In this Ones to Watch feature, we catch up with Jimothy, an irreverent hitmaker whose highly stylized persona walks the line between authenticity and parody. With next to no info available about him online, we attempt to peel back the curtain on the gleefully ambiguous aesthete.
“Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most effective.” The phrase refuses to leave my brain when pondering the world of Jimothy. The musician, whose age is undisclosed and is unimportant anyway, has already had several profiles written about him, not unlike this one. Many have touched on the ambiguity of his art, how he seems like an elaborate joke or extended performance art piece, or even, as one YouTube commenter put it, “a complex governmental propaganda outlet attempting to learn about the underclass and disillusioned youth in 2010s UK.” “Is rapper Jimothy Lacoste for real?” journalists ask, as they pore over videos of the Londoner dancing on top of double decker buses; singing and rapping about public transportation, Burberry socks, and carjacking.
What does real even mean in 2019? For the most part, it doesn’t matter. Amidst what feels like unavoidable, constant chaos, we’re all just trying to continue existing in the least complicated way possible, despite all of the bollocks. Refreshingly, Jimothy presents a corner of the universe unplagued by convoluted cynicism and negativity.
Whatever opinion you might have of Jimothy after a cursory listen of his music does not detract from the fact that it’s catchy, and that he’s clearly onto something. The opening synth stabs of “Getting Burberry Socks” linger in my head for days on end, as do Jimothy’s repeated declarations of “I Can Speak Spanish” and their accompanying flute riffs. Again, a testament to how simplicity can be a powerful thing.
In his music videos, many of which have achieved a level of virality, the artist known as Jimothy seems equally interested in classic British prep and being rebellious. The tension is intriguing, and of course Jimothy offers up an uncomplicated explanation for it all.
“As a young kid, I’ve always loved to be rebellious. I’ve always loved to do the opposite, and that then comes into fashion, in terms of buying things. It’s like, if everyone’s wearing red, then I’m wearing black. If everyone’s wearing black, then I’m wearing red. It’s just more that rebellious thing, and graffiti, when I discovered that for example, it’s cheeky, because you’re sneaking into places you’re not allowed to. And then, on top of that, you leave like a piece of art that you got, that you’re happy with, and it’s actually really fun to do. So, all that package is really fun. And yeah, it’s just being a bit rebellious, and being a bit cheeky. But that’s me, you know.”
In “Subway System,” the musician looks sharp in red pants and a bright blue sweater layered over a collared shirt while dancing on the Piccadilly line, streaking through some sort of underground tunnel and doing other slightly dangerous things that aren’t exactly legal. The video is no longer on YouTube, as he was ordered to remove it by Transport for London, with the caption now reading “Due to a legal dispute the original video has been removed by TFL Legal and Commercial Disputes Resolution Team. Life is getting quite exciting.”
Months before, Jimothy had already been using the phrase “Life is getting quite exciting.” It featured in his song “Getting Busy” and a few limited merch drops. The fact that his video got attention from a major institution only added to his enigmatic image and strengthened his ‘LIGQE’ message. In true 2018 fashion, he made limited edition merch using text from the letter he received from the TFL.
Jimothy’s sphere of influence has been quietly expanding a year after the incident. Whereas “Life is Getting Quite Exciting” served as Jimothy’s 2018 mantra, a year later “Life’s 2 Exciting,” which he hints might be the name of his debut album. When I meet up with Jimothy on set in West London’s posh neighborhood Notting Hill, he doesn’t seem overwhelmed by all the new opportunities coming his way. He’s calm and centered throughout our chat, just a bit under the weather with a cold.
Having watched The Fader’s documentary on Jimothy, which begins by outlining his very specific daily health rituals, I am slightly taken aback by his ailment, but it ultimately serves as proof that he is in fact human. While he no longer eats four oranges a day, he still swears by a cold shower every morning. His self-discipline and dedication to his health is both inspiring and slightly perplexing. He seems to have mastered things people decades older than him still struggle with – he’s precocious but not so precious about it.
It all came together in 2016 after he dropped his first music video (“T.I.M.M.Y.”), picking up many of his habits through YouTube videos he stumbled upon in his research. When asked about what was holding him back prior to that, he answers “Just like, not being aware of things in life, and ignoring certain things in life.” He credits his older sister with making him aware his career in music was possible; an encouraging force in the early days of Jimothy Lacoste, before he went mononymous.
