Louis Culture is one of South-West London’s hidden talents. His debut EP Smile Soundsystem encompasses a poetic bravado amongst it’s melodic boldness. In a creative climate where honesty and candidness are often hard to come by, Louis offers a unique perspective into a world deeply rooted in the complex realities of the Afro-diaspora. Tracks like ‘Being Me’ manage to tap into a part of your spirit that says no to society’s obsession with labelling, boxing, profiling and suppressing.
‘Culture for 17’ features fellow pioneer of London’s underground scene Lava La Rue. It embraces an old-school skeleton whilst being brought to life by a contemporary edge. It’s music that pushes the listener to consider how a sound can inform us of a past but also inspire what’s to come. What really speaks volumes is his ability to morph and adapt. In a world currently filled with hurt, struggle, confusion and pain, artists like Louis Culture remind us that there is also creativity, versatility, grit and tenderness.
With Smile Soundsystem leaving me yearning to know more, I hit Louis with some quick-fire questions. Here’s what happened.
How were you first introduced to the idea of making music?
Quite young. I had this CD music software called ‘e-DJAY’ when I was like 5 or 6. It came in my cereal I think, so I was making beats on that. Then, I got into rapping through poetry when I was like 10.
What kinds of artists have had an impact on your sound? What sorts of things outside of music have been influential to you as a creator?
Andre 3000, Kanye West… they’re both extensions of the capabilities of the Black body as far as ‘Pop Culture’. Both have challenged stereotypes and expression, especially in such a hyper-masculine genre. Then outside the genre, I’d say artists, fashion designers and creative directors of brands. People who, like me, are also working on a massive project.
Is there a distinct time or moment where you realised music was what you wanted to do?
I think I knew it’s all I wanted to do from like 13.
It’s great to be able to see the development from ‘Don’t F Up Louis’ to songs like ‘Britannia’. Can you speak on what inspires your lyricism?
Those particular songs I think I was trying to bring people into the South. Like, as vivid as I can be. I think life and conversations inspire my writing most. Reflecting on things that have happened… scrolling through my head.
We know you’ve recently put out your debut project ‘Smile Soundsystem’. What has its reception been like?
It’s been great. I think between Covid and the mourning we have experienced due to the passings within the Black community, I am thankful and grateful that people have still found space and comfort in ‘Smile’.
What’s one of your highlights from ‘Smile Soundsystem’? Whether it be a song, a feature or a memory you have whilst making it.
I was on the bus coming home from Pullen’s when I came up with the lyrics for “For Your Own Good”. I just remember being so gassed haha. Poppy’s vocals on ‘First Date’ are a highlight too.
Has your idea of ‘culture’ evolved in any way since releasing music under ‘Louis Culture’? Does it have a unique meaning to you?
In my name it just reflects the multiculturalism and spectrum in which my influences range from. Growing up here, being surrounded by various ethnicities, classes, beliefs, listening to everything etc… This is always reflected in the sound and what I have to say. The blending of it all.
It’s hard to ignore the pressing current state of the world. I see what is happening in London echo internationally. Your lyrics, especially in ‘Being Me’, really hits home in a lot of ways. I think universally, the Black diaspora is facing a lot in terms of identity and belonging. Is there anything you’d like to speak on broadly in regards to how current issues and events may affect you or how it could influence ‘culture’, identity and your music?
Existing in a White country isn’t easy. Some of us fit in, some of us are outcasts and I think no matter where you fall into it, you’ve probably had to minimise a part of yourself or box your trauma in somewhere in order to cope.
For me, the exhaustion of this mourning and conversation especially during Covid is new but the awareness and will to overcome the issue isn’t. Nor is it something myself and my fellow diaspora have settled for or accepted. We’re here for the long fight. There are just things to bear in mind when stepping back out in the new world.
Where my identity and music plays into that? I’ll reflect on what I absorb, continue to inform. Stormzy said “I can’t drop the bag, I’m the bag”.
What is a hope you have for the future?
Off the back of what I just said, a lighter upbringing for Black children. Like, they’ve had to live through this and be explained that “not everybody is going to like you” and be reminded that your hair and features are beautiful.
Are there any artists out there that you’d love to collaborate with?
Standing On The Corner, Micachu, Steve Lacy, Mount Kimbie.
Is there anyone in the London scene we should be keeping an eye on?
Kam-Bu has an incredible year ahead, I’m rooting for Sunken, Hanah and Dellon.
Follow Louis Culture here for more and stream his EP Smile Soundsystem below.