Chances are, if you were down with independent rap anywhere between the years 2000 to 2009 – you were down with Louis Logic.
The Long Island emcee (by way of Philadelphia) made his mark two decades ago, breaking out with signature raps about hard drinking, failing relationships, and self-deprecating comedy. Armed with an acerbic wit and an innate gift for melody, Louis Logic gained an army of admirers during his rise through the mid-00s underground scene.
Originally linking up with New York rapper, L-Fudge, in the late 90s, Louis Logic’s journey brought him to Philly-based crew, Jedi Mind Tricks (as well as East Coast stalwarts, Demigodz), before finally establishing himself as a stand-alone emcee with a seemingly fated trajectory of critical success and commercial recognition.
Louis Logic’s (real name, Louis Dorley) ascent in the last two decades shifted from next-big-thing status, to eventual disillusionment and disavowing of the hip-hop industry in recent years.
From the emphatic 2003 debut, Sin-A-Matic, to his career-defining Misery Loves Comedy (alongside producer and long-time collaborator, J.J. Brown) three years later, and the divergent, 2013 rap-meets-indie-pop project, Look On The Blight Side – it’s been a fittingly unconventional and fascinating evolution.
In that time, Louis’ remarkable journey placed him just below the surface of mainstream stardom, as he subsequently faced existential struggles about his identity and place in music. All of this culminated in the rapper – formerly sporting such alter-egos as The Drunken Dragon – undergoing a life-changing (and saving) retreat from years of alcohol dependency in 2017. Now fully engaged in a programme of recovery, the 46-year-old New Yorker is finding peace and contentment in sobriety.
He graciously sat down with SOUTHSIDERS for an unflinching discussion on his discography, personal growth, collaborating with MF DOOM, forgiveness and reconciliation, and becoming your authentic self.
This transcription is edited for length, clarity and style. The full, unedited conversation (One hour, 33 minutes) can be heard on Spotify here:
SOUTHSIDERS (SS): Hey Louis. It’s been a rough time this past 14 or 15 months, how’s your pandemic been?
LOUIS LOGIC (LL): I don’t know if this is a cliche at this point but a lot of amazing things happened for me during this pandemic. For one, my life really slowed down and maybe I was much in need of that and didn’t know.
Two, it was the second year of my son’s life – a very eventful time. I was home for most of it and got see a lot of really wild milestones happen right before my eyes. My kid went from being a mushy, little, shit machine to walking, climbing, talking and giving daddy kisses and hugging me.
And I’ve been in the the thick of [writing] a book for a lot of his life – about two years and maybe four or five months. The pandemic’s given me a chance to work on all that stuff. To be there as a father and devote myself to this book in progress. So, it was a real gift. That said, there were plenty of days were my wife wanted to choke me! And the walls felt like they were closing in…
SS: [laughs] I hear ya!
I think the type of people who visit our website probably know who Louis Logic is, however, it’s fair to say at one time you were known as the hard drinking, punchline slinging, party starting emcee. But you’ve been quite a journey since then, can you speak a little bit about where you are now?
LL: Yeah, sure. The best way I can summarise is it to say from the years 1998 to 2014, I portrayed an alcoholic on records, on stages and often in my personal life. And to my surprise – which might sound a little silly given how much time I spent drinking, actually drinking, and letting people think of me that way – I discovered in 2017 that I am an actual alcoholic…! [laughs]
And I got sober.
LL: Thank you, I’m creeping up on four years on May 19th.
I thought I should have a funeral for fun Louis now that the good times are over. I made jokes about it like: “I’m going to plan a funeral. The death of everything fun and lovable about me…” I was trying to be cheeky.
I was hella wrong, man. I’m not bored, or boring. I say yes to more things as a sober person than I ever did as an alcoholic, which is ironic because one of the reasons I drank so much is because [I thought] it unlocked a world of fun. I leave my house after a night of drinking and cocaine…and who knows what could happen?! [laughs]
But in reality, the same things would happen – over and over again. Now when people are like: “Hey! You wanna go to MOMA [Museum of Modern Art]?” I’m like: “Sure.” And when people are like: “Hey! You wanna try ice skating?” I’m like: “I’m black. No, I do not.” [laughs] But then I go anyway. I try new things, and best of all, I feel my feelings, which is an adventure in and of itself.
