Rap Us a Song, You're the Piano Man

One emcee's quest to sound more like Regina Spektor

Indie rap has been good to Louis Logic, a Fat Beats–signed veteran who fills clubs in Australia and drives both a black Mazda Miata and a red touring minivan. Eligible women are forever texting the recently single 32-year-old emcee, who's of black and Puerto Rican descent and wears a layer of stubble and a slightly dreadlocked Afro. He co-owns a three-unit Bushwick building, which he shares with Gym Class Heroes frontman Travis McCoy and the owners of a food-delivery service called Sweet Deliverance. And yet the rapper, whose real name is Louis Dorley, has decided to risk the whole franchise.

"I'm done with traditional rap albums," he explained recently while preparing a tilapia dinner in his kitchen. "Who knows what [Fat Beats] will think of what I do next? I don't really care."

Known for his raunchy, whimsical rhymes, delivered over breezy, throwback beats produced by longtime collaborator J.J. Brown on albums like the pair's 2006 effort, Misery Loves Comedy, Logic is in the midst of overhauling his sound and lyrics. Having taken up the piano for the first time only two years ago, he's dead-set on making it the focus of his live sets and albums. He'll still rap, but he wants to make songs that favor more serious themes à la personal heroes like Regina Spektor, Elliott Smith, and Rufus Wainwright. "I've been obsessed with singer-songwriters for the past six years," he says, adding that he's bought very few rap albums in that time.

Logic, the adopted son of a Pennsylvania Dutch cop and an Italian homemaker, grew up in West Babylon, Long Island. He says he once had a stilted idea of what hip-hop culture was all about: "I grew up in a white neighborhood. I remember standing in front of the mirror and trying to sound like a black person." He even bought gold fronts and threw words like faggotand bitch into his lyrics, epithets he now exorcises in his live shows. "I don't like the homophobia or the misogyny [in rap]," he says. "It's trite bullshit."

Nowadays, he says, he's trying to sound more like himself—an attitudinal evolution paralleling his musical evolution, inspired when his former girlfriend bought him voice and piano lessons a few years ago. Soon, Logic had invested in a 1930s Baldwin Spinet, which he took to playing so much that his ex began calling it his "real" girlfriend.

Logic is not afraid to practice, or screw up, in public. At a March warm-up at the Bowery Poetry Club, he continually castigated himself mid-song for hitting the wrong notes on the venue's electric piano. When he sits down before the Knitting Factory Tap Bar's baby grand this week for "A Night of Singer/Songwriter Hip-Hop," it will be the first time he's played a real piano for a live audience. One suspects that his charisma—and the charming novelty of piano-rapping— will compensate for any technical shortcomings.

This fall, he's coming out with a CD and DVD of a September 2006 show at CBGB; somewhere further down the line, expect a piano-heavy studio album under the moniker Kiss Her Stupid. ("I came up with the name after watching the most adorable and awkward subway-station goodbye ever," he explains.) It's enough to make even his own head spin. "People don't usually get away with shit like this, so I have to put the energy into making it work," he says. "I could lose my fans. Then again, I could get new fans. The question is, are people going to believe me—a guy with songs about shaved pussies—being, like, a guy version of Regina Spektor?" He contemplates the question, probably not for the first time. "I think so."


Louie Logic plays the Knitting Factory Tap Room June 21, knittingfactory.com

 
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