Verge Meets: LOUIS VI with Foot Locker

Q: According to Saint Heron, you’ve been consistently producing music of  “primal, introspective glory…fusing neo-soul inspired hip hop  production with his personal lyrical analyses of the sometimes  troubling real-life state of simply being”. Can you talk a little  about making “primal, introspective” music?

Aye, big up Saint Heron every time. It’s interesting because I didn’t set out to make “primal” or “introspective music”, really and truly I just set out to be myself with the aim of hopefully improving on that with each project I drop. But I guess by “primal” you could say that what i make is raw, I speak fully and openly on being depressed, being confused with my identity as a mixed-race man, love problems and the mental battle of “simply being” without shyness. I guess these are all primal things for human beings that we all go through but not everyone talks about it. Saint Heroin were referring to my first EPLonely Road of the Dreamer,I believe, but the g’s and Giseets listening to my last album Sugar Like Salt might describe it as “complex and outrospective”, know what I mean? The music is what I am at that moment.

Hip hop and personal lyrics have gone hand in hand since the early  days of the genre, how do you approach putting so much of yourself  into your music?

Honestly, constantly self-analysing yourself can be a downer at times. It can be like being my own personal psychologist, except I can just walk away after my 30 minutes are up. Also, when you pour so much of yourself into the music, exposing so much of your inner mind; putting it out there in front of people can be a lot. But for the very same reason it’s amazing, because it’s also my medicine. When I used to get really frustrated as a kid, the only thing that could calm me was writing everything down in verses. Most of what I write will remain in those books, but it was important for me to digest the world. It’s crazy to me you have people in the industry that don’t make the music but sit around a table, making snap judgements and deciding who is or isn’t good, who is or isn’t going to blow up, or who is worth backing – all the while taking a hefty salary. They are treating it like an inanimate object, but the music hasn’t just got feelings, IT IS FEELINGS. So when I see people becoming rich on being a “tastemaker” or working in the industry, and they don’t show due care, love and really giving time to really understanding someone’s music, it makes me vexed.

How has your London upbringing influenced your sound and yourself as  an artist?

In every way. This is the cultural capital of the world. From the age of dot I’ve heard the majority of major languages spoken, I’m deeply affected by the long standing Caribbean London culture (my Dad is from the island of Dominica), which especially comes out in my music. I grew up around Garage, Grime, dancehall, dub, reggae, house, funk, jazz & hip hop – and that’s before I even left my street in Camden, North London! 

London is a harsh place to grow up in, aside from the grey buildings it can be a gloomy rough life for working and lower-middle class people where as a kid you had to be super street smart and savvy – sometimes just keeping your head down. The knife problem was bad when I was young and it’s even worse for young people now. The government took away the things that gave us hope and the ability to communicate, like youth centres and after school clubs. I was definitely a misfit, I could pass on road because of the way I looked, but inside I was a geek making music.

I’ve always been an outward facing guy though, I always want to see what’s over the horizon, so naturally I listened to a lot of American and French hip hop and artists like Kanye West, Outkast, Nas, Rage Against the Machine, Kendrick, Tyler the creator, James Brown & Erykah Badu. Artists like this really helped shaped my sound.

When I listen to your music, personally the three artists that I think of are Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper and Mac Miller. I could  obviously be off base on those inspirations, but what do you think  when you hear someone from the states draw comparisons from those  artists when it comes to your music?

Haha, obviously you got good taste g! It’s cool, I can’t lie. These particular three artists are some of my biggest inspirations over the last 4-5 years; not just in their music but their approach and the way they conducted themselves. RIP Mac, he was just a true good soul honest guy, and genius rapper and that remained in his music and earned him respect from pretty much everyone in the culture; Chance too, again another completely original guy clearly being himself, which made him unique when he came out and paved the way for independent artists like myself. Then Kendrick just brought back hip hop to a different expert level again, right when a lot of people thought the age of the true lyricist might be dead. He made it about craft and originality again. I remember being in a council estate on my road in my boys whip and hearingIgnorance Is Bliss for the first time. Shit actually changed my life. I changed how hard I worked from then on. So, yes, to be compared to these three artists is special. I can’t lie I remember going to New York back in 2011/2012 when I was super young, and I was spitting for people in the hood in Brooklyn and was worried people couldn’t understand my accent… so you know 7 years later to not just be understood but to be compared to some of the current legends in the game? Fam.

Sugar Like Salt, your debut album, dropped just over a year ago. How  do you feel about this release being this far removed from it?

You know what, an proper album don’t age. It’s been amazing watching it grow and build its own fanbase since I released it, it’s almost like another living-breathing being. Unfortunately a lot of the main topics I talk on, police brutality, humans destroying the planet, structural racism, Grenfell tower, our need for nature, haven’t changed – they’ve got worse. So things are still more relevant than ever. That being said though, I’m a different person to who I was a year ago, people take me more seriously now. I’m itching to drop new music on the world. I’m in a whole new place. 

Is there a live performance that you’re particularly fond of OR  particularly not so fond of but taught you a lot about yourself as an  artist?

Going on the #Careformetour tour with SABA – end of. I performed to a sold out crowd of 1600 people in a venue that I grew up half a mile down the road from. I would dream as a kid of performing there, but never thought it would really happen. It was like a homecoming moment; half the building knew Louis VI – and I was one of them – but I was on the damn stage, bruv! That taught me everything… it’s all about energy. 

What is next for Louis VI?

New Album, World domination… but in a good way, like Erykah said, save the bees. This planet needs to wake up, so I’m see if I can give it a shake. Maybe I’ll be the next David Attenborough too while I’m at it… 

Louis VI collaborated with Foot Locker on their latest campaign, #RefreshYourGame, challenging him to take his creativity to places he’s always been inspired by, yet never had the chance to explore – in his case exploring jazz influences to create something special and new. @FootLockerEU