SS: If we can go back to the start for a second, one of the first songs I discovered from you was “Factotum” – which shares a title with Charles Bukowski’s book. Given now that you’re sober and in recovery, and so much of your music exuded the same themes and charisma, what are your reflections on his prose and his work now?
LL: That’s a good question…! [laughs]
I have to be honest with you, I haven’t cracked open any of Bukowski’s books since I got sober. And I don’t begrudge myself having loved them…I just don’t know if they’d hit me the same way.
I think if I read some his work now, while I might really appreciate the beauty of his use of simple language to communicate complex ideas and struggle, I’d probably also read and think you’re a sick and suffering person who’d benefit from recovery. And maybe he knew that? I don’t know.
In the end, one of my goals as a sober person is not to make myself the arbiter of anyone else’s behaviour, if you can do drugs and sport fuck strangers without blowing your life off, hats off to ya! Do it while you can. I couldn’t do that safely anymore by the end of my drinking career.
I was losing my car on a regular basis, and multiple lovers on the outside of my marriage, and would wake up next to strangers regularly – I was the worst things about me. And I don’t say that to say there’s anything wrong with novel sex, that’s stuff’s rad and I had a great time doing it while I could.
It’s definitely not awesome when you’re doing it and then climbing into bed next to your best friend and just stinking of shame and degradation. And that’s what my life looked like as an alcoholic, I was incapable of being my best self. Just taking one drink took me to that place and then I had to drink. You can’t go to sleep next to the person that you love unless you’re blackout drunk obliterated.
Bukowski would probably hit me differently as a sober person, but again from a mechanical standpoint, I’m pretty sure I’d still find something really charming about his language and prose.
I do think Bukowski was an awesome writer and I admire someone being able to bring so much colour to really drab experiences like drinking everyday and having terrible relationships with the women in your life. That’s actually a pretty boring way to live.
A repetitive, rinse and repeat, boring way to live but he really brought some colour to that grey life – and I’d probably still appreciate that about his books.
SS: Coming to your music work and the album we are going to focus on today, Misery Loves Comedy. One of the things Misery Loves Comedy did was blend topics like sensitivity, irreverence, slick talk and emotional intelligence. And, like Bukowski’s work, there was a degree of universality to your music, including the bad parts [of life and the human condition].
Now, 15 years removed, what are your memories of the album’s conception, and its making and recording?
LL: Well, firstly, I didn’t know people were going to receive that album differently from Sin-A-Matic.
In my mind, I was writing and recording a sequel of sorts to that album. Same great beats but this time all J.J Brown – and it seemed that people really favoured the stuff I did with J.J. on the Sin-A-Matic album. So, I was thinking that I’d be turning the dial up on what people liked about the previous album. The rapping explored new rhythmic and cadence territory for me, the singing became more authentic, and the concepts more detailed, more elaborate than previous records, like say, the two song saga of “Best Friends” and “Revenge” [from Sin-A-Matic]
I squeezed something which is objectively more elaborate into one song, the song “A Perfect Circle”, and themed the album around that as a centrepiece song.
You can see that in Misery Loves Comedy’s album artwork. It portrays a character who’s haunted by all these ghosts – the dark parts of him – wrapped in telephone cords. It’s a visual portrayal of the centrepiece of that record, “A Perfect Circle’, which sits track listing wise in the centre of the record. There are are also phone themes throughout the album.
I’m not one of those people who likes to make one-off, unrelated bangers with hard-ass beats and rapping for rap’s sake. I’m more of the type of guy who favoured concepts. I just always thought, it’d be difficult to make an album that people related to and identified with, if your songs weren’t about anything in particular.
I mean, MF DOOM has long since proved me wrong about that [laughs]. He’s made plenty of songs or albums that aren’t necessarily about anything but the charm of them… – there’s no one way to do it.
My aim was to give people Sin-A-Matic plus, and even when it was finished, I thought I had done that. The reactions initially surprised me and it really divided my audience.
Years later, people circled back and thought it was a superior record to the first one and that now seems to be the prevailing opinion in hindsight. For me, I was trying to grow up a bit, so when I say Sin-A-Matic plus, I was taking out a lot of the curse words – like, can you still be funny without cursing? Can you still be graphic and grotesque without cursing?
