10 things you need to know about versatile London artist Louis Culture
His new EP 'Smile Soundsystem' explores the relationship between Black Britain and electronic music.
Photography Jack Cullis
Louis Culture is 22, but when he swears a lot (which apparently he does), he feels like 71-year-old Samuel L Jackson. Louis certainly doesn’t look that old. A member of south London collective Elevation Meditation, he's been making music since his early teens and now draws inspiration from his friends, peers and conversations. Ask what it is he does and he'll tell you he's an artist -- "it's a bit more broad than saying rapper... plus I do try to dodge the stigma” -- and we certainly consider his music to be art.
Across his Smile Soundsystem EP, out today, his realist lyrics are set to productions that hybridise garage, 2-step and hip-hop, resulting in a distinctly UK sound. It makes for a refreshing listen and one surely best served live in a club. Shame they don’t exist anymore, hey? “I think it’s a blessing to have songs that make it into that space,” Louis tells us. “And Smile being crafted like a DJ set… that was by design.” He cites the record as having become a personal project to sonically explore the relationship between Black Britain, growing up in the EU and electronic music, totally from scratch. So what’s his idea of a good night out? “Going out out? The pre-drinks kicking in on time, loved ones all around, a great line-up and people dancing carelessly. No watered down rum and coke!”
Lead single “Being Me” is a theme song of sorts, summing up the things he believes in: “individuality, trusting your instinct, multiculturalism over divide. Not allowing people to fuck with your dreams.” The EP includes features his friend Hanah (“we’re born one day apart and she’s the most beautiful soul -- a young Björk”); Poppy Billingham of the band Sunken (“her voice over AEVA’s production on “First Date” pulled us into 2020”); vocalist Master Peace (“I’m all for extensions of Black identity and changing the narrative, which I feel he represents to a T”) and Noel McKoy (“a pioneer in UK soul and a family friend”). A who’s who of the talented individuals surrounding him.
On that note, turns out Louis has been working with producer Vegyn on a secret project for the past few years, something we’re very excited to hear. “With Smile out of the way, its completion is a priority,” he says. “Creatively he’s been like a big brother, always giving advice and dropping gems on me... on all of us to be honest.” Keep an eye out for that one.
Dive into Smile Soundsystem and get to know Louis better via these 10 facts...
1. He’s South London, born and raised.
“It’s like DNA -- I think the things I experienced growing up here not only prepared me for life but also helped carve me too. So Solid’s “Oh No” video is a reference in everything I’ll ever do.”
2. His earliest musical memory is of Destiny’s Child
“Their The Writing's On The Wall album was being played by my mum’s friends in Atlanta when I was like two, on a transparent Y2K silver stereo.”
3. He wrote his first rap to Juelz Santana’s “Mic Check” instrumental
“But the first song I actually recorded was on top of Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” in 2008. At the time I had my first Billionaire Boys Club shirt that I got for my 10th birthday and a pair of Rocawear jeans… I was gassed and writing very premature braggadocio raps.”
4. He started producing when the rest of you were still taking recorder lessons
“Most of my songs are produced by me. I started making beats quite early, then more seriously at 10 or 11. I also work closely with Pullen. He's my DJ and co-produced almost every song on Smile.”
5. Louis’s all-time favourite lyricist is Nas
“Illmatic was poetic, but then there’s albums like It Was Written, God’s Son and Life Is Good where what he’s saying is almost chilling or mean mug worthy. Earl might be second.”
6. If he was a wrestler, he knows exactly what his entrance music would be...
“I was a huge WWE Fan when I was younger! I’d say Kid Cudi’s “Man In The Night” -- so much rage. I'd have all the pyro going off behind me as I walk to the ring, Jeff Hardy style.”
7. He’s using lockdown as a time for personal growth
“I think I’ve learnt a lot about how to apply myself, keeping some type of schedule. I’m looking at the advantages of being able to stop and reflect on everything. Big ups my friends too for checking in on me. And big ups to all the key workers <3.”
8. And Netflix
“I’ve been watching The Last Dance and New Girl on Netflix, and obsessing over Kelis’s “Caught Out There” video and making a really good morning coffee.”
9. Aaaand for treating his body like a temple
“50% of my body is made up of Nando's and Apple Stella Cider.”
10. The fictional character he most relates to is Ferris Bueller
“He had to go and do his own thing, so did I.”