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Most artists originally from the suburbs can’t wait to bust out and move to the big city. Lou Phelps is not one of those artists.
He grew in St. Hubert, located in Montreal’s South Shore. Although he’s regarded as one of Montreal’s finest young MCs, Phelps decided to put some roots down of his own in his hometown instead of relocating to the 514.
With the setup in his fortress of solitude, why leave? He converted a quiet room in his basement into a home studio full of gear where he gets inspired by beats and records his verses. He’s been productive in that space, dropping around a project a year, including 2020’s independently released EXTRA EXTRA!
Like most people, Phelps entered the year with big plans. In his case, that meant finally dropping a full-length album complete with visual component. When the world went sideways, Phelps decided to pause that release until he could properly support it, and instead picked out some tunes he was especially proud of for EXTRA EXTRA! He also has another project ready to go: a collaborative tape with Madlib.
His previous work, including the Juno-nominated 001: Experiments, showed off his ability to play the party starter and smoothly glide over beats, including some from his brother Kaytranada. In fact, the brother connection happens on five of EXTRA EXTRA!’s seven tracks. And it happens once again on “Nike Shoe Box 2.0,” Phelps’ just-released remix of the lead single off the mixtape, featuring Compton rapper Problem.
For the latest episode of Northern Clutch, Complex Canada took a video crew over the bridge to St. Hubert to see where Lou Phelps creates and also the home where he grew up. Check it out, then read our chat with Phelps below.
Why stick around in the suburbs of Montreal?
I’m sticking around in the suburbs because it’s more peaceful. There’s not too much traffic. Nobody knows you here. You don’t get bothered by neighbors, I just do my thing. Nobody knows what the fuck I’m doing, so I’m just here chilling.
What’s a day in the studio like?
First of all, waking up. And then like 10 a.m., taking my dog out. And then I come to the studio, smoke a little joint or whatever, and get my creativity flowing. And then I play instrumentals. And then as soon as I’m done listening to the instrumental, I go straight to the writing process and then figuring out the flows. Then if I feel like recording that I’m going to record. But if I don’t feel like recording, I just record a voice memo on my phone.
“Me and Kay have this tight relationship and it’s hard to replicate this type of relationship with any other producer. I guess it’s something about the brother energy, the brotherly vibes.”
What are you rapping about on EXTRA EXTRA!?
So I have this one big project that I was working on. And then I decided to downsize it into this one EP, to give me more time to have a better album project. So I just decided, let’s take a couple tracks from the big project and put them in the smaller project. And the subjects of EXTRA EXTRA!, it’s me just trying stuff. For “Fire,” I was thinking about watching the “Need It” video. My brother Kaytranada did a video “Need It,” with gangsters dancing in the club for a prize. I envisioned that and then I was like, it would look nice on that beat, so I was trying to describe the feel of the video into a track. “Smiling” is about police brutality and Black people; we’re just like talking about the struggle. Many different subjects, like love, politics but not politics, and energy.
A lot of your music is about and built for a club atmosphere. How do you get inspired in 2020 with no clubs?
I’ve been in so many clubs, so many bars. I feel like it’s in me now. I could just remember the feeling of being in a club or the energy that I had going to a club. And also, let’s not forget, now we’re in a full lockdown again. We can’t go to clubs. But there was a time this summer where we could go out and we could go to bars and see your friends, hear the type of music that they’re on. So I went to bars and I went to clubs, and I just remembered that energy that I used to have. I channelled that through the music.
You and your brother Kaytranada continue to make music together. Is it different, working with your brother compared to working with anyone else?
The relationship that me and my brother have, we grew up as twins. He’s two years older than me. So we were always, always, always together. I showed him how to make beats, which is very funny, because he’s like, killing it right now. But I showed him how to make beats. And he showed me how to write a beat properly. When he would make a beat downstairs blasting the speakers, I would play video games and just record everything in my head. And then I’m like, Oh, I like this beat, let me rap on this beat. And watching the evolution of someone, and just seeing their perspective on music and how they do things, it inspires and motivates you to make some fire stuff. Me and Kay have this tight relationship and it’s hard to replicate this type of relationship with any other producer. I guess it’s something about the brother energy, the brotherly vibes.
With you having your career and your brother having his career, is it important to have a place like St. Hubert where you can just be family and not think about career stuff?
So, I feel like it’s very important, if you have a brother in music, or a family member in music, to keep that family energy going. It’s not because both of us make music or someone’s professional in one thing, and then you’re an amateur. You still have to be brothers at the end of the day, he’s your blood. I grew up with him. As I said, he’s like my twin. I call him every day. I messaged him and he messages me and we just we stay on the ball. We keep a good relationship. I would say it was kind of hard, honestly, when we started, because obviously there was jealousy and envy and stuff like that, because he obviously blew up before I did. Because I don’t think I blew up, honestly. But he blew up and I was envious of his life while still being his brother. So the artist part of me was angry, but the brother side was like, Oh, my God, this is crazy. So it’s good to come back home and not think about it, to watch Oculus or a French TV show. The relationship with your family is like one of the most important things you have in your life, so I try to keep that keep that right.
Producer: Alex Narvaez
DOP: Leana Paparella
Editor: Andrew Ventura