When asked to describe his music, he offers the terse explanation, “Alternative Lou.” And, when you listen to a new song by Louis Picasso, the Ypsilanti-based lyricist/producer/arts-collective leader, that’s what you’ll get— a new side, a new perspective, a new direction, an alternative to the motivated artist and head of Hiiigher Minds.
“I don’t know how to talk to people about certain things, in person,” Lou admits, “but I know how to put it into music. I’m not one to go vent to someone, I put my feelings into that next song.” That sentiment led to the lyric (an honest warning), “this right here’s gonna hurt…,” the chorus of a standout track from Picasso’s recently released album, Behind The Paintings pt 2.
The Ypsi scene revived
Louis Picasso Gholston is a key component of a resurgence in the Ypsilanti music and arts scene, primarily creating music that would be categorized by most as hip-hop or R&B. His solo output and live events are distinguished from his captaincy of the Hiiigher Minds squad, which includes several local musical artists who each specialize in various other disciplines, such as photography, graphic design, and videography. “We’re all on the same wavelength,” said Picasso. “We all want the same thing, but we’re all also in our own lane. Nobody’s stepping on anyone’s toes. We all wanna make it. We’re all serious; we’re all professional. When it comes down to business, we lock in.”
Picasso’s first major release demonstrated his proclivity for vibrant productions and intricate beat arrangements to affect a dazzling sheen over still raw lyrical themes. Behind The Paintings digs in to the unspoken angst and twisty emotions woven beneath the surface images. His first album was followed with an ambitious and cameo-heavy album, Gold.
Picasso’s new batch of songs in Behind The Paintings, pt 2 finds him processing the end of an intense three-year relationship. Picasso was keen to keep this particular project free from cameos. He wanted to demonstrate to the listener, especially anyone that might be going through the end of a relationship, that it can be natural, even inevitable, to feel alone or frustrated.
“This right here’s gonna hurt.”
“I don’t mind going into the deepness of something I’m going through,” said Picasso. “(Behind The Paintings, pt 2) is probably the first project where I did more of a wavy sound, like alt-R&B, with me singing, and the vocal effects… But the whole breakup shook me! And these songs were me keeping my balance.”
Room for The Gallery
Over the last two years, his live performances have featured the versatile ensemble known as The Gallery. “It’s rap, but it’s not rap…,” said Picasso. “It’s rock, but it’s not rock; it’s indie, but it’s not indie… It’s everything combined. It’s not every day you see a rapper perform with a band, especially with no vocals behind his track. They all do their thing and they help my sound stand out. They give it that extra emotion.”
Picasso’s biggest year to date has been 2018: out on the road with the band, hitting Cleveland’s House of Blues, at the Bazaar in Brooklyn, and around the Great Lakes states to Toronto. He’s headed to Australia in February, but not before he caps off Behind The Paintings, pt 2 with an “arena-scale” production with a live theatrical performance of the album.
Picasso’s drive, and the drive of everyone in Hiiigher Minds, comes down to the connection he feels in the midst of a live performance. That’s something he can’t find anywhere else. “I feel like I can’t stop, that feeling is so addictive,” said Picasso. “Genuinely connecting with people can be hard in other circumstances, but not on a stage—that feeling is incredible.”