Though time will make its own decisions, there’s a good chance Isaiah Rashad’s debut album with TDE, Cilvia Demo, will go down as a cult classic. Warm, bouncy and couched in the slopped, purple-tinged sound of southern rap yet coupled with themes of depression, pill-popping and suicide, the record is one-of-a-kind. Somehow haven’t heard it yet or want to revisit? Go bang the SZA featuring track “West Savannah” right now. Or at least in a minute or two.
When it was released in 2014, Cilvia Demo made an indelible mark on me – it’s an unforgettable record. As such, it also had an effect on London rapper Louis VI – a member of Othasoul and now a solo artist. “He inspired me to be honest on my last project [ The Lonely Road Of The Dreamer],” he says from a phone across the Atlantic, speaking from Inglewood in California and referring to a 2016 Noisey article in which we referred to him as a kind of spiritual successor to Rashad.
By some process of luck, genius or law of attraction, that piece lead to Louis linking up with the producer Jowin who worked on Rashad’s follow-up project The Sun’s Tirade. The result: Louis VI’s latest track “Free Your Mind”, another track that appears energetic and bubbling on the surface but carries with it a darker undertone.
For the past couple months Louis has been working from London, Los Angeles and New York on his upcoming project Sugar Like Salt. When we speak it’s freezing cold in London, somewhere around 6pm, while he’s waking up on the other side of the world checking the sunshine, palm trees and parked cars that make up the topography of southern Los Angeles. “I can see a fucking squirrel lying on the wooden pylon and sunbathing opposite me, that’s mental,” he laughs. “There’s not a dark cloud in the sky, it’s a vibe.”
On first listen “Free Your Mind” is also a vibe. And it is! But the track also has some heavy weight to it; Louis raps about feeling invisible, touches on police brutality, the game being rigged. “Personally… as a rapper and a person of colour it’s about freeing yourself from the stereotypes that are put upon you,” he explains of the story behind the track. “It’s about shedding the ways you’re supposed to appear or talk. It’s about freeing yourself of those things.”
The video, which was shot in London, features Louis facing off different versions of himself. Set in a dark, mirrored room, it centres on a concept that you can fight your inner demons and emerge with a freed mind, as an elevated person. “The black space that I’m surrounded by is a canvas for a space in your mind but also being isolated and alone – which happens if you’re doing any battle with your mind” he says.
Ultimately this track and video is one with an important message: let go. But it’s not preachy either. At one point in our conversation Louis and I touch on the bestselling book The Social Animal, by David Brooks. In that novel, Brooks uses a fictional love story to bring together a multitude of scientific studies about how the human mind works, the things that elevate us or set us back. Louis says he’s doing a similar thing with his music: “I’m lifting people up through talking about how I was down, and he’s telling people about science by telling a story of two people falling in love…. The whole ‘freeing yourself’ idea is what the world needs right now.”
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