There’s a song on Misery’s Loves Comedy called “Beginner’s Lust”, that is more disgusting in terms of its content than the song “Coochie Coup” [from Sin-A-Matic] – but there isn’t a single curse word in the whole song.
SS: Wow, I’ve never picked up on that…
LL: Yeah, I don’t think most people did. I think people heard the song and thought: “THIS SONG IS REPREHENSIBLE!!!” [laughs]. It never got down to the idea that there wasn’t a single curse word in it and the imagery was enough to make you go [makes a disgusted face].
I always saw myself making music about sex that humourised the silliness of the male sexual appetite – making fun of men, not women. But people didn’t take it that way…!
They thought I was an immature, anti-feminist which is not at all the case. I assumed that people would listen past the obvious and see the real darkness in those songs is just how juvenile the male sexual appetite is – and I tried to communicate that in my songs.
And most of the time, people just hear the punch of things and aren’t digging underneath for the nuance or the irony in it. That’s along way of saying, people aren’t in my head when they hear my songs. They’re going to take them the way they do through the filter of their own life experiences and that was a hard earned lesson that happened for me with Misery Loves Comedy.
The album also set me out on a path of exploring my relationship to music and trying to grow beyond the confines of just rapping on beats. It was the first time I started writing melodically and in harmony, as well as growing an interest in directly trying to show my rock influence on my rap records – the closest thing I’d done previously was the song “Diablos” [from Sin-A-Matic] which samples The Doors and I’m showing [as best I could] Jim Morrison mimicry at the end of the song.
And on the Misery Loves Comedy album, I was showing what I loved, on “Beginner’s Lust” for example, there’s doo-wop singing on it.
SS: Or the scat singing on the outro of “Rule By A Fool”…
LL: Exactly! I was really trying to show my interest in that stuff in a much more obvious way.
I’m really proud of that album but I listen back now and think I was much more aggressive a guy in those times [laughs]. I’d put some of that down to age, and also the work you have to do to get and stay sober – and to do that you need to yield a certain amount of serenity.
It’s a lot harder for me to get super angry about things these days.
SS: One of the things you mentioned in your answer was MF DOOM. DOOM sadly passed away last year on October 31st with the news breaking on New Year’s Eve. I’m always curious how people are introduced to your work and so many of the hip-hop heads that I talk to discovered you through the Viktor Vaughn, Vaudeville Villain and the track “Open Mic Nite, Part One”.
Given DOOM is thee most enigmatic emcee to ever live, I just wondered how that came about and what’s the backstory of you featuring on that album?
LL: It was a couple of things.
One, I’d played some shows and did an opener with him in Philadelphia on a bill with him and Jedi Mind Tricks – just an awesome line-up. You saw that a lot [in 1998/99] with stacked line-ups of crazy artists that would never be on the same bill now unless it was some festival that you paid 60 or 80 bucks-a-day to be there, or more.
It was just a little nightclub event. I’m not very active on social media but I occasionally get tagged on old flyers and that one was there recently – I think Necro might’ve be on the bill too.
It was really wacky and heavily stacked. I did a short run with DOOM in LA and Long Beach, California. Mostly Southern California dates.
We rode in the promoter’s SUV from the airport and stopped at a 7-11. DOOM went in, came back and sat a six pack of Heineken in my lap. I didn’t ask him [laughs], I didn’t specify that I was a drinker [rather than a smoker or anything] – he just knew and plopped it on my lap.
I also went to a dinner once some years ago, with my ex-girlfriend, who was Head Fashion Designer at ECKO Unlimited’s company, and one of her best friends was this woman who was the Hip-Hop Editor at Complex Magazine. She brought DOOM as her dinner date. This was the first time I met him, and I’m sitting across from him and we’re eating dinner and I’m listening to him talk, like squinting at him like this dude is so familiar.
Anyway, he’s saying that he’s a rapper, and the woman that brought him mentioned it too, so I go: “What’s your rap name…?” And he says: “DOOM.” I was like: “Wait a second, you’re MF DOOM.”
He goes: “Yeah.” – and I just responded: “Oh shit!” [laughs]
After all this [the initial dinner and subsequent tour dates], I’d gotten a call from this producer, Max, who went by [the name] Kid Honey, who produced the end track on Sin-A-Matic, “Dust-to-Dust”.
