Ahead of the release of a new EP and single, Dozer Carter and Louis VI reveal how rhymes and beats brought them together, and how Camden shapes their work
22 August, 2019 — By Róisín Gadelrab
Kentish Town jazz hip-hop duo OthaSoul – Dozer Carter and Louis VI
IT seems Camden’s schools have been a breeding ground for musical talent for some years.
Kentish Town jazz hip-hop duo OthaSoul – aka Dozer Carter and Louis VI – have NW5 running through their veins, referencing the neighbourhood where they grew up in their lyrics, with a dream of one day headlining the Forum.
“We’re very passionate about Camden, Kentish Town specifically features a lot in our lyrics. We talk about Gospel Oak as well. It definitely shaped our lyrics,” says Dozer.
“Although it’s soulful there’s also a gritty sound to what we make which definitely paints a picture of Camden, very concrete, heavy sometimes.
“You can be right in the middle of it and then walk 10 minutes to Hampstead Heath and clear your head.”
OthaSoul have seen considerable success, touring with US hip-hop hero Talib Kweli, rapper Loyle Carner and more, and gathering a loyal fanbase. They enjoyed a successful independent stint before taking a break for a year while former William Ellis pupil Dozer pursued a masters in urban design and city planning, and Camden School for Girls alumni and former zoology student Louis VI headed to the US to record solo album Sugar Like Salt.
Now back, they will release a six-track EP in October, single Almost Grown in mid-September and this week Dozer released his own solo project, Soon Come.
“It’s essentially everything I’ve wanted to say that doesn’t fit with the OthaSoul connection,” he said.
“OthaSoul is an identity and unit, so any lyric, beats or anything has to fit that mould and we agree on that. Both our projects are an expression of what we want to say. Almost Grown is a reintroduction to OthaSoul, it explains what we’ve been doing, where we’ve been and why we’re back, and that’s the concept of the EP.”
The pair were born on the same day and grew up barely a street apart but only met years later.
Carter, whose father was a drummer with 90s band Two Way Street, began making beats in his early teens.
“I got to 16 or 17, the age where you were showing people your beats, sharing MP3s, just after the time where people were making ringtones,” he says.
“I was making jingles on my computer, sending them to friends on MP3, then people were sending them on. It became common to hear my jingles and beats on other people’s phones and that was when I realised it was more than just a hobby.
“I enjoyed that people wanted to hear my music on their phone.”
At the time Carter didn’t have a desire to write lyrics or rap.
“I never wanted to go into the playground and say my lyrics, it was like a war zone,” he says.
Not far away, Louis was working on his rhymes. After being introduced by a friend, the two spent months sharing their music on Soundcloud.
“I would turn up with a hard drive of 15 or 20 beats,” says Carter.
“One week I turned up and said, ‘I’ve got a verse I want to show you’. I could kind of see his eyes roll, it could ruin it if he has to be honest with me.”
Luckily, Carter’s verse impressed Louis and he started taking the rap side seriously. Now both write, produce and rap.
“In summer 2013 we started producing some of our most prolific music, the music that made our sound,” says Carter. “We knew it was soulful and meant something quite deep to us. The concept is, when it’s the two of us making music it’s another soul, another person.”
Debut EP Real Talks came out in 2013, winning attention from the hip-hop community and later a three-week support slot with Talib Kweli.
“He was super friendly,” says Carter.
“He taught us loads, how to carry yourself on tour… We were on tour with him for about three weeks. That was when we started to get recognition around the country.”
From there, they began to play big festivals, going on to support Slum Village and Pete Rock and releasing album The Remedy in 2015.
There were talks with labels but they never quite reached the point of signing, instead deciding to release their music themselves, no doubt helped by some industry insider wisdom from Carter’s dad:
“He’s an avid musician, playing drums for 40 years. I always learn stuff from him, it’s interesting to have someone in the family who has gone through the things we’ve gone through.
“He definitely had some advice, especially around the time we were talking to labels. His best advice was, trust your own instincts with your own music [and] don’t let too many non-musicians outside the creative process make decisions for you.
“The most valuable thing is hold on to your product, you make sure when and how it’s released and stay true to your own process.”
Follow Otha Soul on Instagram for updates on releases and tour dates and find their music on streaming sites.