The Handbook / People / Lou Phelps interview

Lou Phelps interview

Lou Phelps turns to his thoughts for his latest record

Words— Marc Richardson

Photography— Celia Spenard-Ko

For many, Lou Phelps has long been Kaytranada’s little brother. That changed last year with the release of 001/Experiments, which earned him a Juno nomination. Lou is his own artist, now, and he’s increasingly assertive about that. He's about to release his sophomore record, 002/Love Me, and after that – it’s possible that people will once again emphasize the fact that Lou and Kay are brothers, but if they do, it will be because there is a chance they can be the first brothers to both win the Polaris Prize.

 

Love Me is an introspective and complete work that goes beyond being just an album. It’s a cohesive project, from the sound to the visuals, and it wouldn’t be far-fetched to imagine it earning Lou Phelps the same accolade that his brother won in 2016. Top to bottom, the album is well balanced, there are no tracks that you want to skip — no tracks that don’t fit in. It’s a fun listen, but also an insightful listen.

 

Lou Phelps is comfortable now, there’s no denying that. The young artist is sitting in a booth at Lloydie’s, a Caribbean joint on St-Viateur, talking about his evolution since we first met five years ago and his forthcoming album 002/Love Me. Lou’s relaxed demeanour is an extension of how supremely comfortable he sounds on Love Me, a project where he is decidedly more vulnerable and forthcoming with his emotions than his previous work.



When we first met, five years ago, you were going by Louie P, you’ve also gone by Pipo. Is Lou Phelps the final evolution of you as an artist?

I wanted to change my name to Louis-Philippe, but it was too complicated… it didn’t sound smooth. So I was like, how can I say my birth name, which is Louis-Philippe, in English so that it sounds smooth? I tried Lou Philippe, Lou Phil Up, and that didn’t work, but then I came up with Lou Phelps and I was like “aight”, that works. I have this idea to do a French album eventually and change my name to Louis-Philippe just for that, but, yeah, Lou Phelps is the final version.



When you go through name changes, do you feel like your sound is changing too?

It definitely changes.



Is it a conscious decision to change your sound?

I wouldn’t say that. Every year, my sound evolves in some type of way. If you listen to Experiments, which is the first EP I dropped as Lou Phelps, you can see that it feels rushed… I don’t know how to put it, but it doesn’t feel as good as Love Me, which is more emotional.

 

There’s one thing I always say: If you want to be someone in the music industry you have to learn to make songs; everybody can rap, but you have to learn to make songs. I tried to emulate that on Experiments and I feel like that’s the reason why it sounded the way it sounded. I didn’t perfect it. But now, I feel like I’ve evolved from that point, so maybe that’s why Love Me sounds better, why it sounds different.

 

 

What’s it like rapping in English? Every time I’ve spoken to you, we speak in French. So what’s that like? How hard is that?

It’s tough at some point because my first language is French, but English music comes naturally to me. The English side of me — I don’t know… Put it this way: Everything about English music sounds perfect to me. It’s really weird, thinking French, speaking French, sometimes things don’t make sense when you’re going from French to English.

 

I remember one time recording one of my mixtapes back then as The Celestics, there are things that you don’t notice; like you don’t realize that that’s not how you say something. For example, the word “supremacy”, I thought it was pronounced “supreme-uhcy”. And someone pointed it out to me and I was pissed off at myself like “how did I not do the research?” But, at the same time, it’s the way you think.

 

It’s weird because it’s like a challenge…



Speaking of your process, your music videos have become a major part of your act. When you’re sitting there writing or recording or making beats, do you already have a vision of what that song is going to look like?

Sort of. For example, the “Miss Phatty” joint: As I made the beat I was, like, this sounds like a strip club anthem, low key. I wrote the song and when the song was done, I immediately imagined how the video would look. It didn’t come out exactly as I had imagined in the moment, but the director did a good job emulating what I had in mind.

 

Every time I make a song I have an idea of what the video could be or the visual behind it could be. I watch a lot of movies, I’m a very visual person. I have a feeling that when I hear something, I can visualize what I have in my head and I can translate that to the director, who makes that happen.



 

 

There are a lot of artists who wouldn’t care about the visual aspect, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with you. Do you think that’s something that sets you apart?

I think it’s very important to have good visuals when you’re an up and coming artist. I remember the first time I heard of Rejjie Snow, it was his video where he’s an albino running away from something and that captured me. Same thing for Tyler [The Creator], same thing for Earl [Sweatshirt] and all them.

 

Visuals are really important for an artist because you can drop great music but if you don’t have the great artistry that accompanies it, whether that’s the visuals or what not, it limits you in what you can become. You become someone who has talent but doesn’t know how to exploit it properly. I feel like that’s the way I see it.

 

Every time there’s a discussion with the label about budgets, I’m always like “let’s focus on visuals and websites.” Regardless of whether the website is going to be minimalist or complex, it has to be on point. I remember growing up and going on kanyewest.com to see what was up. When he dropped “New Slaves”, it was just a map of the world with dots showing where the video would be projected. It’s small details that you have to care about so that you’re not stuck in the rapper lane.

 

I don’t want to be just a rapper, I want to be an artist.

