting.

Do you usually tune into what people are saying about your music?

Yes. I’m aware of it, but I am making what I love. My close collaborators always chime in and whose opinions I trust. 

Do you trust your family’s opinions? 

Yeah, I think I do. There are certain songs my mum might remember, or she might hear something of mine. If something sticks out, I kind of know that I’ve done a good job because I’m like, “Oh, this line stuck with you!” That could be working.

I think about it a lot. Your parents’ co-sign is the best co-sign. But, it is interesting because, obviously, in creative industries, you might not always come from a family that is supportive of you being in a creative industry. Sometimes you might have to do your own thing and have to prove [yourself]. In the back of your head, their approval will always mean everything to you. 

How did your mum take it when you first started making music?

She was super supportive because she’s a super creative person. She has had doubts about the industry and maybe how other artists that she might have known back in the day – how their careers went or how certain things happened with them – but I always try to remind her that British music has come a long way since then. There’s the internet, there’s various opportunities that we’re fortunate to have, and more community and events and spaces. So it’s changed in a massive way and a sick way.

Your music seamlessly switches between heavier, more political themes to some lighthearted and fun-loving lyrics. How would you describe your own music?

I’d just say real. I think it’s a reflection of Black Britain. That’s sort of an accurate thing as well. A reflection of Black Britain, all the things that were heard and seen. 

When you first got into music, did you always want it to be political? 

I don’t see it [as political]. I just see it as second nature, really. All the artists that I grew up on were super outspoken and super big on documenting what was going on, whether it was in their communities or in life, whether it was a Kanye, or a Nas, or a Lupe, or Kano, [and] Skepta.

You’ve become a key voice in the UK rap scene, offering up a new sound to the genre. How would you explain the scene right now, and where do you see yourself fitting in there?

I think it’s incredible. One thing that really excites me, [about] South London specifically, [is] kids growing up have a Dexter, a Jawnino, then they have a Len, then I fit somewhere in there. I think it’s nice that everyone’s identity has a face to it or has someone that should represent them. I think that’s something that I’m really happy about, and every genre has a face as well. Whatever you’re listening to, there’s something for you. 

I guess [I] aim to move people. I think that’s probably the nutshell. In the sense of alternative artists that are down to do their own thing. Sometimes it might not be as instantly gratifying, like I think it’s been a long journey for me, I think it has been a long journey for a lot of my peers to come to this point, and there’s so much to be done. 

Aura Arif for Culted ©

In a previous interview, you said you needed to learn piano as part of your producer journey. Have you learnt it yet?
It’s peak. It’s probably the most important thing I need to do for my music. As a producer, I forever have to communicate to someone else. It’s like my disadvantage. 

Compared to “Smile Soundsystem” to “When Life Presents Obstacles,” we’ve witnessed different sounds, issues discussed and essentially, eras of your life. What era of your life and of your career would you say “I Can’t Wait To See U Again” pertains to?

Every project is so different. There’s a bit of correlation, but not too much. It’s funny because we’ve been putting together the tour set [and wondering] how you go from a garage song to an indie song to a trap to an R&B song in 30 minutes. We figured it out somehow. I think, in a nutshell, it’s both love and self-love. Both acts are very much driving this project. I think everyone is capable of loving someone and being loved but it’s equally important to love yourself and take care of yourself as well. 

Lastly, do you have anything else to share with us? Anything you want to plug?

I Can’t Wait To See U Again is out on April 5. I Can’t Wait To See U tour starts April 10. Thank you guys for having me. 

Cover Image: Aura Arif for Culted ©

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