Glass meets idiosyncratic north London musician Jimothy Lacoste who launched his career from his bedroom
“This guy just invented a new genre”, reads one of the thousands of YouTube comments to Jimothy Lacoste’s hit song and music video Future Bae. Strange yet endearing, Jimothy Lacoste, known to his family and friends as Timothy Gonzales – the “Hella English” [Burberry Socks] musician who can “speak Spanish” [I Can Speak Spanish] – has built a legion of fans with his tongue-in-cheek bravado and his seemingly whimsical lyrics wrapped up with freestyle bars. His music is unlike any you have heard before. “If you’re simply doing the same thing, then everyone gets bored. If you’re bored, then your people around you will be bored,” he tells me.
Lacoste comes across as a millennial enigma – an eccentric character wearing Burberry socks and “rocking loafers because they make me feel smart” [Getting Loafers]. A character who has articulated the trials and tribulations of teenagers across the country with flippant lyrics and an attitude to match.
But unpick his lyrics and a deeper, more poignant truth is revealed. Woven into his songs are self-care messages and positive reassurances for any age to listen to. It is no surprise, therefore, that fans of Lacoste range from 13 year olds to people in their sixties. His demeanour is captivating; his approach incredibly unique, and his likeability enticing.
I spoke with Lacoste on the phone in the middle of lockdown a few days after it was announced that his European tour had been postponed and the industry seemed to be tirelessly adjusting to the new card it had been dealt. “It has affected my creativity in a bad way … When you take someone’s freedom away, it is very hard to be productive; it’s hard to be positive – something that I’ve not really struggled with, only [at a time] when I was younger.”
He continues, “back in the day I would be a bit too open. But now I know I just need to be in my own lane and not worry. You can’t create if you have a stressful mind.”
Lacoste’s eagerness to create and spread positivity is clear upon browsing his reliably frequent track list on YouTube. In 2016, Lacoste posted his first song on YouTube, Timmy (which he wrote and produced on his iPad despite having no previous musical experience), gathering immediate interest and a plethora of comments: “What genre is this man? I love it”, “literally got me through this morning” and “this is timeless”.
It is undeniable that Lacoste’s tracks have a timeless quality to them. The beats are catchy, but not enough to become mainstream; the lyrics are transitional, able to pertain to any time or place; and his musical style and persona don’t fit into any established genre thereby eclipsing any social mould.
Back then, Lacoste was an emerging bedroom pop phenomenon. It was the following year, however, that Lacoste rose to prominence with his breakthrough track Getting Busy. It was in this track that the eminent lyrics that soon became a catchphrase “Life Is Getting Quite Exciting”, or more aptly put #LIGQE (yep, it went hashtag legit), propelled him full force into mainstream media and the name Jimothy Lacoste took on a whole new meaning. Lacoste coined a new positive mantra, and the world responded with a mammoth effect.
Since then, Lacoste has posted hit songs Subway System, Drugs, Fashion and I Can Speak Spanish. The online success of each has led to media attention, a confirmed European tour and a record deal with Black Butter, home to some of the most exciting new talents, including Octavian, GoldLink, Zara Larsson and J Hus. What is his formula for success? “Bang it out of Soundcloud or YouTube or wherever and the whole world can hear it; you can send it to your friends and family and it gets shared and it does its thing”.
But the path to recognition hasn’t been easy for the young internet star. Growing up with a single mother in a council flat in north London, Lacoste has openly spoken about the stark daily reminders of his difference. Meeting friends from more privileged backgrounds took adjusting to but it became something he took in his stride, coming to the realisation that he could build his own identity by wearing bold clothes and “dressing like a rich guy” [Fashion].
It was this difference that would go on to inspire his intimate song writing, as he confesses that “being in situations where I feel left out or being left out” helped steer him onto the music career path.
Homing in on the very things that made him feel like he didn’t fit in was the key to his success. In a lucrative and over-saturated music industry, being your unique self now is your USP. For someone as multi-faceted and young as Lacoste, however, defining yourself on your own terms is a tricky balancing act. It shouldn’t be this way, Lacoste admits: “I feel like Americans and Australians are really good at supporting people, like, ‘oh I’ve just found a new song I want everyone to know about it’, but then with other places, it’s more ‘oh I’m shy to show this person, my best friend, my music taste’, which is quite bad.” He’s right, of course. The yearning for acceptance is integral to our very being and the social landscape is only on the cusp of changing. The unwavering dedication to his individuality shows Lacoste has mastered a maturity beyond his years: “I just try to stay in my own lane.”
Providing social commentary on millennial culture, life in London and darker subject matters – everything from love and drugs to money and politics – but often in an uplifting beat or alongside a dance has been a topic of contention among his fans. In his self-directed videos, London is his playground where he can dance on top of tube trains (the video for Subway System caused Transport for London to intervene and have the video removed), on top of bus shelters, and with topless pensioners in a field. The juxtaposition between happy and sad is described by Lacoste as a creative outpour: “When I’m doing the songs and I’m writing them, I’m getting some deep thoughts and then happy thoughts and it goes all a bit crazy and I start putting it all down, and then dancing just comes naturally to me.”
