A 17 year-old kind-of rapper from Camden who creates BEATS on his iPad, Timothy Gonzales –AKA Jimothy Lacoste – is the millennial foil to The Streets’ Mike Skinner. STEVE BEALE StepS into the Timmy TARDIs
Hanging off the back of a Hammersmith and City Line Tube train, freestyling in the London drawl that people prayed would fade alongside Ali G, Jimothy Lacoste saves the first shout out for his mum. His lyrics are esoteric, his beats are spartan and his hooks, ethereal – it's the sort of DiY multi-cultural pop that we all hoped would take the charts hostage wholesale, before the music press discovered The Libertines.
Jimothy dances like George Michael after just the right amount of GHB, and styles himself akin to the proto-acid house casuals elsewhere in this edition of Boy’s Own: shirts tucked in with a white tee underneath, voluminous knits, slim-fit washed denims. Labels-wise he favours country clubbing staples like Gant, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger.
That’s all in the YouTube promo for TIMMY, his personal anthem. It’s like Doggy Dogg World, if Snoop ever rapped about needing a wee. For the interview with Boy’s Own, he wears an oatmeal zip-up Gant wooly – “My mum got me this from a second hand shop, it was like, £3” – and a navy vintage Fila puffa jacket.
“People get upset when you try to imitate a certain year,” he explains of his mid-80s look, “But they’re doing the same thing – wearing what society’s telling them to. They’re getting told what to wear and that’s even worse. Clothes is always going to be a thing, so I’m just going to have fun with it. I want to wear what Africans do, with the big hats and everything.”
Absolutely, Jimothy Lacoste is a star in waiting.
There’s just one problem.
“I don’t like fame,” he says. He’s not talking about fanzine glory; becoming a point of fascination for middle-aged ex-ravers. He’s talking about real, 21st Century fame – the kind you can only earn from social media.
“I don’t really like Instagram, as it’s all about followers and likes,” he says, “I’ve got my photography on there, and I’ve got followers and stuff, but a lot of them are only following me because of my friends. It’s turning us into really stupid people. Back in the day,” he says, meaning before the invention of the smartphone, “you’d be really happy if you drew an amazing piece, or made some music, or just hung out with friends. Now, all the feeling good comes from ‘likes’. The only reason they’re liking it is because of ‘the rules’, anyway. If I get used to the artificial pleasure of likes, then I won’t be going out myself and doing things. I’ll end up relying on others to make me happy when I just want to make myself proud.”
This particular member of ‘Generation i’ prefers social media’s more gentle incarnations. “People hardly ever use Tumblr now,” he explains, “so it’s a lot nicer having my photos there, like my own private collection.” Jimothy thinks he may prefer photography to music, and hasn’t made up his mind which to pursue. He shows me his photos. They’re simultaneously dour and dreamlike, comparable to Jurgen Teller’s work. He’s never heard of Juergen Teller, so I Google the German, who regularly shoots covers for Arena Homme+ and ad campaigns for the likes of Celine and Marc Jacobs. Turns out he eschews Instagram, too. He's only ever posted once. So if any 40-50 somethings desperate to get a grip on modern life take anything away from this interview with a 17 year-old mover and shaker, it should be that Instagram is out and Tumblr is the next big thing. Honest.
Jimothy suffers from dyscalculia, like dyslexia but for numbers rather than words. “So I went to what was like a school for disabled kids,” he says, “even though I hated it, if I hadn’t gone there I never would have started photography, or music – because of the confidence it gave me. If I’d been in a normal school with teenagers who are leading the mainstream life. For instance, at the disabled school, no-one had Instagram. There were no rules, like ‘If you text this girl back too fast she’s not going to like you’ or ‘You can’t like a post too fast.’ Silly things. But I didn’t know about them.” Away from peer pressure, Jimothy’s individuality thrived. “A lot of my generation are extremely shy and very insecure,” he says, “They would never sing into a live mic and put it out. But I did. The disabled school gave me a different mindset – to not care.”
A product of his environment, indeed. “Now I do know a lot of the rules of this generation, and it’s actually putting me down and stuff,” he admits. Which leads us to streaming one's own music. How did he create his first record/Soundcloud upload?
“Basically it was summer, and I had nothing to do. All my friends are very posh. If they’ve got a week off, they’ll go to Paris, or Italy and stuff. So they were all away and I was at home in Camden… very bored. I always liked doing little instrumentals, I always had that in me, and wanted to make an actual song with a music video. So I thought I’d do a little taster, and even though the song’s random and crazy, I was taking it seriously. There’s still a lot of truth to the song – ‘I hope I don’t sniff cocaine, I hope I don’t go insane, just stick to beers,’ that’s true, y’know?”