And Max hit me up after I’d moved back to New York from Philadelphia, and told me: “I’m producing this project that me and some buddies are working on – it’s an album for MF DOOM. DOOM said he’d would love for your to be on a song.” He was like: “There’s some money in it…” and I was like: “I don’t care!” [smiling] I just wanted to be on the record.
I ended up going to this apartment that I think was in Fort Greene, Brooklyn and I recorded in a place called: ‘The Sweater’ – which is what a dude said DOOM called it. It was a makeshift vocal booth created by hanging all these big wooly blankets from hooks in the ceiling. I recorded right there in that apartment, and it was hot as shit in there. I guess that’s why DOOM called it ‘The Sweater’ – and apparently most of the Viktor Vaughn album was recorded in there.
I also recorded to a completely different beat from what you hear on the album. I wrote and recorded to the beat that he raps on – and then when the record came out I realised it was different.
And I’m very aware of what you’re saying, my rap career is basically because of three people. L-Fudge, the first known artist to guest appear from me and open a lot of doors, that connected me to Vinnie Paz [from Jedi Mind Tricks] – who put out my first two records. So, most directly, Vinnie is responsible for me having a rap career.
But then DOOM for asking me to be on that record. It spread my name in ways that few other things did. That’s where most of my fanbase came from, as well as the Demigodz stuff with Celph Titled and Apathy, which also pushed my career along quite a bit.
Over the years, people will have heard [stories from me] about how we’d had a falling out a long time ago and hadn’t talked to each other directly since that falling out over a bad tour arrangement in 2003, I think.
I was bitter about for a long time, but in recovery, I’ve done a lot of work on myself and I had a hand in how that [falling out] happened and I recognise that now.
All this to say, when he died, I was really heartbroken and I have a lot of complex feelings about it. I wish that I could’ve talked to him again before he was gone. He got a lot more famous than he was and it would’ve been hard for me to reach him by that point.
I would liked to have talked to him to say I didn’t harbour any ill will towards him and that musically he was always a real inspiration to me. He made some fucking fantastic records that to this day I still enjoy very, very much.
SS: One of the tracks from Misery Loves Comedy that always stood out to me was “The Great Divide”, it felt like I song I could play around anyone. It seemed to have true cross-genre appeal. You seemed right there, bubbling up and close to breaking through to bigger audiences. And when Look on the Blight Side came out, it had self-referential lyrics about coming close to stardom – being very close and it not quite working out…
LL: A lot of people have said that about me. Label people said that to me.
I got scouted hard by Capitol Records, by Atlantic Records – I don’t know [for certain] why it didn’t happen. J.J used to say it’s just written in the stars for some people. Maybe that’s it, some people are just more competitive and will stop at nothing until they get what they want. That doesn’t work for everybody.
I’ve got old peers who are still relentlessly pursuing fame and not really finding it. In the end [from the groups and scene I came from], I think I had more crossover potential than a lot of other people, most maybe…
But I met with the people who could make that happen, and when they talked to me, they all said the same thing: “I can’t put this guy on Total Request Live. He’ll embarrass Carson Daly. He’s too nerdy.” I think people thought – and this happened even with fans – that because my records were a certain type of way they thought I was gonna put my feet up on their desk and spit on the floor or take my dick out and be like FUCK YOU, MAN! [laughs]
But I didn’t do that stuff. The President of A and R at Capitol Record, this dude Perry who kinda looked like Perry Farrell [frontman for band, Jane’s Addiction], I was in their office, and I think this is emblematic of why this didn’t happen for me. They talked about who would produce my album [using the label’s influence] and I said: “That’s easy. Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley from Portishead and the Dust Brothers” and they looked at me like [confused expression]: “Not Pete Rock? Or Dr. Dre? Or Premo…?”
And they were so sad about that [laughs].
SS: In 2019, I remember seeing photos of you and Apathy [of the Demigodz] reconciling at a show. It was well-documented that you had long-standing feud – that was a great thing to see you both put it behind you. Two grown men putting aside their differences and becoming friends again…
LL: Aw man, I can’t tell you how grateful I am that happened. I saw a window and thought: what are windows for if not climbing through? I hit Celph up and asked him to put me on the guest list to come to the show next time they passed through New York and I didn’t even have a read on whether Apathy was open to making amends. I just figured, I’m sober now and he should be on my amends list because I’ve harboured a lot of resentment towards him.