There are no rules to Lacoste’s free-styling. This year, or sometime in the near future, Jimothy Lacoste’s debut album is set to be released. “Everything needs to get mixed and mastered; I can’t even say a day at the moment, but I’m so excited,” he tells me. It’s been a long time coming but self-producing the album without tampering from music industry execs is something Lacoste is particularly proud of.
“I think with all genres, they need to just understand what the actual artist wants … I think it’s more about respecting people, and if you like it, and if people like it, then you should listen to it.” Self-production has become the rule, not an exception in the internet age. Technological convulsions in society have provided a platform for a wide array of aspiring musicians to bypass traditional methods and reach their audience directly, with their own unique sound.
“If it wasn’t for YouTube, Instagram, and all that stuff, I wouldn’t be here. A lot of people hate on that stuff, but it really is a love-hate relationship … It has made the music industry extremely easy for up-and-coming artists to access, whereas back in the day, you would need a big label or someone big to be able to get your music out there for people to listen to,” he tells me.
Other UK artists who have leapt to fame from within their bedroom walls are Beabadoobee, the 2020 Brits Critics Choice nominee; Rex Orange County, who was discovered by Tyler, the Creator and invited to feature on Flower Boy and join him on his world tour; and the more widely known, Chance the Rapper, who began his venture into music by handing out his demo CD 5Day outside his college in Chicago.
“People still underestimate the power,” Lacoste tells me. “In a way, the internet is still quite new, especially with lots of new apps and stuff like that. The tools are there, and they need to be used. And the people who actually use them, and are the first to use them properly, they’re the people that will elevate them.”
Independent producers and musicians like Jimothy Lacoste, Chance the Rapper, Beabadoobee and Rex Orange County refine their recording and promotion skills through intense dedication, creative marketing and a deep want to connect their personal ideologies with a global audience. For Lacoste “delivering to the fans, that really keeps me going, that’s a massive plus and I live off that”.
He adds, “My main thing really is melodies and it’s more about what has worked in the past and how can I go back? How can I elevate it?” Where irony is a driving force, however, Lacoste has been misunderstood as a middle class artist parodying UK rap, which he has argued is, in fact, the complete opposite. Jimothy Lacoste serves as an antidote to the fakeness of much of the online world. This can also be said for his idiosyncratic dress sense.
Rapping that “having good style is a big form of art” [Fashion], Lacoste admits that fashion is as important a creative process as music is for him – “it goes hand in hand”. He continues: “A few months ago, I thought fashion and style were the same, but then a good friend of mine said people who are into fashion don’t really love what they’re wearing. It’s more about wanting other people to see what they’re wearing, whereas style is more selfish in that ‘I love what I’m wearing and I don’t care what anyone else says’. Some people have it and some don’t.”
Lacoste sees himself on the style end of the spectrum. “A lot of people say, ‘why are you still wearing Casio?’ It’s because I like the style, it’s as simple as that. I’m not in a position where I have money to just throw at a watch, and when I do, it’s not going to be a watch that’s been hyped, like, ‘oh yeah, he’s got an expensive watch’. No, it’s just for me to look at.”
Dressing for himself rather than by what trends dictate is a way of life that Lacoste has honoured from the start of his career. An all-time favourite fashion reference in his lyrics is “‘Lacoste on my skin but I ain’t into sports’ [Fashion] because it’s like wearing certain brands that are made for certain things, but you’re not actually wearing it for that purpose. For example, Asics the running shoes – I’m sure back in the day people were, like, ‘why is this guy wearing running shoes?’ But now everyone is wearing running shoes for style. So just go for it.”
Rebelling against the rules of fashion, Lacoste can often be found on the streets of London wearing crewnecks and Ralphie polos with sunglasses more suited to Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous, and double-breasted coats paired with a tartan side bag and slide-on leather school shoes. It’s often a strange mix but the confidence he wears it with is infectious. As one of his YouTube fans so rightly said: “I’m glad we have Jimothy to keep the slip-on shoe market alive.”
Videos of his live performances show a Burberry puffa paired with chinos, a burgundy leather jacket cropped to showcase tracksuit bottoms or him topless with boxer shorts peeking out of the top of cords and a Gucci belt. Joining Irish rapper Rejjie Snow as a special guest for his Australian tour wearing a culmination of the above is one of many memorable on-stage moments for Lacoste. “I feel like, when you get on stage, it’s so good, everything else disappears and all the other negative stuff in life just goes. You literally forget about it.”
Rumours of a collaboration with Mike Skinner (of The Streets) have already begun to emerge, which Lacoste is tight-lipped about. “Wait and see, wait and see,” he teases. And although all festivals have been cancelled for the summer of 2020, as well as club and gig nights, Lacoste is focusing on looking at this strange time for the industry as an opportunity to live as simply as possible.
“A simple life to me is when you’ve got no problems. You don’t have any negativity; you don’t have toxic people around you and you don’t need to worry about money … But content? Me, I’m never content. If you’re too content, suddenly, you’ll look around, like, ‘woah, where did everyone go?’” So where does Lacoste see himself in the new decade? “Very, very popular; very, very focused; very calm and simple … I mean life is getting quite exciting”
by Lily Rimmer
Photography: Dennis Branko
Talent: Jimothy Lacoste