100% Louis Culture: the UK rapper with a taste for experimental beats

Photography by Erika Kamano

We quizzed the South Londoner about pad thai, rainy days and intense massages.

Louis Culture’s just had his morning coffee, and he’s buzzing. I’m on the Nescafé instant stuff, got it from Sainsbury’s,” he says over Zoom. Sorry, I’m doing way too much.” It’s not just the caffeine that’s pumping him up, either: the 24-year-old is fresh off the back of dropping his new single, Grime, a soulful, temperature-rising song which tracks the evolution of a fulfilling romantic relationship.

Over the last few years, the South Londoner has established himself as a distinctive artist in the landscape of alternative UK rap, incorporating elements of hip-hop, leftfield electronica, garage and house music into his work. He’s been part of music collective Elevation Meditation – alongside the likes of rapper Lord Apex, DJ-producer P‑rallel and the increasingly punk-leaning shapeshifter Finn Foxell – since they were at school. Their community is something Louis describes as vital” and a blessing”.

In 2020, he released his critically acclaimed debut project, the seven-tracker Smile Soundsystem, which was more about exploring a fresh sonic palette than packing songs with particularly emotional lyricism. I just appreciate people giving me their time,” he says. That’s massive, them wanting to listen and being open to whatever I put out.” Louis credits the Bone Soda crew, who had him open up for a slowthai release party in 2017, and poet James Massiah, who booked him to play a Boiler Room set the following year, as key figures in his come-up.

Louis was planning to release an experimental” album next, until P‑rallel suggested he give it a bit of breathing space. I put it on the backburner. I heard [P‑rallel] when he said I should put something else out in front of it,” Louis explains. I felt like I needed to drop a project that was more autobiographical, that filled in the gaps of where I come from, where I grew up, what’s on my mind, what I care about.”

So instead, we’re getting the 10-track EP, When Life Presents Obstacle. Filled with darker source material, a track that stand-outs is Bezel, produced by Max Frith. Over a grisly bassline, it sees him tackle themes of financial hardship and government failure, while acknowledging the role of suffering in shaping him into the man and musician he is today – all of which form the poignant backbone of When Life…

I grew up listening to King Krule and Isaiah Rashad,” Louis continues, to them talking about darkness and depression. I want people to take this project and let it be an anchor in their life, hence the title. I’m not perfect or anything, but I wanted this record to be a guide that offers reassurance.”

Ahead of the EP’s release (it’s out on 25th November via Different Recordings), get your 100% fill on Louis Culture below.

10% Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?

Battersea, Battersea and Battersea, in South London.

20% What kinds of emotions and experiences influence your work?

I draw directly from the things that I’ve been through, and I try to speak for voices who aren’t heard, like people I grew up with, family members. There’s a responsibility to tell their stories.

30% If you were cooking to impress someone, what would you make?

I could cook a simple salmon, kale and rice combo… Or I could make a pad thai, but I’m still finding my feet in terms of making the perfect one. The first option feels a bit safe, though.

40% What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?

Just do it!

50% What’s a bad habit you wish you could kick?


60% Love, like, hate?

I love life, I like rain and I hate stubbing my toe.

70% What do you love about rain?

I think it’s refreshing and it’s realistic. It’s not always nice being drenched, but it is realistic.

80% How did you celebrate your last birthday?

I went to a spa, then Banana Tree with my friends to have a nice pad thai [Louis really likes pad thai]. When I left the spa I was like, yo, I’m still fucking stressed out! I spent the whole morning trying to relax and shit. I should have gone another day. I stepped straight back into the stress.

90% Why were you so stressed on your birthday?

I’m always stressed. I might have just picked up my phone straight afterwards. The woman at the spa was trying to get a knot out of my shoulder and it just wouldn’t go. She should have just elbow-dropped me.

100% If you could go back in time to watch an iconic music act perform, who would it be?

Michael Jackson or Fela Kuti.

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