And you know, “resentments are the dubious luxury of normal men” they say in recovery literature. I just figured the worst that can happen is he can say he doesn’t want to talk to you. And I didn’t figure he would start swinging at me – he’s someone’s dad [laughs]. So I said to Celph: “I wanna come to the show, what do you think Ap would think about that?” And Celph said: “I think he’d be open to it and open to talking to you.” I said: “That’s rad, man – put me on the list”.
I went to the show and saw him and the FIRST words out of his mouth [Apathy] was: “Man, I am really sorry about all these years and I’m really glad that you came” and I was like “Oh my God, I am too.” – I almost cried.
And then, we gave each other a big hug and then we talked. A half-hour later, we were sitting showing each other pictures of our kids on our phones and sharing stories about all the stuff that’s happened between now and then. He and I had both worked in real estate, so for him it was like a newer passion, and for me at that point, I’d done it for five years and was really on my way out of it. I told him about how I’m in the process of now going back to school. I have a Bachelor’s Degree but I’m now in the process of getting a Master’s in Social Work, so I can hang my shingle as a licensed talk therapist.
You know, at the top of this discussion, I’d talked about the book I’m writing, and although it’s a fiction book, it relates to a lot of the themes I’ve explored in my music and some of which I’ve talked about in this discussion. There’s stuff about recovery and sex addiction and all kinds of shit in it.
So, I’m sharing with Ap in that green room about being sober – and a lot of the same stuff you’ve asked me – how my career evolved, what I was up to…
You know, I’ll admit to you right now – and I still have reticence because I don’t think I’ve ever said it to Ap or Celph – but I don’t really think of myself as a straight person. I wonder what they’d say about that. I’m a mere mortal. I have fears and insecurities like everyone. But I wanna to grow past that.
I’d like to be the kinda person who if asked about something like that could just say: “Yeah, I’m queer.” – or “I don’t give a fuck what you think about my rap records, I’m not making another one!” But the people pleaser in me fears what everyone else is gonna think.
A big part of what I hope to do with my new in-progress career, with writing and ultimately working my way towards becoming a talk therapist, is de-stigmatising stuff like that. Popularising the concept, especially among black men, of going to therapy and expressing vulnerability and weakness and sharing things that you’re afraid of – because there are measurable, tangible side effects to not being able to do that sort of thing. Black men live shorter lives than white men and I do believe it’s because of a cultural, communal belief in invulnerability – and that’s just not healthy. Especially here in America where there’s such a profound history of racism institutionally and on the ground day-to-day.
I want to be brave enough to share my authentic self with the world and normalise that sort of thing for people, and normalise working on your self, and asking for help, and growing – because it is healthy and normal even if we don’t treat it that way.
SS: Typically at SOUTHSIDERS, we wrap up our interviews with a comparison between two albums, but for you Louis, I want to ask if you could pick one of your solo works between Sin-A-Matic, Misery Loves Comedy, and Look on the Blight Side, which one would you opt for and why?
LL: Of my solo records, the selfish parts of me would want to say Look on the Blight Side because it was the culmination of everything I’d learned about music.
But, I’m gonna say Misery Loves Comedy. I’m gonna say that because it really was the apex, in terms of releases, of my work as Louis Logic – as people knew me to be. If someone was like “Introduce me to your Louis Logic career”, that’s the record I’d point them to.
To me, it represents the best of what I was capable of as that artist, with that persona, and with that character. And the Look on the Blight Side album to me is a half-measure. It was me wishing I could make an indie pop or indie rock record, and not have to go all the way there because my fans were rap fans. In retrospect, I wish I’d just cut all the raps on that record – even though I really loved the content of them – and just wrote indie rock or indie pop songs. Just releasing it under the name Louis Logic and just being like: “Here’s the new Louis Logic, here’s what the new Louis Logic record is…”
But I didn’t do that because I was afraid of what people would think. I think of [Look on the Blight Side] as an exercise in people pleasing. And these days, I’m trying not to do that because unbeknownst to me, I discovered that’s one of my biggest character defects [laughs].
So, I’m trying to shed that and get closer to my authentic self – and my authentic self doesn’t just want to write rap records.
SS: Louis, thank you so much for taking the time and for talking to us.
LL: Happy to do it…