“If she’d never said that, then it could have been different. So, it’s all about being around the right people. If you’re around nobodies in life, you’ll become a nobody. If you’re around people that want to make it in life, and dream big, then you’ll get that energy as well. So, what I’d say to kids is, always look for things, and be around people that are doing things in life, or want to do things in life.”
His persistence is especially impressive considering his upbringing. Despite what many people may suspect, he doesn’t come from money and he didn’t have the easiest time at school. Although his father is not part of his life, his mother anchors him, and has provided him with life advice he holds dearly – “Don’t ever make actions in anger” or “You’ve got to just be very aware of things, be very humble.”
“She says that you’ve got to be really nice to everyone, really, really nice, and be nice, but, at the same time, you’ve got to move like a snake,” he explains. “And that doesn’t mean, be a snake. It’s more like, your eyes are always open, so you’re nice to everyone, but any time you can sense something bad from someone, you’d best sense that. You’d best not ignore that. So, you’ll be like a snake, by actually looking carefully from a distance and observing people. Because you don’t want bad people in your life, you know?”
Jimothy walks a peculiar tightrope between quick-witted and ridiculous, maintaining a wisdom beyond his years while running around London doing things that aren’t exactly permissible by law. Similarly, his music, straddling the worlds of pop, rap, R&B, and upbeat electronica, often sounds deceptively simple while revealing a much deeper message. Whether intentional or not, it all adds to the allure, not least Jimothy’s desire to keep his age a secret, which he contextualizes with the aid of timeless legend Pharrell Williams.
“Imagine no one knew his age now. Imagine he’d kept it a secret, and no one knew his age, only his close family and friends. Everyone would be freaking out right now. He would be known as that guy, like, “Oh my God, we still don’t know how old he is, and he still looks so young. What the hell’s going on?” So, it’s just that, really. Just mystery. I just love mystery.”
Now that he’s on track to have a proper career in music, he’s got a keen sense of how he wants his career to go, and how not to proceed through the industry as an artist. “I realized that labels are very good at messing artists up. And the good thing is that now I know this, so I’m going to be able to avoid that, if that makes sense,” he explains. This realization seemed to inspire his latest standalone single “Getting Talkative,” which his PR brings up as our conversation comes to a close. Over a sunny 2-Step beat, Jimothy airs his frustrations in the Jimothy way we’ve come to know and love – a combination of lyrics that could very well be New Age aphorisms (“Possessive behavior makes you lose everything”) and more simple, persuasive utterances (“So please don’t be like that, d’you know what I mean?”).
Broken down, there’s nothing complicated at all about “Getting Talkative,” but that doesn’t mean it’s a throwaway single. Like all of Jimothy’s music to date, its strength lies in its straightforwardness. While many listeners might think Jimothy’s busting out his signature dance moves and slinging melodies from the top of an endlessly spiraling irony staircase, where no one can even make out the first step, the truth is, he’s right on the same level as his fans, feet firmly on the ground.
“This one’s more deep, about how people have been talking to me these days too much, and stressing me out, and they’re being a bit…desperate, managers, label people, they’re desperate, they’re talking too much, and just like … They fuck up artists, and that’s it really,” he explains.
Despite being slightly frustrated with how overbearing people in the music industry can be, he’s still soldiering on with his debut album, which he’s already referring to as a “work of art,” relying mostly on himself. It will be written and produced by Jimothy with “maybe three features, four features, depending on how well the label reach out to those people.”
“There are certain songs that are so good, that I don’t want any features on them,” he continues. “Because I want to have a legacy of, ‘Yeah, this is Jimothy. That’s Jimothy’s song.’ Not, ‘Jimothy and so-and-so’s song.'”
In the short time Jimothy has been sharing his art with the world, he’s succeeded in putting forth a singular vision, a universe that’s entirely his own. Even for a glorified fit pic, let alone orchestrating his upcoming debut album, Jimothy takes the reins to ensure everything is just so. The final IRL moment after the shoot and interview have formally wrapped up, wherein he directed his publicist to take various digital and analog photos of himself, solidified it all. Jimothy is the real deal, whether or not you think he’s fake.
Jimothy will be playing the Highsnobiety Soundsystem Stage at Melt Festival in July. Head here for ticketing and further information.
- Photography: Charlie Cummings