Lou Phelps for Maple. Photo by Lionel Pierron.

Breaking Barriers with Lou Phelps

The nimble bars and celestial melodies of 002 / LOVE ME show the diverse sound of Lou Phelps.

It’s no secret that Lou Phelps has been a staple on the Montreal scene for quite some time now. As we know far too well, blending traditional rap bars and melodic electronic beats is no easy feat. The poise, creativity and precision needed to seamlessly mix hard-hitting lyrics and smooth remedies is something many have tried and few have succeeded in. Lou Phelps, however, seems to have found his groove.

Lou Phelps
Lou Phelps for Maple. Photo by Lionel Pierron.

Over the past year, the Montreal-born hip-hop act has gradually released a steady stream of music, building anticipation for his debut solo project 002 / LOVE ME, which released last month. He released “Want To (For the Youth)” and the Jazz Cartier-assisted “Come Inside” earlier this year.

Lou Phelps is an introspective 24-year old with a clear passion for music. He’s unafraid to experiment with his sound, put himself out there and turn his feelings into catchy lyrics. 002 / LOVE ME shows his promise as he’s taken significant strides forward in developing his signature bop-meets-bars formula.

“It came naturally to sort of rap on the house beats,” Phelps admits. “It just fits right with me, I feel.”

He grew up listening to old-school hip-hop and R&B, undoubtedly a clear influence on his own sound and mainstream fixtures such as 50 Cent and Soulja Boy were present on his playlist growing up. He reflects on the song “All Caps” by Madvillain as a tipping point in his shift towards the underground scene.

Lou Phelps
Lou Phelps for Maple. Photo by Lionel Pierron.

He began making music in 2011 alongside his brother KAYTRANADA, another longtime fixture in the Montreal scene. Together they formed a hip-hop duo known as The Celestics, releasing two projects in Massively Massive in 2011 and Supreme Laziness in 2014. It was clear early on that the two brothers had a natural affinity for musical exploration, as their genre-defying sound could not be boxed into one specific place.

“Being on The Celestics made me realize that I know I can “rap rap” but eventually I realized that I have to make songs,” he explains. “I would reach a wider range of people with songs rather than spitting bars.”

Initially under the moniker Louie P, he experimented with an eclectic range of sounds and styles that went far beyond traditional rap bars. KAYTRANADA, of course, is known for his smooth, groovy electronic sounds and was instrumental in his development as an artist.

“My brother is like Quincy Jones,” he gushes. “He basically tells me what’s hot, what’s not, what type of energy I should put in the song, the intonation of the flows and all. Also, he gives me the best beats all the time.”

“The only problem with Kay is that he gives me all this advice once I’m done recording most of my stuff, so I always have to go back to the studio and redo the whole song,” Lou interjects with a smile. “But I love him though, it shows that he cares about me and my craft.”

Lou Phelps
Lou Phelps for Maple. Photo by Lionel Pierron.

“It all made me realize that rap music is an art form that is still expanding.”

While he’s determined to move forward as an artist, it’s clear that his time part of The Celestics has fostered an experimental musical mind. It wasn’t long before Lou Phelps developed a reputation for creating tasteful and danceable electronic-rap club bangers.

“Being around someone who doesn’t put barriers on his music made me not want to put barriers on my music,” he says. “Listening to house music, as well as underground boom-bap hip-hop music, as well as trap music, it all made me realize that rap music is an art form that is still expanding.”

All of the constant experimentation and tinkering has come full circle on 002 / LOVE ME. While the producing stamp of KAYTRANADA can be felt all over the project, the sound is undoubtedly unique to Lou Phelps.

The bouncy, bar-laden track Miss Phatty in which Lou hopes to lure club kids out of doldrums. The excellently produced song by his brother allows Lou the freedom to explore his romantic situation. he encourages the kids to head out to the strip club, as a joke, hopes to clear the superficial stardust often associated with young love in the form of relatable, catchy and introspective bangers.Lou Phelps

“Squeeze” alongside Toronto-born R&B singer JAHKOY and “TASTY” with an appearance from Pony both show the refinement of his sound, while “Want To (For the Youth)” shows off his traditional rap bars. “Higher” and “GO!” offer a unique blend of the exceptionally well-produced celestial beats that are nicely layered with introspective lyrics from Lou himself. Appearances from BADBADNOTGOOD, Karriem Riggins and more round out the well-defined project.

At its core, 002 / LOVE ME is based on a hard breakup that Lou Phelps lived through personally. From the opening track “Fun N Games” we are put into a trance to the theme of love life. “I met this lil Brazilian chick / I fell in love with them hips / I could not deny moving side to side / I knew it was love ever since,” are the first words he utters on the album.

Lou Phelps
Lou Phelps for Maple. Photo by Lionel Pierron.

Even if you didn’t meet in a strip club, the result makes for relatable thoughts and feelings that have crossed every twenty-something’s mind. “It’s all fun and games til somebody fucks around and falls in love,” he exclaims on the same track, setting the tone for who’s gonna “fuck up first” and catch feelings. “I tried to remember everything that happened from the beginning of the relationship to the end,” he admits. “The good, the bad and the ugly.”

002 / LOVE ME is ten tracks of nimble beats and celestial melodies that show Lou Phelps is only going up from here. “I make music for myself, then tweak it for the world,” he concludes with a shrug.

Catch Lou Phelps on November 9 at Le Belmont in Montreal or November 10 at The Drake Underground in Toronto.