 

 

Music that doesn’t have emotion, people listen to it to get hype. But that doesn’t take you anywhere, it doesn’t evoke any emotions, it just gets you hype.

 

 

What was the process of making Love Me like for you, as an artist? 

It took me about a year to fully record the album and feel confident in the music I was making.

 

The process was basically me going through a breakup and being like “damn, I should talk about the way I feel.” All my other stuff is me saying “Oh, look how fly I am, I’m this, I’m that”, but it’s never me saying that I’m happy or I’m sad. But all of the songs that have an impact on society are the songs that portray emotions.

 

I feel like, in some type of way, human beings live for emotions — for thrills. We don’t live for money, we live for what money gives you: Things that bring emotions and experiences. I went back to the roots of what’s important [emotions] and spoke about that in my way. I think that’s what Love Me means.



Looking at the tracklist, you get an idea where you’re going, you kind of know it’s going to be about love and relationships. But when you listen to it, it’s surprising because songs like “Two Seater”, you think are going to be these hip-hop love ballads, and it is about love, but also about being alone. Why do you feel like you’re comfortable talking about this now, all of a sudden?

I have to give a shoutout to my sister Angela for this one. I have a moodboard in my room with a bunch of stuff written on it like “Go to the gym” or “Don’t let people bring you down” and one day my sister came in and wrote “Talk about your emotions” on it.

 

And I was like, damn, maybe I should talk about how I feel. She knew I was down in my emotions and all that. I listened to — like really listened to — [Outkast’s] Speakerboxxx/The Love Below a lot around that time, especially The Love Below part.

 

Listening to that kind of love music and being in my feelings and having my sister write that down made me kind of realize that maybe I should talk about my emotions more because these are the songs that have the most impact on people. People can relate to that and people listen to it because they want to feel some type of way.

 

Music that doesn’t have emotion, people listen to it to get hype. But that doesn’t take you anywhere, it doesn’t evoke any emotions, it just gets you hype.



How tight-knit do you find the Montreal music community? There’s you; your brother, of course; High Klassfied; Planet Giza, who are on “Two Seater”…

Montreal is weird because everybody knows each other, but nobody really wants to work together, I want to work with people, but I think people don’t want to work with me… It’s a weird thing with Montreal rappers because I feel like everybody wants to be the first to be on top so there’s a rivalry going on.



It’s weird, cause from the outside, it seems like everybody’s working together…

Nah, I swear, nobody works together, but we all hang out together! I only work with Planet Giza and producers. In terms of rappers, nobody wants to work together. When’s the last time you saw two Montreal rappers working together?



If you could work with one artist, who would it be?

Kendrick Lamar. For sure. His way of thinking is… out of this world. He pushes the boundaries every single time. If you listen to Section.80, then transition to good kid, m.A.A.d. city, then To Pimp A Butterfly, then Untitled, and finally Damn. every album is like an evolution. I admire him so much.



Your last EP, 001/Experiments, earned you a Juno nomination. What was the Juno process like for you?

My manager was like “we should apply for the Junos and try to get a nomination because there haven’t been too many rap albums this year.” [Laughs] So I was like, “yeah, sure”, and I thought then that even if I got nominated, there was no way I was going to win it. But when I saw the category and the nominations, I was like, you know what, I might have a chance.

 

It was a crazy process. I didn’t think I was going to get nominated, but then I got the tweet and I was with my mom and she was just like “Yeah. Tight.” Kay [Kaytranada] was there, too, and he was like “Aite. Cool.” So I was, like, “Okay, well then, I just got nominated, nothing much, let’s just go home then.”

 

I went to Vancouver with my homie Jason and doing the red carpet was crazy. You have to understand that this was the first time that I was out there [at an awards show] by myself. Kay is obviously huge, so this was the first time that I was really being recognized because of what I had done and because of who I was as an artist. It was a great experience.

 

 

Do you feel like experiencing that, getting that recognition as an artist, is motivating you to keep perfecting your craft?

Yeah, definitely. When I saw Tory Lanez win, I was like, “Well, next year I’m gonna win it, so I don’t care.”

 

It motivated me to write more shit and to put out a good, cohesive project so that people could listen to it head-to-toe without skipping a song. I’m really confident about this album and I’m ready.

 

I feel like I had to go through that phase of being a cry-baby and not getting what I want because it made me realize that I have to work hard to get what I want and if I want it, I’m going to have to go and get it.

 

You’re launching the album and then you’re going on tour. What’s tour life like for you, when you’re on your own?

Interesting. I don’t know what to expect. I’m expecting 20 people at every show, like for it to be a struggle tour, but whatever, everybody goes through that.



Which city are you most looking forward to and which are you most nervous for?

Most nervous I’d say Toronto, because if I look at the stats, Toronto is where most of my listens come from. So Toronto is the most nerve-racking one.

 

Montreal’s got to be the most exciting one. Montreal shows are always great and always a fun time. I’m back home, doing my thing.

 

 

 

So what’s after Love Me for Lou Phelps?

A third album. Then probably a French album. More tours. More videos. More work.

 

I can’t be dropping an album and then going ghost mode.

 

 

Lou Phelps new album is out September 21st on Last Gang Records.

 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. If you enjoyed our sit down with Lou, check out some of our other interviews.

 

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