During the mid 2010s, we saw a wave of garden-fresh underground electronic music that was being championed by platforms like Soulection and TFBS, and artists like Pomo, KAYTRANADA, and even Mura Masa. However rapping over groovy house beats with an electronic touch still wasn’t a thing for artists in that time as it is now. If we start having the conversation of rappers who were early adopters of that type of eclecticism, the name Lou Phelps certainly can’t escape mention.
Lou Phelps is a Haitian-Canadian rapper and producer from Saint-Hubert, Quebec. Like his brother KAYTRANADA, he proudly wears his Carribean influences throughout his music, albeit shown in a different manner. "Tu T'en Souviens" – the track he decided to make his COLORS debut with is beautiful example of the previous sentiment, and also displays his talents as singer and songwriter. The 29 year-old has travelled extensively through touring, has released acclaimed albums, and has worked with the likes of Guapdad 4000, Tek.Lun, and Joyce Wrice. In this interview, we caught up with Lou Phelps to discuss "Tu T'en Souviens", his Quebec background, and much more.
In which ways do you think your upbringing played a role in nurturing your creative side?
In many ways, in my opinion. I grew up in a “broke” family. A single mother with four mouths to feed. She did her best with her minimum wage job to make us “fit in” the society. That allowed me and KAYTRANADA to express our creative freedoms freely. My dad was also invested in art, so without really knowing, at a much younger age, I would see drawing books and doodles. We also grew up with a pretty solid system out of which my father would blast music. All of these call for important moments in my life.
What were some of the moments you cherished the most when you were still young and making music in your bedroom?
Stay up to date.
Definitely the freedom of creating without the pressure of thinking people would listen to it. Nowadays I can sometimes get lost in what people may think of my music and try to shift the art towards a certain direction instead of letting it be what it’s supposed to be.
While it's evident that your Haitian heritage plays a significant role in your music, how has growing up in Quebec influenced the style and type of music you create?
I don’t think growing up in Quebec has had any influence on what I do. I don’t know for everyone but, I used to always watch what was happening in the U.S. (through blogs and television) and try to emulate that into my art. Quebec never really put black people forward as public personalities up until recently, so there was nobody to actually look up to and aspire to be. The Caribbean/Haitian roots, on the other hand, always have had an impact on what I do. The Caribbean people through my eyes are very festive. I could never see myself making acoustic music because I need some sort of “bounce” element to my music, which I pulled from the Carribean flavor.
At which stage in your career did you start making the music you were REALLY proud of?
I would have to say my most recent batch of songs has made me really proud. My music has never sounded better, I feel and sound confident, the musicality is better, the stories get better but there’s always space for improvement.
Between producing music and rapping, which would you say you're naturally drawn to the most and why?
I was always drawn by the rapping aspect of rap. The vocal performances, energy, etc. Producing is fun but it’s frustrating to me. There are so many ideas that have gone down the drain because I couldn’t figure out how to transfer them out of my head and onto the software.
Throughout your releases this year, romance has been quite a key theme in all of them. It'd be great to get your thoughts on what romance means to you, and what your ideal union looks like?
Romance is sharing your life with somebody without compromise. Being 1000% yourself with that person, the good, the bad, the ugly. The ideal union is somebody that just fits in perfectly with my life and I fit perfectly in theirs. All communication, no insecurity. Just someone I’d be willing to deal with for the rest of my life.
What are some of your epiphanies from creating EXTRA EXTRA! that you employ in your creative process to this day?
I would have to say the work ethic. I made EXTRA EXTRA in the pandemic setting when everything was shut down meaning there was nothing to do but make music. I would wake up every single day and force myself to make at least an idea.'
Congrats on your COLORS debut in October! "Tu T'en Souviens" is quite a stripped-down release and there's more emotive singing compared to your other tracks. What was going on in your life during the making of this track?
Ah… you know… classic ex-girlfriend drama.
This one started off with me making the beat. I have this obsession with making sad dance music. I started off with the sample and then I went on to decide the flow and melody. The words kind of came by themselves. The switch up from English to French to Creole was pure inspiration from my fellow Haitian brother, Mach-Hommy. A little bit of mentoring helped me tap into that part of me that I was trying to hide in fear that the English fans wouldn’t appreciate it. Turns out, it’s one of my favorite creations.
When you find yourself constantly creating and overflowing with ideas, how do you determine which ideas to pursue and develop into full-fledged songs?
I lay all the ideas down, and I let them breathe for a day without me listening to them. The one that sounds the best after I have another listen to them will make the cut. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going back to check the other ideas out in the near future.
What are some of the habits you incorporate to help you get into a flow state when creating music?
Smoke a nice lil joint, (not too strong because we want to be able to work haha)
I also try to get inspired by music few people listen to.
Which would you say has been the most valuable lesson you've learned about the music business from playing live and touring?
Take yourself seriously. Also, never save your best songs for later. You’re always gonna make better things.
Okay so, 1) An artist/band you’d love to have a D.M.C (deep meaningful conversation) with, 2) An artist you think would be rad to party with, 3) An artist you would love to spend a week with in the studio.
- It would be a tie between Jay-Z and Ye
- A$AP Rocky looks like he knows how to party
- Kendrick Lamar because it looks like he knows how to develop artists to their full potential