This winter, I to ran into Canadian rapper Lou Phelps. We talked briefly about the upcoming Complexcon and our love of the Montreal skateshop, DIME. I reached out a few months later to have a more in depth conversation. During the NBA All-Star Weekend, I sat down with Lou in his hotel room to discuss the recent Juno nomination for his mixtape 001: Experiments, working with Kaytranada, the upcoming debut album, and much more. Interview by Sam Orlin.
Sam Orlin: Yo, what’s up? What have you been up to since you got out to Los Angeles?
Lou Phelps: I’ve been chillin’. Went to the Adidas event Kay[tranada] was playing at, I played a little basketball for Kitsuné for their collaboration event with the NBA.
SO: Nice. Very cool. So, you are in L.A right now, but where is your favorite place to perform?
LP: I’d probably say, Paris. It’s so nice there. I love New York. Chicago and Montreal have a mad vibe for each other, so definitely there. Sydney, Australia. The vibe there is crazy. The people don’t expect you to come there, but once you do, they treat you like a legend.
SO: So you were just nominated for a Juno – how does that feel?
LP: It’s weird. I didn’t really think about it that seriously. It was just to get my name out there. I used to call myself Louie P, with the Celestics. But then I took four years off just to focus on school, but it wasn’t working out. Then Kay told me to change my name because it’s too common. So I became Lou Phelps and I had to push my new name out there. It was really an EP of me experimenting with different and random type of music and shit. But together, it started to sound really uniform. I never thought I would be nominated for a Juno though.
SO: It’s awesome.
LP: Yeah, I wish I’ll win too. If I win, it’s going to be a real Cinderella story. I recorded this in my homies basement. Mixed, mastered, and did everything on my own, pretty much.
SO: Does that push you to make something more meaningful now?
LP: Yeah, I’m actually working on the album now. I feel like I’m going to be there next year too. I found my pocket where I’m comfortable and can do dope shit, and now I’m like, “OK, I need to make an album that’s perfect to my ears.”
SO: How do you come up with your lyrics?
LP: Well, I start with the first line because I feel like it is the most important and hardest to knock out. You don’t want to start with anything non-meaningful. You gotta start with an upper cut and then throw some jabs and then the knockout punch. I just start with one line and I keep going.
SO: So you freestyle?
LP: Yeah, you gotta keep going. The train of thought from your first line won’t match if you do it line by line. I try to make my lyrics as funny as then can be too. Funny lines are more catchy. I think I’m funny and cocky at the same time. In one of my homies songs, I said
“Sponsored by Adidas and Nike, clashing labels but they still like me.”
To me, it’s braggadocious but funny. I try to use my humor to make a good punch line that goes with the whole verse.
SO: What is it like having a brother like Kaytranada producing some of your beats? Does that make you go harder? What is your chemistry like?
LP: It used to be really smooth before he got big. But then he got big and I couldn’t do whatever I wanted on his beats since other artists wanted them too. So, I have to kill every song when I’m featured on his beats. You know, I just want to do the best everytime. I gotta be better than the other rappers, and prove I’m better than the rappers on his beats. I once had a beat and Joey Badass did too, so I gave it to him. But sometimes I have to take it for myself. Once Goldlink wanted the beat I rapped on and I was like, “Nah, this is my joint. You ain’t touching it.” Me and Kay work well, but we don’t go into the studio together. He usually just shows me a bunch of beats and I pick the ones I want.
SO: How have you seen the Montreal music scene change over the past few years?
LP: It used to be all French rap, but now that Kay got big I feel like it got into more electronic. There is less focus on the French rap scene now, no one really cares about the rap, they only care about the beats. They want to sound exactly like Lil Pump or other trap rappers.The Montreal scene is really weird. You don’t know where it’s going – it’s like a melting pot. A slow cooker. Put potatoes on that shit and once it cooks, things eventually come together. I just feel like we aren’t there yet. There isn’t really anyone on the underground scene making noise here. We need a Drake. You know how he opened the doors in Toronto? I want to be the first to do that here. I want people to think about Montreal when I rap.
SO: Do you like being a DJ or a Rapper? You’ve called yourself both before.
LP: My first passion is rap of course. I like to DJ for parties, but I think I’m done with the DJ life. Once the album drops, I’m done DJing for a living. But I feel like I am a dope DJ, though. I can definitely get on a stage and kill it. Maybe when I’m done rapping. But for now, I’m rapping.
SO: Do you direct your own music videos? Or do you have a say in how they look?
LP: Yeah, I have a say in what they look like. I don’t want to say I’m a cool director, but I’m a cool director. But the way I look at is, I give them a song and tell them how I want it to look. For example, in What Time Is It?!, I wanted a house party. I said what I wanted to do, and it came out that way. I’d rather it be funny than weird. As long as the vibe matches the song really.
SO: What is it like to work with other young artists such as Bishop Nehru and Innanet James?
LP: Innanet James was from The Internet. Same thing with Bishop Nehru. Just connections through The Internet. I’ve been a fan of Bishop since he started, but Innanet James… I don’t know where I got him from. Actually, the first time I heard him I was like, “Wow, this guy is fucking wild,” so I go him on a track, and it turned out good. It’s dope working with young artists, I don’t want to work with old people to be honest. The younger rappers understand more. They know what I want to do.
SO: Ok. Who is your dream collab?
LP: I don’t know man. Probably Common. He is lowkey one of my favorite rappers. But Kendrick too. Kendrick literally changed my life. To Pimp A Butterfly was really eye opening for me. I was on some other shit. I think I was going through depression lowkey, but then I listened to the album and was able to relate. But yeah, Kendrick or Common, but Common would win the battle of the dream collab. I’d also love Madlib, Knxwledge, or Anderson .Paak.
SO: Do you have a favorite song of yours?
LP: It’s not out yet, but it’s dropping soon. It will be on the next album. It’s called “Higher.” The whole idea of the album is that I was going through a breakup with my first love, so I wasn’t always there. I was pretty emotional and mad and it’s basically me opening up and I said, “Ok fuck it” I want to sing on this one.
SO: What else can we expect from this album?
LP: Just me going in. Doing the stuff I know I want to do. Some emotion and me being more open. I’m less lyrical. It’s more of a personal album that people can relate to. Dope beats as well. I produced my own track for the first time. I rapped on my own beat. It’s crazy. Production by Lou Phelps!
With an album on the way, it’s going to be exciting to watch Lou Phelps shine. He recently dropped a new single, Come Inside, featuring Jazz Cartier and production from Kaytranada. The single gives us an exciting preview for what is to come. Listen to it here.
Check out Sam Orlin’s show on KOXY, Where U From, Mondays at 11:00 PM.