Does he have a musical background – grade eight piano or something, like Sasha?
“I can’t play the piano, drums or bass guitar.” How does he make the tunes then? “It’s a secret! It’s not Fruity Loops, or Logic.” I later discover he uses an app on his iPad, “I always try and make everything my own. People love to copy trends now, and fashions. People don’t know who they are. They need to worship celebrities and follow them. My friends and I, we have a culture and a personality. There’s 20-somethings out there that don’t, they follow someone else’s culture. It’s not their fault and I feel very sorry for them.”
Jimothy might not have any classical training, but he does listen to a lot of music. “Old school hip-hop, Biggie, Nas, Jay-Z, Tupac instrumentals not lyrics, I just don’t like his voice.” His track A Biggie Instrumental features the backing track from ‘Juicy’ given the Timmy treatment – ‘Hates being lazy, hates being dumb, hangs with posh white kids and loves his mum’.
What else does he like?
“Old school house.”
A-ha! What counts as ‘old school house’?
“Way before 2000. If you’re 43, it would be the stuff that was around when you were 19, 20.” I play him DSK’s What Would We Do? He knows it.
“These songs always have good melodies, and they made it themselves – well, even if they didn’t make the beats themselves, they made the melody and the lyrics themselves… or whichever bit. Nowadays, acts always have a manager saying ‘put this bit in’ or ‘do it like this,’ ‘say this kind of lyric.’ That’s what I’ve heard anyway and I think it’s disgusting. Nothing’s natural any more.”
He’s actually a little suspicious of modern hip-hop, preferring it pre-gangsta rap.
“In hip-hop they’re talking all this crazy stuff, disrespectful stuff,” he says, “I’m like, ‘Oh my.’ Like disrespecting girls and stuff. ‘She’s giving me this, she’s giving me that’ when it’s your girl. And they always go on about killing people. They’re getting into kids brains, and giving them the idea that they want to ‘catch the body.’ It gives hip-hop a bad name. Talking about killing and disrespecting women. Their kids are listening to this. Back in the day, hip-hop lyrics were random and fun, about ‘we like to do this…” Now it’s girls and money, houses, ‘let’s get drunk’.”
Yes, social media isn’t the only trapping of contemporary life that Jimothy, like any self-respecting teenage would-be iconoclast, is suspicious of. He’s wary of narcotics, too, as evidenced by his paean for a generation, Drugs.
‘You’re getting wrinkles, you’re looking dry, baby take it easy – stop getting so high’ Jimothy implores his unrequited love, over some mean percussion, ‘You can’t be doing more drugs than Kate Moss.’
“They love their drugs,” agrees Jimothy ruefully, “It was always the girls who loved to drink a lot more too. Maybe they’re a bit more depressed, and have more stress [an OECD report released in April this year verified exactly that, blaming social media and academic exams]. A lot of girls are doing all these drugs, and a lot of them are very pretty. It’s a loss. It’s not exactly making them ugly, but when you see them all drugged up they do look a bit of a mess.”
The real evil facing Generation i, though, isn’t dreary old gak. It’s Xanax, the wildly popular anti-anxiety pill that was prescribed to 46 million Americans in 2010 alone – ‘Xanies are the number one thing I hate, if you like them more than food I’m gonna cancel the date’ he raps on Drugs. Comedian Bill Maher even wondered aloud if Barack Obama took Xanax, the former president was so darn unflappable. Jimothy’s ditties are littered with sideswipes at the benzopine derivative. Why does he dislike it so much?
“It’s very depressing to see my friends on them,” he explains, “they’re like actual zombies. I’ll have a conversation with them and they’ll have forgotten it the next day. If I go to a house party looking for a girl, and she’s on ‘Xans, she’s not going to know what’s going on and stuff, ‘cos she’s basically asleep. And she won’t remember me the next time and it’ll be like, ‘Who are you?’ And she might go to his other guy ‘cos she can’t remember me, when maybe I was the one for her and she wasn’t,” he pines, “It’s just to be confident but it’s not helping. I’m trying to go straight edge now. At first I was doing little things, but I don’t think I can even drink any more as it’s so boring. I don’t need no confidence, I already feel good naturally. And I think it’s quite beautiful that I could go through lots of pleasure just sitting down with mates… talking and shit.”
Whether you consider him a compelling musician, prodigal photographer or Internet curio, Jimothy Lacoste is certainly indicative of a shift in thinking – from hedonism to satisfaction, pleasure to happiness. What does he think about some middle aged ravers being interested in his graft? “It motivates me a lot, I feel really proud. You guys know more about music, and I’m just an amateur. You’re deep in the onion.”